Blizzard North, formerly known as Condor, was the Bay Area division of Blizzard Entertainment, known for the Diablo series. The studio was originally based in Redwood City, California, and then moved a short distance away to San Mateo, California, with Blizzard proper being based in Irvine (in southern California).
The name "Condor" came from Project Condor, a game developed in secret by employees of a digital clip art company that went under. Condor was established in 1993, founded by Max Schaefer, Erich Schaefer, and David Brevik. While the idea for Diablo existed early on, publishers refused Condor's pitches, as the game would be PC exclusive, and the genre was seen as being too niche. In order to stay afloat, the company developed a number of sports games and the Sega Genesis version of Justice League Task Force. While showing off the Genesis version, they came into contact with Silicon & Synapse, who had developed the Super Nintendo version (the game's publisher had not informed Condor of the separate publishing scheme). Silcon & Synapse would later be named Blizzard Entertainment, and after the release of Warcraft, which Condor offerred beta services for, came back into contact with Condor to hear their pitch for Diablo. Blizzard liked the pitch, and offered to publish the game. The game received a $300,000 budget. To bolster its finances, Condor worked on sports games on the side.
Condor was purchased by Blizzard about six months before the release of Diablo in 1996. The announcement came in December, 1995, that Blizzard was interested in acquiring Condor. They decided to join Blizzard proper as they had been impressed with the release of Warcraft II, and given its widespread release, were impressed with Blizzard's distribution of its game. The deal was finalized in February, 1996. Condor was renamed "Blizzard North," but was allowed to keep its autonomy. During the development period, Condor had been on the brink of insolvency several times, but the game's success guaranteed their stability. 3D0 made a counter-bid that would have offered more, but Condor chose Blizzard as the company cultures were more similar.
Structurally, Blizzard North was considered an independent studio from Blizzard South, but also reported to them. There was never a real structure on how Blizzard North had to operate in regards to its parent company.
By June 2003 two new games were in production. However on June 30 2003, several key employees left Blizzard North to form the new companies Flagship Studios (8 moved here) and Castaway Entertainment (9 moved here). The Blizzard North exodus continued on with around 30 employees leaving the company in total.
The resignations were partly due to a conflict with Blizzard Entertainment's owner, Vivendi, and partly due to employees wishing to start something new. Back at Blizzard North, however, they would have a common effect; of the two unannounced games that were in production at the time, one was now forced to be canceled. Blizzard Entertainment has since said the canceled game was a "Blizzard North kind of game". Blizzard South took over (some) control of Blizzard North and gave them new guidelines for their version of Diablo III.
On August 1 2005, Blizzard Entertainment announced the closure of Blizzard North. A key reason for the closure was Blizzard North's poor development of what was to be Diablo III which did not meet the expectations of Vivendi. Former Blizzard North staffers including Joseph Lawrence, Wyatt Cheng and Matt Uelman subsequently appeared in the credits of Blizzard's next retail release, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade. The work of former Blizzard North artist Phroilan Gardner was also featured in editions of World of Warcraft: The Trading Card Game around the same time.
A few employees from the Diablo team, including Eric Sexton, Michio Okamura and Steven Woo, organized to launch a new company, Hyboreal Games. Only a few joined Team 3 in development of Blizzard South's version of Diablo III. Many Blizzard North staff are currently worked at Echtra Games.
As Blizzard North
- Diablo (1996)
- Diablo: Hellfire (1997, executive producers only)
- Diablo II (2000)
- Diablo II: Lord of Destruction (2001)
- Untitled pirate-themed ARPG (canceled after 1 year of development)
- Second Diablo II expansion
- Diablo Junior
- Diablo III (project later completed by Blizzard Entertainment)
Blizzard North had 12 members by the time it began work on Diablo I. This had reached 14/15 by the time of the game's release. This increased to 24 at the start of development of Diablo II, and had grown to 40 by 2000. Notable members included:
- Karin Colenzo (office manager)
- Kelly Johnson (artist)
- Michio Okamura (character artist)
- Stieg Hedlund (designer)
- Matt Householder
- Richard Seis (programmer)
- Phil Shenk (art director)
- 2016-03-18, 20 years later, David Brevik shares the story of making Diablo. Gamastura, accessed on 2016-03-24
- 2015-09-08, In Their Own Words: An Oral History of Diablo II With David Brevik, Max Schaefer, and Erich Schaefer. US Gamer, accessed on 2015-09-11
- 2017-07-30, 20 YEARS OF DIABLO: AN IGN RETROSPECTIVE. IGN, accessed on 2017-07-31
- Blizzard North: Condor and Diablo, Blizzard Entertainment. Accessed on 2017-07-10
- 2015-09-13, Page 3: In Their Own Words: An Oral History of Diablo II With David Brevik, Max Schaefer, and Erich Schaefer. US Gamer, accessed on 2015-09-15
- Hyboreal Games Q&A - Shacknews - PC Games, PlayStation, Xbox 360 and Wii video game news, previews and downloads
- Paul Loughrey (November 29, 2005). "Blizzard North veterans form new independent development studio". gamesindustry.biz. Retrieved on 2007-05-05.
- 2009-11-01, Community Spotlight: The man behind the book of Blizzard. Shack News, accessed on 2018-10-08
- 2011-11-29, Diablo III feature: Blizzard's plans to satisfy their fanbase and still deliver a fresh experience. PC Gamer, accessed on 2014-11-10
- 2018-08-09, TORCHLIGHT FRONTIERS TO DOUBLE DOWN ON PETS, CO-OP PLAY, IGN. Accessed on 2018-08-15
- 2016-01-09, Marvel Heroes 2015 (January 8 2016). YouTube, accessed on 2016-01-11
- 2000-10-25, Postmortem: Blizzard's Diablo II. Gamasutra, accessed on 2015-07-04