"World of Warcraft transformed everything."

It's a statement that's tough to argue regardless of your position. If you play games, it's almost a guarantee that something you've played in the last few years has elements borrowed from World of Warcraft. If you create games, there's a good chance that you or someone you work with has played and been inspired by Blizzard's enormously successful massively multiplayer game. Even if you don't care about games, it's become a cultural touchstone, with everything from celebrity and sports star endorsements to reports from The Onion. There's even a movie in the works.

So it's an obvious statement, something few people would disagree with. But it takes on extra weight coming from the mouth of Chris Metzen, Blizzard's senior vice president of story and franchise development. Metzen has been with the studio for 21 years, very nearly since the beginning. He's seen Blizzard morph and grow from humble beginnings into a giant company with over 3,900 employees around the world.

In Metzen's mind, Blizzard history is currently split into two eras: before World of Warcraft and after World of Warcraft. Now he's ready for the company's third era to begin, and he's taking a surprising approach to get it there.