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.
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)
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.
- 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“
- A ship date
- Ravenholdt as the rogue Order Hall
- Some reason to resubscribe today
- Some tie-in with the Warcraft movie
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…
- A new Diablo III expansion
- A vague timeline for beta
- Something else special for people who complete season objectives
- 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 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.
- Wooo, Legacy of the Void!
- Secret, surprise feature, like the ability to play the original StarCraft in SC2.
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.
- New card pack that will make the old ones feel obsolete and bring in some more money
- 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.)
- Reasons for people to spend money
- Non-dull play mode
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?
- Whoo hoo, Overwatch!!1!
- More cinematics
- More beta slots
- 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.