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Blizzard too Busy for BlizzCon? January 25, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, World of Warcraft.
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Reading that Blizzard won’t be holding BlizzCon this year brought up some mixed feelings.

On the one hand, aside from news and insight into Blizzard’s games and process, there isn’t much at BlizzCon for me.  At this point the dance contest is the same old dances… and sometimes the same old contestants… every year.  And the costume contest is neat but… well… if you are into it, cos-play pictures are half the reason to put Kotaku in your RSS reader.

But that is just my view.  I try not to be one of those self-absorbed people who thinks that if Blizzard doesn’t have a big BlizzCon announcement to entertain me, they should just fold up their tents and go home.

BlizzCon is more than just a vehicle for announcements.  It is a community event.  And it is a hugely popular event.  Tickets sell out like it was Madonna… or somebody popular if Madonna no longer fits that bill.  25,000 fans gather together in Anaheim, California and celebrate all things Blizzard.  Or most things Blizzard.  I heard that the Lost Vikings fan base finally gave up on their revival hopes.

And in that way, as a community event, it is on par with SOE’s Fan Faire and CCP’s  Fanfest.  It is a chance to bring your biggest fans together to geek out on the minutia of the game and let them interact with the teams that bring them the games they love.  It can be an important and memorable experience for everybody involved.

But it is an expensive event, both in time and money.  And while Blizzard has money, time is clearly something on which they are running a deficit.  They have been quiet on Titan for how long?  When did they last release a Diablo game?  Can they afford to keep WoW on an 18-24 month expansion cycle?

And getting teams together to give presentations as well as just having a critical mass of your teams available to interact with fans can take big chunks out of your already mythical man months of development and testing.

I suppose we might be able to gauge whether time is their real issue by how far overboard they go with their April Fools jokes this year.  Not that the such things directly impact the same people, but part of saying you’re too busy for something is showing that you mean it.

Why do you think Blizzard is blowing off BlizzCon this year?  Are they really too busy with all their projects or is this a subtle sign that the next Modern Warfare title is already slipping and Bobby Kotick needs Blizzard to make up even more of a revenue shortfall on the Activision side of the house?

Comments»

1. Rohan - January 25, 2012

They do have three games scheduled for this year. Diablo 3, Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm, and Mists of Pandaria.

Considering that a normal Blizzard year is 0-1 games, I can see that they’re going to be excessively stressed.

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2. Warsyde - January 25, 2012

One thing it does suggest is that none (or at most one) of the games they have in development will be done before Blizzcon would have occured. Otherwise, they’d have staff freed up to work on their convention. They could hardly be “too busy” if they’d already shipped a game or three.

While it’s no surprise that Mists of Pandaria won’t release before fall, it’s a little disheartening to think the SC2 expansion and Diablo 3 might be that far out as well. Are they really going to do a 2 year expansion sequence for SC2 when it didn’t even have as much campaign content as the original?!

Ah well.

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3. Tremayne - January 25, 2012

While the big announcements aren’t all there is to Blizzcon, they’re definitely the centrepiece. I suspect part of it may be that they aren’t ready to do the big reveal of Titan, and they aren’t willing to take the negative press that they’d get for doing a Blizzcon that doesn’t have the big reveal of Titan as its main draw.

At that point, I would start to fret a little. Titan is looking have as drawn out and epic a development history as Tabula Rasa… and look how well that one ended.

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4. Wilhelm Arcturus - January 25, 2012

Tremayne – Centerpiece, absolutely.

Having something new to announce to the fans when you have a bunch there live an in person along with another pack following along at home is probably a requirement. And it works both ways. It makes the event more meaningful, as it adds an “I was there when they announced…” element, and it give the company the best possible pulpit from which to make their announcement. SOE and CCP do the same thing at their fan events.

But I have seen the opinion voiced that if Blizzard doesn’t have a huge announcement that they ought not to have BlizzCon. I don’t buy into that.

On Titan… I am not sure what to think. Is it having issues or did they just announce too soon?

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5. Dathi - January 25, 2012

Warsyde,

I think it is the opposite, I’d guess 2 (or all 3) of the 2012 launches will be out before, or close too when BlizzCon would have happened.

If that happened, they’d really have little to say or show off at BlizzCon, which could drag down the feeling of the Con. Titan is the only big unknown on Blizzard’s plate, and it would be waaaay to early to talk about either the last SC2 expac, D3 content, or the next WoW Expac.

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6. Ahtchu - January 25, 2012

I honestly believe that Blizzard is rotting from the inside. There have been whispers of failed internal organization dating as far back as the Vivendi takeover (too many details to paraphrase in a blog comment).
Judging from the visible struggle to produce quality content, much less innovative content, for WoW (raiding 101: stand here, stay out of the fire is so 2004), the inability to keep schedules (SCII:HotS still not released, DIII pushed back.. yet again), and no news whatsoever on their biggest ‘game changer’ (Titan) despite being 5? years in development… it’s hard to say that the studio is on top of things, much less at the top of its game.
Even more telling is the recent departure after 5 years of the DIII studio LEAD…. PRIOR to the launch date even being set. This is the title of most immediate interest to the company, undoubtedly with the primary support and focus, and they fail to keep their coach on the team?
Now, we can offer apologetic statements such as ‘the scheduling thing is because of never releasing until it’s ready’ or ‘WoW is fine they just aren’t catering to you anymore’ etc. but a casual glance at the history of the company will put proper context on current events.
Why no Blizzcon 2012? Because they don’t have the resources to juggle a community event in the face of internal struggles. Come on, this is Activision-Blizzard we’re talking about here, any chance to make a buck doesn’t go unpassed. Blizzcon being cancelled has to be due to something bigger than just ‘nothing to report’, it’s going against the money-machine’s interests.

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7. Green Armadillo - January 25, 2012

For a community event, Blizzcon has always been strangely about Blizzard. The con has to be held in Anaheim because that’s what is convenient to Blizzard employees. (SOE’s Fan Faire is in Vegas because the casinos subsidize air fare and hotel rooms, which keeps costs down for non-gambling fans.) Players cannot use the con as an opportunity to meet their guildmates because 90% of their guildmates won’t win the ticket lottery, but Blizzard won’t consider a larger venue because they want the community atmosphere.

I think this has very little to do with Blizzard’s ability to pay someone to plan their event and show up for one weekend in Anaheim. As Trey mentions, the press was not that good the last time they held a con without a single announcement. DIII is looking increasingly like it won’t launch until Q2 or beyond, and as far as I’m aware neither the SCII expansion nor the WoW expansion is close to beta. Even a Titan unveil is only good for so much if the game is two or more years out.

After a year where they lost a bunch of WoW subscriptions, it may be harder to justify spending millions on a con that loses money and won’t even get good press.

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8. Wilhelm Arcturus - January 26, 2012

@GA – Fan Faire is stuck in Las Vegas from now until it stops happening because it is close enough to San Diego that SOE can bus their own people in and haul in bulky items by truck. Pricing and availability of hotel rooms and such are nice, but being close to home is key.

And EVE Fanfest is in freakin’ Iceland, a place with a smaller population than the number of active EVE accounts, but it happens to be CCPs home.

So I am not sure how Blizz sticking close to home differentiates them that much. The net result is that more Blizz people get to come out and be a part of the event, which is probably a good thing.

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9. Stabs - January 26, 2012

I suspect it may be just a poor decision rather than any master plan. Someone’s looked at controlling WoW’s decreasing revenues and thought to cut costs.

I think events like this have a big factor in creating a core of fanatics who encourage the rest of us to play games though and that Blizzard may come to regret not cultivating them.

I wonder if they looked at the option of increasing ticket price. They could probably double the price and still sell out.

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10. Brian 'Psychochild' Green - January 30, 2012

I tend to fall on the side of viewing this as negative news. Either this is a sign that there is some internal problems (like having to cut any “non-essential” costs), or they just don’t understand their community. Given that Blizzard has always had a “it’ll ship when it’s ready” attitude, I have a hard time believing they absolutely can’t take a bit of time away to run Blizzcon, unless there’s been some sort of pressure from the corporate home office. Skipping a community event to avoid the possibility of minor bad press for not having a big announcement seems like a big “piss off” to the community.

I don’t buy the “it’s not profitable” argument, either. Given how quickly the tickets sell out, they could easily raise the price and make a profit; the tickets would sell out in a few days instead of a few hours, perhaps.

I’m hoping that ultimately it’s just them being dumb about supporting their community rather than a sign of threatened impending layoffs; but, that’s still not a good thing to say about a company like Blizzard.

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11. April Fools at Blizzard – 2013 | The Ancient Gaming Noob - April 1, 2013

[...] mid-day US/evening EU reveal?  Is this a year of subtle humor?  Or did a busy 2012, in which they did not even have time for BlizzCon, keep Blizzard from going as far with April Fools as they have in the [...]

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