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Blizzard Publishing Powers Up

For more than two decades, Blizzard Entertainment has been known for creating video games such as World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Hearthstone. In many cases, the company worked with publishing partners to publish books related to its games. That strategy began to change in December 2016, when the gaming company created Blizzard Publishing in an effort to bring more of its literary work in-house. And although Blizzard Publishing has released a few books since its launch, this October will mark a turning point for the division, when it launches an ongoing audiobook series and new hardcover books based on the massively popular video game franchises Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft.

By year’s end, the Irvine, Calif.–based publisher will have released more than 40 publications across print, audio, and digital formats. As part of its launch, Blizzard signed with PGW to handle its global English distribution and tapped Byron Parnell—the former director of sales at Insight Editions—as director of consumer products and publishing.

The creation of the publishing division “allows us to release our content on a timelier schedule to coincide with our major internal beats,” said Parnell, who launched the publisher with writers, editors, and producers who work on many different projects at Blizzard Entertainment. “We also have the opportunity to hold projects to release outside the traditional publishing seasons,” he added. This year, the company’s big books will hit shelves just before the November 2 return of BlizzCon, Blizzard’s 12th fan convention (held in Anaheim).

The audiobook series will launch with eight newly produced audio editions of novels from the publisher’s catalogue set in the gaming universes of Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft. Blizzard had already found success with free online audio dramas that tackled key moments in World of Warcraft’s in-game history. With audio alone, “The Tomb of Sargeras” and “A Thousand Years of War” dramas had over three million views on YouTube.

This month, Blizzard Publishing will also release three illustrated books: The Art of Hearthstone, a $45 hardcover that traces the development of Blizzard’s strategy card video game, which has 50 million players around the globe; Book of Adria: A Diablo Bestiary, a $30 hardcover survey of the various monsters players must confront in Blizzard’s Diablo franchise; and Cinematic Art of StarCraft, a $45 hardcover guide to the creation of animation sequences in StarCraft, the company’s science fiction game series.

Before establishing its independent publishing arm, Blizzard had released more than 300 novels, comic books, graphic novels, and nonfiction art books with licensed partners that expanded upon the company’s IP.

Between December 2016 and October 2018, Blizzard Publishing’s output mostly focused on rereleasing books from past publishing partnerships—bringing older titles back to life for fans. One example is World of Warcraft: Rise of the Horde by Christie Golden; the original 2006 Pocket paperback now sells for $58.99 on Amazon, but Blizzard Publishing revived the title with a $14.95 paperback for new readers. In addition to these reissues, Blizzard Publishing has only released two other books: World of Warcraft: An Adult Coloring Book in 2016 and Overwatch Coloring Book in 2017.

“Blizzard makes very large worlds and very big stories in its games,” said Blizzard Entertainment senior writer Robert Brooks. “That actually encourages people to start reading. People send me messages on Twitter like, ‘I never read that much because I hated schoolwork reading, but I wanted to learn more about this one character from Warcraft and I started reading—now I can’t get enough of it!’ ”

Before joining Blizzard, Brooks spent four-and-a-half years as a producer at CBS News in Sacramento, Calif. Now, he’s a full-time employee at Blizzard, working on publishing projects and video game storytelling. “There really is no typical day at Blizzard,” Brooks said, explaining that full-time writers and editors collaborate on many projects simultaneously. “At the moment, I’m working on an unpublished Blizzard book, a couple of cinematics that are going to be a product later on, and in-game writing. We deal with pieces of narrative, in any medium.”

Even though Blizzard Entertainment has its own publishing arm, it still maintains key publishing partnerships with Brown Trout, Dark Horse, Insight Editions, Prima, Random House, and Scholastic. Insight has worked with the gaming company for a decade. They’ve collaborated on everything from art books and cookbooks to candles based on Blizzard games. In October, Insight will publish a series of journals and notebooks for fans of Blizzard’s team shooter video game Overwatch.

“It can’t be beat,” said Insight senior editor Amanda Ng. “The feeling of owning and holding your own copy of the art you love, seeing the beautiful details in the art up close, or jotting down notes in a journal featuring a logo or character you really enjoy.”

Fans appreciate artifacts that keep them connected to their favorite gaming universes. “That’s the nature of how deep these worlds go,” Brooks said. “People love Blizzard games so much because the world is so engaging, and they like to spend as much time there as possible.”

A version of this article appeared in the 10/08/2018 issue of Publishers Weekly under the headline: Blizzard Publishing Powers Up


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