Todd Harper, writing an opinion piece for Polygon, covers the questions and answers he had with Rob Pardo that touched on how Blizzard portrays women:
His subsequent list of justifications, reasons and examples became increasingly problematic. Pardo argued that Blizzard works primarily in sci-fi and fantasy because they're "kids at heart," reinforcing the idea that games — specifically Blizzard games — are not a place for "real world issues" to be discussed:
"We're not trying to bring in serious stuff, or socially relevant stuff, or actively trying to preach for diversity or do things like that," he said. His example of a place where Blizzard struggles is portrayal of women.
Pardo notes that "because most of our developers are guys who grew up reading comics books," Blizzard games often present women characters as a sexualized comic book ideal that "is offensive to, I think, some women."*
There's a bit more there --particularly about Nintendo and their Tomodachi Life issues-- so if you want to follow the link below and read the article, go ahead.
Aside from the issue where it seems that Blizzard is all but saying they're not that interested in appealing to women, one of the problems with Pardo's statement is their belief that because they don't intend to write about real world issues their game has no effect. But unless you live in a bubble, everything has an impact on the wider world.
I've told my kids time and again that when they wear their school t-shirts and jackets out and about, people are judging their school based on their actions. It is most definitely not fair to judge an entire diverse community based on the actions of a few, but nevertheless it happens all the time. That's the entire point behind the term "represent" as in "Represent your school". If you act like an ass, you taint everyone with your behavior. But if you act responsibly, people will think more highly of your organization.
The same thing happens with Blizzard and WoW. For all their words, Blizzard demonstrates with their actions that they don't value very highly a substantial portion of their player base.
But the thing is, their representation issues are so easily fixed, it's not even funny.
Looking at Heroes of the Storm, for example, you could easily replace the Priest with Tyrande and the Paladin with Lady Liadrin, and you'd then have 4 of the 9 WoW characters as women.
Want to (partially) fix the lack of female faction leaders in WoW? Swap out Lor'themar for Lady Liadrin. Hell, until Mists dropped, I'd wager that most people thought she was the faction leader anyway. You could also make Moira the head of the Council of Three Hammers.
And before any lore nuts go ballistic over my suggestions, remember that Pardo also said that Blizzard emphasized "fun and gameplay" over "narrative".** Given the lack of emphasis on story and their total control over the content, there's no reason why they can't simply tweak this via a novel.
As I mentioned earlier, all this has stirred up a huge hornets nest in the WoW blogosphere.***
Kurn and Rades each have a take on the issue. Cynwise cancelled his WoW account.
And I can't help but think this is another black eye in Blizzard's direction when the company is having retention issues.
Maybe this won't have much of an impact with WoW, but the company can ill afford to piss off a not so insignificant amount of their player base. I doubt there will be a boycott of Blizzard, but what I do think is that some people who were considering taking a break from WoW might decide to pull the trigger now.
And really, if you feel shunted off to the side, why continue to spend money on the game?
It will prove interesting to see what happens next.
*From Erasing your audience isn't 'fun': The false choice between diversity and enjoyment by Todd Harper.
**Which kind of explains why they're not bothering to go back and fix major continuity issues in WoW.
***As of this moment, WoW Insider has been completely silent on this.
(EtA: At 7 PM EST, WoW Insider had this post by Matt Rossi on diversity.)