The Self-Made Man: Mike Morhaime
There have to be some World of Warcraft players in TSB’s readership, right? I mean, just by the law of averages, there should be a few. At the very least, some of you are old enough to remember playing Warcraft II and having your teenage mind blown by the state-of-the-art graphics and making custom battle maps to trade online with complete strangers.
Anyway, I don’t play WoW because I honestly don’t have time for what is essentially an unpaid part-time job, but I do have time to extol the entrepreneurial virtues of the man responsible for it: Blizzard Games co-founder and current CEO, Mike Morhaime.
Born in 1966, Mike didn’t have the luxury of learning to program on a Commodore 64 like a lot of his younger peers in the tech/social media/game industries. No, he cut his teeth on the Bally Professional Arcade, which he and his siblings bought when Mike was in sixth grade. Once he found out that you could program on it, Mike started writing simple games and learning that era’s programming language from monthly gaming newsletters.
Ah, the life of a late-70s nerd.
Mike’s interest in getting machines to do things (his phrasing, not mine) stayed with him throughout high school and college, where he learned the basics of how computers worked and picked up circuit design from an internship with a microchip company. He’d been something of a slacker up until that point, but the real world experience was good for him, and relit that fire in his belly that all entrepreneurs, regardless of industry, need if they want to get anywhere.
Mike also befriended Allen Adham and Frank Pearce, and the three of them started Blizzard (then known as Silicon & Synapse) out of an unglamorous rented office in Irvine, CA. After producing some decent contract games, including RPM Racing for the SNES, they started making their own stuff, which was heavily steeped in Tolkien-esque fantasy. They hit paydirt with Warcraft II, which I mentioned earlier, because it was a game that was actually fun to play online, which was a rare and wonderful thing back in 1996.
Mike’s vision of multiplayer gaming is what really put Blizzard on the map, because those games attract gamers who stick with them for years. We’ve talked about “disruptive” products in this column before, and Blizzard definitely struck oil with theirs. So much so, in fact, that their initial sales projections for World of Warcraft were too low, and Blizzard scrambled to keep up with demand for a full year. Mike has said that the experience “probably took years off of our lives.”
Still, Mike is a good example of what TSB admires about entrepreneurs – he’s smart, patient, driven, and creative, in that he and his company are unwilling to coast on their previous accomplishments. Also, he has a pretty sweet office. Check it out.
About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.