RE: BlizzCon 2015

Let’s go down the list.

World of Warcraft: Legion

Breaking the past tradition of WoW expansion announcements at BlizzCon, Blizzard sent a crew to Cologne, Germany, for gamescom to announce Expansion Six, named LEGION. Blizzard is being more conservative with their release of information about the expansion in development; essentially, a couple of the big PR flubs that happened during WoD’s development have burned them on showing too much of their hand too early. That being said, game development is about iteration, so while we probably won’t have the same explosion of information that we’d get with an announcement, we can probably expect a good amount of time to get spent on expanding on what was revealed at gamescom, as well as showing if there’s been any evolution on ideas like the class halls, class champions, and artifact weapon systems.

Aside from all the LEGION talk, expect some discussion about how Team 2 is going to maintain interest in WoD while we’re all waiting on the beta.

Predictions: The concept of Artifact weapons being the only dropped weapons in the game sounds like something that’s going to get walked back. That feels a little too weird. That said, a more solid date for the LEGION beta feels like it might be announcement worthy, given Chilton’s last-minute announcement at gamescom about a 2015 beta.

Diablo III

The total absence of demo stations and panel presence for Diablo already sends a signal that there won’t be any major announcements. Speculation is certainly there, however, that Blizzard might choose to forgo doing a boxed expansion and just incrementally add features to D3:RoS over time in order to keep interest in the game. Even without doing that, though, the great success of Patch 2.3 certainly will keep players invested for a solid amount of time to come: if the game laid fallow with what it has now, it would certainly still have players by the time Blizzard unleashes whatever the next entry in the franchise will be.

Predictions: More info on Patch 2.4, and that’s really it. There straight up isn’t time for anything else.

Starcraft II

Legacy of the Void‘s release date is imminent, taking the immediate post-BlizzCon spot that Warlords of Draenor had last year. At this point, there’s nothing more to talk about with the game’s release, just as there was nothing more to say about Warlords last year with only days remaining before it went live. That doesn’t mean there won’t be nothing, though: expect plenty of lip service about what Team 1 plans to do to keep interest in SC2 alive, both for eSports players and everyone else. And a lot of that lip service is probably going to come true, eventually.

Predictions: Future plans for Allied Commanders and other multiplayer options like Archon Mode feel likely. It’s far too soon to speculate on future boxed expansions for SC2 (what do you do at this point, a Xel’naga campaign?) and SCIII feels like a barely a dream at this point. Personally I plan to ask about if the mod community is going to get any love or whatever happened to the Warcraft 1/2 compatibility updates discussed years ago.

Hearthstone

The possibility for a new adventure feels like it might be there given the amount of presence and buzz the game is generating, but there haven’t really been any hints about it so far, and The Grand Tournament has barely been live for six weeks as it stands. It doesn’t feel out of the question, but I don’t know if Team 5 can really support churning out content as quickly as they have during the first years of the game’s wide release.

Predictions: Expect some rage over the Warsong Commander nerf to pervade any Q&A, but aside from that, the championships ought to be fun to watch as always.

Heroes of the Storm

With the release out of the way and one very successful franchise-oriented expansion already in play, I think the big thing we can expect from the first post-release BlizzCon will be an emphasis on Heroes‘ staying power as an eSports MOBA. Given how long Eternal Conflict has been out, it feels like it might be the right time to talk about the next free expansion, though whether that’s something that lines up with another franchise is certainly up in the air right now.

Predictions: Time to double down of Heroes eSports presence, and maybe give a clearer sense of how the team can keep making new maps without making the game too complicated for non-professional players.

Overwatch

The closed beta is opening in less than two weeks, meaning the hype train going into BlizzCon will be IMMENSEExpect Twitch streamers and fansites to be leading the charge in the closed beta, similar to what the Hearthstone beta looked like, and know that Team 4 is going to have to squeeze a LOT of discussion into only two panels.

Predictions: Given how recently Junkrat and Roadhog were revealed, I don’t think new characters are anywhere near guaranteed. That said, I strongly suspect that with a release of the game coming in 2016, we might see some indications of the transmedia plans that Blizzard has: could be comics, could be a TV series, could just be webisodes, but everything they’ve done with Overwatch so far screams accessibility outside the game alone.

Warcraft Movie

Nothing’s been said yet to solidify the idea that Legendary will release the full cinematic trailer on us at BlizzCon, but between Duncan Jones lobbying hard for just that and all of the grousing over SDCC exclusives, it feels like it would be a great way to generate early buzz for the film and build some bridges that Legendary has otherwise been ignoring. I don’t expect blood in the streets if there’s no trailer, or if the trailer is viewable at BlizzCon but not on the DirecTV stream, but you’ll hear opinionmakers screaming about it either way, and that’s going to shape the community’s feelings on the matter.

Predictions: No panel presence says we shouldn’t expect any new information, but I’m 50/50 on a trailer or teaser trailer.

Overall

I’m excited to go to the con this year without the added stress of bearing a press pass. That was a lot of fun last year but it was also exhausting, moreso than I was expecting, and given how the last week has been and what I’ve got in store between now and the show, I honestly really need BlizzCon to be a vacation and not a work trip.

All that being said, this is shaping up to be a pretty strange show, since it really feels like it’s going to be something that lacks a major product announcement in the opening ceremonies and instead capitalizes on maintaining the excitement for current and announced projects. That makes it sound similar to BlizzCon ’08 and ’10, where the major announcements took the form of D3 class reveal videos and Metzen’s glorious “Geek Is…” speech, but I also feel like the community might actually be willing to appreciate something that Blizzard struggled to hammer home in those years (and in 2012, when there was no BlizzCon): the show is about the celebration of the community that’s grown up around Blizzard’s games, and it’s not just supposed to be a hype machine for their products.

So if we go into the show just expecting a fun weekend where the devs are mixing it up with their biggest fans and dropping lots of science on Blizzard’s IPs without doing something designed to boost the stock price, then I think that’s ultimately fine, because it gets to the heart of what Blizzard is about.

It’s not about making new games, it’s not about making the best games, it’s not about making genre-redefining games that alter the landscape of gaming forever. It’s about fun, and the joy of gaming, viewed through the lens of Blizzard’s games, both new and old.

I’m looking forward to it, just as I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of friends and colleagues whom I wouldn’t have the pleasure of knowing without Blizzard’s games to knit us together.

So I’ll see you guys in Anaheim.

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