BlizzCon 2015 – Announcements and Need vs. Greed

BlizzCon is coming up at the end of this week, time once again for Blizzard to strut its stuff and gets its fan base excited about what it has in store for the next twelve months.

BlizzCon2015

Of course, Blizzard announces things at other points during any given year.  But BlizzCon is a time of special focus, two days of all Blizzard and nothing but Blizzard that will focus the wider gaming and tech focused press on the company and its wares.

However, Blizzard already had to give us a big announcement this summer, the intro to the next WoW expansion, Legion. (Otherwise known as The Burning Crusade II – Part 2)

Single word expansion title? Really stretching so far!

Single word expansion titles worry me…

Of course, it sure felt like Blizzard was pushed to announce Legion this summer, rather than waiting until BlizzCon, due to the fact that the Activision Blizzard second quarter 2015 results came out and indicated that WoW had dropped to 5.6 million subscribers, which set them back to late 2005 numbers.

And so, two days after that bombshell, Blizzard got on stage at GamesCon and announced WoW Legion.  The timing of the announcement, and the fact that the cinematic wasn’t ready yet, sure made it feel like Blizzard had to announce something to rally its fan base.

Now comes BlizzCon and we’re in something of a similar situation.  The convention opens this Friday, November 6th (along with the new James Bond movie here in the US).  But the Activision Blizzard third quarter results are also due this week, coming out tomorrow, November 3rd, at 1:30pm Pacific (19:30 UTC), and will carry with it the WoW subscription numbers.

At this point they cannot simply opt out of reporting those numbers, having done so in the past and the numbers being such a material indicator of the health of their billion dollar (annual revenues) baby.

What will the numbers be?  My gut says down, but not by a lot.  Maybe down to 5 million at the most, but a small enough drop to claim stability.  However, anything besides stability or growth in that number will need something big to counteract it later in the week.

Anyway, with that in mind, I will now project my feelings and personal biases onto what I think is coming at BlizzCon.  As usual, I will divide that into two categories.

Need – What I think they HAVE to have/say/do at BlizzCon

Greed – What I really want them to have/say/do at BlizzCon

World of Warcraft

So often called and 800 lb. gorilla that I am surprised that isn’t the franchise logo.  When you bring in a billion dollars a year, what happens to you matters.  Hearthstone might have a better ROI and Overwatch might be the exciting new shiny, but WoW is where the big money is.

Need:

  • The cinematic
  • Chris Metzen on stage having an orgasm about the lore in Legion
  • Hard dates for beta
  • Something vague about a ship date that will narrow it down to a three month window
  • A decent “hook” for Legion beyond “ten more levels and a class from Diablo III

Greed:

  • A ship date
  • Ravenholdt as the rogue Order Hall
  • Some reason to resubscribe today
  • Some tie-in with the Warcraft movie

Diablo

Blizzard has been touting how many boxes the game has sold.  Given that is the main way the game makes any money, I would expect that another box would have to be in the wings.  I do not think Blizz is going to let the franchise sit idle for a decade like they did after Diablo II.  And since they pretty much setup the story to continue at the end of Reaper of Souls, well…

Need:

  • A new Diablo III expansion
  • A vague timeline for beta
  • Something else special for people who complete season objectives

Greed:

  • Diablo IV announced – I actually think this is the way to go
  • Diablo and/or Diablo II being ported to the Diablo III engine
  • Diablo or Diablo II coming to tablets

StarCraft

StarCraft II is launching what everybody expects to be the final expansion for the game, Legacy of the Void,next week.  Given that, they cannot really muddy the waters with new announcements.  So there is not much to say there.

Need:

  • Wooo, Legacy of the Void!

Greed:

  • Secret, surprise feature, like the ability to play the original StarCraft in SC2.

Hearthstone

Now we’re getting into the Blizzard titles that don’t really hold any sway over me.  Still, I think I can call it for Hearthstone.

Need:

  • New card pack that will make the old ones feel obsolete and bring in some more money

Greed:

  • Another new battle mode
  • The ability to play within WoW, with benefits for WoW subscribers.

Heroes of the Storm

Is Heroes of the Storm still a thing?  I mean, Hearthstone is at least an adjunct to WoW.  HotS is a MOBA, and for me MOBAs are like a one unit RTS, neither fun to play nor watch. (The same applies to LoL and DOTA2 frankly.  HotS isn’t uniquely bad from my point of view.)

Need:

  • Reasons for people to spend money

Greed:

  • Non-dull play mode

Overwatch

Last year’s big announcement.  And they have already announced beta for it.  What else can they possibly add for Overwatch at this BlizzCon?  And given how little it appears on the schedule, when would they announce it?

Need:

  • Whoo hoo, Overwatch!!1!
  • More cinematics
  • More beta slots

Greed:

  • Vague gesture at a possible launch date
  • Even more cinematics
  • How this totally isn’t Heroes of the Storm crossed with Team Fortress 2
  • Some sort of benefit for WoW subscribers

And that is all I’ve got.

You can tell that, aside from some Diablo III, and I am not very invested in Blizzard at the moment. I am not even predicting any surprised, like a Warcraft IV RTS, as I tend to do.

I am honestly more interested in what tomorrows investor’s call will say about WoW.  Did the Legion announcement and things like time walking stop the bleeding.  Are they down to the core, always stays subscribed audience yet. (Five million credit cards on auto-pilot would be a hell of a business model on its own.)

What do you think the big number will be tomorrow?

Addendum: The correct answer was “About the same” with subs dipping just 100K, to 5.5 million.

17 thoughts on “BlizzCon 2015 – Announcements and Need vs. Greed

  1. bhagpuss

    When’s the movie out? It seems to me that’s the key factor in WoW’s medium to long term future, way beyond anything based around the game itself.

    If the movie is a success it will draw a huge amount of non-gaming media attention and re-ignite the flame with the huge non-core audience that made WoW such a zeitgeisty phenomenon in its prime. More, a very successful movie will inevitably lead to sequels and the effect will snowball (unless the sequels fail to match the success of original, of course).

    Conversely, if the movie tanks it will blow a hole in the entire franchise, conceivably dragging it under. Probably WoW would survive even a disaster of John Carter proportions but any thought of regrowth would be over for now and possibly for good.

    What effect a mediocre, meh movie would have is harder to say. Not much I guess. The subscriber numbers would continue to drift and we’d be back with business as usual for a while, surging with expansions/updates and falling when content dries.

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – The movie is slated for June 2016. Some people seem convinced that the expansion will come out with the movie. For me, June seems a long way away when WoW is down from 10 million to 5.6 to whatever number we get tomorrow. And, who wants to launch an expansion… and have peak login queues and such… just when you might get some new players via the movie? Better that Legion hit in March and things settle down a bit from my point of view.

    I will be interested to see what effect the movie has. But it is far enough away that I am not sure it plays into the BlizzCon discussion unless Blizz has some trick up its sleeve to tie it into things.

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  3. zaphod6502

    The only MMORPG I still occasionally play is WoW for nostalgic reasons and even then I only subscribe long enough to level through the latest new expansion. Fallout 4 is around the corner anyway and I expect to not surface from that game for many, many months.

    Like

  4. Stabs

    It seems unlikely the movie could be good. I’d expect something more like the Dungeons and Dragons movie than Game of Thrones on Azeroth.

    Like

  5. Silverangel

    Blizz tweeted today about the official Warcraft movie trailer coming this weekend, and the rumors in the forums are a new adventure pack for HS. They are also buying King/Candy Crush for 6 billion.

    Like

  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Silverangel – Yeah, I just saw Activision buying King for 5.9 billion. King cashed out at the top of the curve. They were smarter than Zynga.

    Best reaction I’ve seen so far:

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Izlain

    I love your ideas of being able to play Diablo 1 & 2 in the D3 engine and SC in the SC2 engine. Its unlikely as they sell all those old games on the B.net launcher, but it would be great to see. I’d be okay with Diablo IV, but I think the current game could use one more expansion.

    Their other titles are meh… at least until I get to try Overwatch. But that’s probably still meh.

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  8. SynCaine

    So smart of King to cash out now, and so incredibly dumb of Blizzard to buy them, especially for that price. Who pays over top dollar for a one-hit wonder who’s one hit is already on its final legs… unreal.

    Blizzcon will be interesting for the general gist of what you posted though; they have to come out with something big, but short of some real shocker (Warcraft 4), everything is either already known or not that exciting (beta dates, release dates, etc).

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  9. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine – King is literally Zynga done right. Shiny, popular game stolen from somebody else lets them ride to fame and riches, but none of their follow-on games come close to the original, so they cash out where Zynga held out, trying to make another winner. Zynga thought they were smart, while King knows they were lucky.

    And it appears to be literally a cash transaction, with Activision buying all outstanding shares as opposed to doing some sort of cash swap.

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  10. Ragss

    Last played in MOP just renewed my suscription yesterday and picked up WOD so I’ll be ready when Legion launches

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  11. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Stormwaltz – I saw that earlier, but was going to wait until we actually got some official word before a spluged all over myself.

    I would very much like an up-to-date Diablo II… though now I want Diablo as well. There is no satisfying me.

    Like

  12. InvisibleGaming

    As a longtime follower of professional DotA 2, I disagree about the “MOBAs not fun to watch” part. HotS has a different problem though, it’s been late to the party and has to compete with LoL and Dota 2, and being based on the familiar Blizzard lore just doesn’t give it enough of an edge. I’ve just looked at the front page of twitch (not sure if my comment will be marked as spam if I give the link, but I mean the popular streaming service), and LoL tops its list with about 117k people currently watching streams while HotS features meager 1.6k. And for a PvP game, especially one where a match takes 10 people, popularity is crucial to stay afloat.

    Like

  13. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @InvisibleGaming – I didn’t say MOBAs were generally not fun to watch in some universal sense. Clearly they have an audience. I know people personally who enjoy watching them. I said they were not fun to watch “for me.” They key phrase was the personal aspect. I find them quite dull. However, I also find them dull and repetitive to play, so probably no surprise I am not in the viewing audience.

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