BlizzCon is coming and there is nothing you can do to stop it.
Not that you would want to stop it. I certainly don’t want to stop it.
In fact, I am more than a bit excited to see what it will bring. It is exactly a month away and I already want to start talking about it.
Last year’s BlizzCon was a bit less than thrilling. It came a couple of months after a WoW expansion, so while there were some update items to reveal, there was no big Azeroth announcement. WoW Classic was already known so, while we got to play a demo, the only big news was penning in the ship date to summer. Hearthstone got a new expansion, OverWatch got a new hero and a cereal, Heroes of the Storm felt lucky just to get mentioned, StarCraft received the tiniest of nods, and if it had not been for the Diablo Immortal brouhaha there wouldn’t have been a headline worthy announcement out of the whole thing.
It wasn’t as dull as some made out, but it was a lot more details than big picture, and big picture is what gets attention.
This year though, this year has some potential. So it is time to go once again go through what I expect to hear, what I hope I will hear, and maybe a couple of things somewhere in between.
Going down the list of franchises:
World of Warcraft
New expansion announcement.
Yes, there will be all sorts of anniversary related things to talk about, with special panels and goodies and videos and whatever, and rightfully so, but there had better be a new expansion announcement on the list.
If there isn’t a new expansion announced for retail WoW the stock price will crash, there will be unrest in the streets, we won’t be able to trust anybody ever again, and the world will pretty much end.
Okay, maybe it is not that bad, but it would be an unprecedented break in the pattern of the ages not to announce a new WoW expansion here. It would be very bad to not have one to announce. A new expansion will make fans of WoW retail will feel better and we might get a bit of insight into what Blizz has learned from the summer of slumber in Zandalar and Kul Tiras.
But where do we go from Battle for Azeroth? I know the lore is pretty pliable, but that map of Azeroth doesn’t have a lot of wide open seas left in which to discover yet another continent. So what is it going to be? Time travel again? Khadgar leading us through some new portal into another world? Will it be time for another invasion from an external source (please, no more Burning Legion) that will, once again, push the Horde and Alliance back into cooperation again?
And what will be the hook to get people back and playing? I don’t think a new race by itself will work. I think the whole allied races thing represented a draining of all interest in going back to that well any time soon. How many alts do people need?
So a new class then? Is there a class niche they haven’t explored yet? Berserkers? Technos? Rangers? Necromancers?
Most things I come up with sort of fit in or between the current classes. How is a Berserker not a fury Warrior? How is a Techno not a Dwarf/Gnome Hunter with the engineering profession? How is a Ranger not just a Hunter without a pet? How is a Necromancer not just a cross between a Warlock and a Deathknight?
If I had to bet, it would be some sort of magic using class I guess. While I see the cross over, Necromancers might still have potential.
And will Blizz try something new with levels? Maybe they have some form of alternate advancement in the works. Or will this be another ten level expansion? With the company floating the idea of a level squish, it would be strange for them to simply carry on as before.
While I am not playing retail WoW right now I certainly plan to go back to it at some point, which means I am still quite interested in its future. BlizzCon is the chance for the company to set a course for our expectations. I hope they don’t blow it, either by coming up empty or setting expectations that lead to eventual disappointment.
WoW Classic is the difficult bit for Blizz. It has succeeded beyond expectations. I think that is a pretty safe claim when the company had to more than double the server count (see the numbers) AND THEN double the amount of people a server was allowed to hold. Also, there is that 223% increase in subscriber revenue. All that has put WoW in the headlines again and may have even pushed up the stock price.
Which means you can’t just say nothing about it. You can’t just say, “Wasn’t that great? Aren’t we all having fun?” and move on to the next topic. There has to be a plan communicated. It doesn’t have to be deep or detailed, but somebody has to get up there and at least hand wave an idea of how Blizz keeps this party going. Things I think they might bring up as options.
- 100% Sure – Phase Plan – This is, to my mind, the bare minimum they can communicate, some idea of when the next five phases of WoW Classic will unlock.
- 80% Sure – Other Expansions – The logical follow on for WoW Classic is The Burning Crusade Classic. I expect the minimum they will say is that they are looking into it. The upper limited of my expectations is a declaration that they will make this happen without any details.
- 10% Sure – More Classic Servers – I will be interested to see if Blizz “gets” what makes up all of the appeal loaded into WoW Classic. It is rooted in nostalgia, certainly. But as SOE learned eventually, this is an evergreen proposition, not a one and done effort. People want to start on FRESH servers and be in that wave of level one players.If they do get this, there will be a mention of a new round of servers at some future date. Daybreak has found they can roll out a fresh progression server every other year and it will fill to overflowing. Blizz could easily make this a filler for non-expansion years for WoW. Maybe they don’t need 70+ servers, and it would be good if there was some sync between finishing up the phases and rolling out a new generation.
- .001% Sure – Alternate Reality – SynCaine really brought this one up for me. With WoW Classic essentially standing as an independent game with its own client separate from retail, Blizzard could realistically create a different way forward for the game with its own exclusive expansions. If anybody has the resources for such a thing, it is Blizz. On the other hand, this is also very much a coloring outside of the lines move, not a Blizz strong suit, and if they can only get an expansion out every other year for retail, I am not sure they have the talent and other non-cash resources capable of producing something that would not lead to disappointment.
Diablo IV or go home.
Seriously, if that is not announced after last year’s tease and follow ups, Blizz might as well give up on the franchise. They have started calling Diablo III a “classic” title. I guess it is already more than seven years old. So a new Diablo on PC/consoles seems due.
Also, give me a damn Diablo II remaster already. I would take a GoG.com version. I have already proven that when I bought Diablo from GoG.com. Just give it to me already.
Oh, and we do want to hear what happened with Diablo Immortal, but only after you’ve made us all happy with the wonders of Diablo IV.
Heroes of the Storm
Auto Chess or go home.
HotS is still a thing, still getting some minor updates, and will probably get a special new hero for BlizzCon, but the esports body-blow still has many convinced the game is dead.
But Blizz has a unique opportunity here. With Dota Underlords and Teamfight Tactics out there having stolen the thunder of the Auto Chess mod, the company could step into the fray with their own version.
However, it needs some special sauce, something tight to set it apart. And I don’t mean putting making the play grid triangles rather than squares of hexagons. They need a leap in the concept, because Teamfight Tactics seems to be doing pretty well.
Overwatch 2 or go home.
Okay, I am not sure whether Overwatch 2 is a good plan or not, but reports are revenue has been sagging and you know the Activision side of the house makes damn good money releasing slight variations of the same damn shooter every year. Somebody might force that issue.
Otherwise, what else have they got? A new hero? A new map maybe? A new cereal?
More card packs. Maybe a new play mode. What else are they going to do besides milk this cow?
But I also don’t “get” Hearthstone in some deep way. I mean, I understand how to play, I just don’t find it all that interesting. I put the client on my iPad every six months or so, play a few hands, then wander off.
Yeah, I got nothing here. I mean, StarCraft II has been out for more than nine years now… is it “classic” at this point too… and the base game has gone free to play, while StarCraft, its now 21 year old predecessor, has gotten a remaster and a DLC skin overlay. The company is pottering around with tidbits, but nothing that is worth a headline.
What could revive the StarCraft franchise? I think a third RTS would be pointless. StarCraft was so well done that StarCraft II had to be, almost by necessity, nearly a direct knock-off of the original. A new campaign module might interest some. But something like a first person shooter would collide with Overwatch and my gut says that Blizz will never do another real MMORPG. So what is left?
Maybe StarCraft is where Blizz goes with the Auto Chess thing? Rather than just selecting from a random set of heroes you have to commit to one of the factions and only draw from their units?
There needs to be something new. Like, really new. As much as I dig Warcraft III or Diablo II remaster ideas, or even the thought of Diablo IV, there might be a need for some fresh blood down in Irvine.
The Blizzard tradition has been to remake a game that the devs are currently playing. That literally covers the history of the company from its founding forward. So what have the devs been playing? Last year Blizz said mobile games were hot with the dev team, so what will they copy? Pokemon Go? Clash of Clans? Honour of Kings?
That is what we get to do for a month, wait. BlizzCon is November 1st. I am sure we’ll get more hints about what to expect as the month progresses. The schedule, for example, is always something you can read things into. Whichever game gets the first presentation after the keynote tends to have the biggest announcement, which will set expectations.
Of course, that can lead to disaster. Last year that position of honor had “Diablo” written on it, but then they announced Diablo Immortal. I expect they won’t make that mistake again.
So what is it going to be? What will BlizzCon bring? And when will the Virtual Ticket go on sale?
Addendum: Just before this was slated to go live the Virtual Ticket was announced. A couple of battle pets, murloc versions of Anduin and Sylvannas, along with cosmetic “Wendigo Woolies” transmog items for retail WoW players.
The Virtual Ticket battle pets have been some of my favorites, so even if I wasn’t already on board for the Virtual Ticket I’d be leaning heavily towards it.
I am also happy that replays of panels will be available for longer than previous BlizzCon Virtual Tickets. I can re-watch things until March 31, 2020. But more about the Virtual Ticket later. Now the wait for the event schedule to be posted. Who will get pride of place after the keynote?