Category Archives: Blizzard

When Will We get The Burning Crusade Classic?

It seems pretty sure, given the various surveys and leaks coming out of Blizzard, that we are going to get a classic version of The Burning Crusade expansion for World of Warcraft.

The Burning Crusade in a black bean sauce

The question appears to be no longer “if,” but rather “how” and “when” now.

You may have seen a post over at Massively OP about a rumored timeline for such a release.  I sent in that tip based on a story I saw over at WCCF Tech which referenced a fan site forum post about a video from a WoW streamer who had heard from a reliable source that the official timeline for The Burning Crusade Classic was to be:

  • Announcement: BlizzConline – Feb 19, 2021
  • Beta opens: On announcement
  • Pre-patch: April 13th/14th, 2021
  • Launch: May 3rd/4th, 2021

My initial gut reaction to this timeline was that it has to be wrong.  That launch date is way too soon for Blizzard.  I have no doubt that we will be getting The Burning Crusade Classic, and it seems like a slam dunk than we will get it in 2021.  But in May?  Not going to happen.

A lot of the responses I have seen in support of this timeline seem to revolve around the technical feasibility of it.  Could it be done?  Could Blizzard get it together and launch in that time frame.

I think they could.  They have no doubt been working on it for ages now.  The popularity and success of WoW Classic no doubt cemented the resources to carry forward with it.

Instead, my main objection to the timeline is Blizzard and its past behavior.  Going from an announcement to beta to pre-patch to launch in about ten weeks… eight weeks really, since the pre-patch kicks off the opening of the black gate event, so they’re committed by then… seems uncharacteristically quick for the company.  That would be a positively hasty run by the standards of the company.

I don’t think people get how cautious Blizzard can be.  A lot of criticism was directed at WoW Classic due to the time it took to launch when people compared it to the comings and goings of pirate WoW servers.  If some randos on the internet can stand up a server quickly, why can’t Blizzard?  This blindly ignores how Blizz is a company that expects you to pay for a game, and you won’t pay if it breaks or falls over under load.  Blizz could no doubt put up a prototype server even more quickly, but would it stand up to the strains required of an official server?

Remember how many people piled into WoW Classic?  There will be a comparable surge when this come out.

Blizzard will want to run beta for a while, testing out specific functions of the expansion in classic form.  I firmly believe that will take more than the eight weeks this timeline allows.

Then they will want to to some load tests.  We’ll all be invited to pile onto a server to make sure that the new stuff still works.  We might get that in May, with a re-run of it again likely in June.

There is also the question as to how TBC Classic will be handled.  Surveys have gone out asking if people want fresh servers as transfer targets of to have their WoW Classic servers expanded to include TBC or some other option.  The server matrix for WoW Classic was relatively easy; PvP or PvE, with RP as a side order.  With TBC we might get fresh servers as transfer targets, upgraded WoW Classic servers, fresh start TBC servers, or some other combo.  Blizzard will try to make the maximum number of people happy, and as they were surveying people still late last month, it doesn’t seem like that has been decided.  They will likely have a plan by BlizzConline, but that is still another set of systems they’ll want to test.

My instincts, such that they are, says a realistic timeline for The Burning Crusade Classic would look more like this:

  • Announcement: BlizzConline – Feb 19, 2021
  • Beta opens: On announcement or soon thereafter
  • Server load tests: May/June 2021
  • Server reservations for users: July 2021
  • Pre-launch events on WoW Classic servers: mid/late July 2021
  • Launch: August 2021

But I am a registered pessimist and didn’t think Blizzard would ever be convinced to make WoW Classic in the first place.

So I will make a poll and let you tell me when you think it will launch.

There is a poll above this line which your adblock or other security measures might block.

We will probably get an answer in February as to the plan, until then we can speculate.

2021 and Questions for a New Year

Welcome to the first day of 2021.  A new dawn on a new year greeted us this morning.

2020 plus 1

Traditionally the first day of the year sees a post from me about the upcoming twelve months.  Usually it is predictions, but as the history of links shows, I occasionally diverge and try something else.

This year is going to be one of those “something else” years.  This year I have questions.

Oh, I have many questions about what 2021 will bring.  Many questions.  But for the purposes of this post, I am going to keep them focused on video games.  And, when it comes down to things, asking a question is just one step removed from a prediction.  A prediction is just an attempt to answer the question, but even formulating the question requires a bit of speculation as to what the future may bring.  You just look less wrong because, hey, you were only asking a question!

What will a return to normalcy bring to the video game industry?

I remember from my history classes that a return to “normalcy” was one of the campaign slogans of Warren G. Harding, which made it in to the word we have today.  And here in 2021, we have been offered a vision of normalcy. If the vaccines work, if the pandemic subsides, if some new horror doesn’t step in to fill the COVID-19 void, we could, come the summer, be back to some of our old pastimes.

Movie theaters. Restaurants. Sporting events. Family gatherings. Air travel.

All that and more may return.

That will leave less time for video games.  2020 was a story of success for many video game companies as we all stayed home.  Does the end of the pandemic portend a market crash and layoffs and all the other things that come with an industry down turn?

Also, some of us will likely have to go back to the office.  I know that some managers and most of HR hate having the employees out of sight.  Back to open plan fish bowls for some people. That will mean an increase in productivity for some, including in the video games industry, which has blamed the pandemic and work from home for some delays over the last year.  Will they get back on schedule or just find new excuses for delays?

Overall, what will the impact be?

This is probably the big general industry question.

Will Shadowlands hold players?

Blizz made a few risky changes last year, including the level squish.  But making Shadowlands an expansion where getting to level cap is basically the intro and the rest of the expansion is all what one might call “end game” is another level.  It is a change and a gamble and we will have to see how it plays out.

Will we get more classic WoW content?

The rumors and leaks seem to indicate that we will see The Burning Crusade Classic at some point this year.  However, there are serious questions as to when we’ll see it and how it will be rolled out.  There have been surveys asking players how they should handle TBC.  They won’t want to kill off the vanilla vibe that has worked so well for them, so transfers or new servers seem likely, but we don’t know anything really.  As for when, there was a rumor that May was a launch target, but that seems laughably quick for the slow and steady Blizzard bunch.  Maybe some time in the fall?

Will Diablo Immortal ship?

It has been two years now.  More of us have phone now.  Some of us have even upgraded our phones since BlizzCon 2018.  Are you going to ship this thing or what?  If it is any good at all it will do okay.  The BlizzCon 2018 reaction was largely due to you pitching to the wrong audience after having hinted about Diablo IV.  Just let people have it.  It couldn’t possibly be taking this long to finish it, could it?  This is just Blizz being conservative and not indicative of some horrible problem with the game, right?

Does Blizzard have anything new planned?

In a way, 2020 returned Blizzard to 2010, where so much of the revenue came from World of Warcraft that almost no other game really mattered when it came to the bottom line.  While Blizzard isn’t quite back to WoW being the only game in their portfolio that matters yet, but Diablo IV is years away, Hearthstone can only put out so many expansions per year, Overwatch is static, and they’ve put StarCraft on the shelf with Heroes of the Storm.  If they don’t have something big, then we’re back to all Azeroth all the time.

What does Daybreak under EG7 really portend?

It is ever so with the things that Men begin: there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise.

-Gimli, The Lord of the Rings

Here we are in a new year with a new company running Daybreak and they sound like they want to be serious about video games and expand their holdings and invest in the titles and IPs they have just acquired.  But what will really come to pass?  Lots of people have been bitten hard by the reality of the video games industry.  You have to make enough money to maintain your current project as well as fund any new projects.  Daybreak was hard pressed to do that on their own, will EG7 be able to change that?

Will Norrath continue to boom?

As bad as Daybreak management could seem at times, there is an argument to be made that EverQuest and EverQuest II rolled right along, got an expansion every year, got a big updates, ran holidays, and did all the things expected of such games quite steadily during the Daybreak era.  It was, in its way, a golden era with little in the way of shake ups to disturb them.  Gone were dumb ideas like SOEmote… as well as any hope for a new EverQuest game.  What happens now?  EverQuest seems secure, profitable as it was, but EQII was the low earner with the smallest customer base in 2020.  Does EG7 keep pouring money into that?  Is there plan?

What happens with H1Z1?

Somewhere behind EverQuest II is H1Z1, which didn’t even get a mention in the EG7 presentation when it came to numbers.  The acknowledged it as a valuable Daybreak IP, but how much of that was fluff?

Where is Cold Iron Studios?

Not even acknowledged by EG7 so far, so the question about them remains.  Where are they in the EG7 corporate structure?

What does ArenaNet do after all the departures?

Yes, there is still a plan for another expansion for GuildWars 2, and the game isn’t going anywhere.  But when the leadership wanders off… usually for reasons of dissatisfaction… that is a bad sign.

Where does CCP go next with New Eden?

The Trigalvian invasion is over.  A new region, Pochven, has been carved out of New Eden.  The huge, two year event has come to its conclusion  So what is next?  What will be the next venue to expand the lore of New Eden and give players something fresh to explore?

Will CCP stop strangling the New Eden economy?

CCP spent 2020 treating the player base like a bunch of ISK addicts and has been trying to dry us out.  The impacts of their efforts have been quite clear in the monthly economic reports.  The company has said that this situation is temporary, but how will they get to something less onerous without letting players return to old habits?  If they introduce new revenue streams that players reject, then things won’t get better… and CCP has something of a history of new ideas that don’t pan out… but if they restore the old streams then they might has well not have bothered.

How Will World War Bee End?

Assuming it ends in 2021.  We are about at the six month mark of the war and, while the invaders have pushed their way into Delve, the Imperium hasn’t rolled over and given up.  The great predicte evac has yet to occur.  The extermination goal, oft repeated by Vily, seemed unlikely to be accomplished at the start of the war and seems no more likely today.  That is especially true when Pandemic Horde, which has done the bulk of the work in the war, says that is not one of its goals.  At what point does PAPI declare victory and move on to other things?  And can TEST afford to see the war wind down with the Imperium vowing revenge on them for starting the war in the first place?

The war has set recorders for losses in both ship numbers and ISK value as well as total players participating in battles.  Will it end with a bang or a whimper?

Will Nintendo announce a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl?

We’re overdue on this.  Seriously, one of my major gripes about Game Freak dumping development for the 3DS line of devices is that when it came to remakes Pokemon Diamond & Pearl were next on the list.  They are the oldest titles of the Pokemon main line RPG titles that have not had a remake.  My daughter and I are so on board with this as a game idea.  But Nintendo and Game Freak have a different play and Pokemon Sword & Shield looks to be taking its time to play out, with two expansions so far.  I fret that we’ll never get this remake and that the current title is being treated like an MMO and will carry on for years.

Will crowd funded MMOs finally find their way?

Seriously.  There seems to be three paths for crowd funded MMOs up to this point.  There are the quirky little hobbiest games like Project: Gorgon or Shroud of the Avatar.  There are the “we totally missed our promises and have no ship date in sight” titles like Star Citizen and Camelot Unchained.  And then there are the ones that just took the money and folded up shop.

Right now I wouldn’t back a crowd funded MMO, endorse one, or even write a post mentioning one to draw even an iota of attention to it because the track record on that front is so abysmal that I feel complicit by my past enthusiasm.

Is there anything new possible for MMORPGs?

Yes, we have MMOs and games treated as services as pretty much the default way to deal with titles these days for a lot of studios.  Grand Theft Auto V, a game from 2013, appearing on the monthly SuperData Digital Revenue chart every month for the last five years of so is testament to that.

But I am talking about MMORPGs, where you play a character in a shared, persistent virtual world.  Ultima Online, EverQuest, World of Warcraft, and EVE Online are key in defining the genre.  The problem is, all of those titles are still there.  Furthermore, WoW Classic and EverQuest retro servers, seeking to recreate the early experiences of those games, are significant draws in the genre.

Is it possible to create something new in the genre, something different?  Or would anything different enough to be interesting end up classified as something else?  Is WoW the unbreakable definition of the genre now?

Will I play anything new this year?

You think the MMORPG genre is stale?  Look at my posts about what I have been playing.  If it were not for WoW Shadowlands, you might mistake some of my posts from 2020 as being from 2006 or 2010.

I suppose I did play a couple of new things.  There was Minecraft Dungeons and Among Us.  But for the most part, it was the same titles long covered here.  Am I the problem with the MMORPG genre?

Will VR get a killer app this year?

I should go back and see if I still have any of those VR sales projections from a few years back which predicted everybody and their mother would have one of those devices strapped to their heads by now.  VR headsets have gotten better and cheaper and some good games have come out, but I have yet to see anything that would make me jump on that bandwagon still.  Consoles seem to be the way forward at the moment.  And now I get unsolicited email from analysts talking about “XR,” which is VR mixed in with AR, to give them a bigger market to talk about… and probably so they can make new projections that cannot be compared apples to apples with their old ones.

Will the industry be smart enough to keep regulators away?

I am looking at you EA.  You managed to make lockboxes a headline issue again in the middle of 2020 by putting an ad for them in a children’s toy catalog.  Once the pandemic is in the past… and I dearly hope it will be some time this year… legislators looking to make some headlines for attention may turn back to lockboxes and gambling and the safe refrain of “won’t somebody think of the children?” yet again.

Will We lose Section 230 Protection?

Not strictly a video game issue, but it would have its impact on that industry as well as others.

You can read all about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of the United States over at Tech Dirt, which has a post about it and the many bogus arguments against it, but in a nutshell it protects people hosting sites on the internet from liability for what users may say or write.

For example, if I post something libelous on Twitter, Section 230 says you can sue me but not Twitter.  Easy to understand, right.  Twitter, or Facebook, or Massively OP, or you on your blog, are not liable for the wrongs of users.  It essentially allows the internet to be interactive.

And it is under political assault here in the US, most visibly by Trump, who is angry about the fact that Twitter very occasionally tries to make him comply with the terms of service he agreed to abide by when he signed up for the platform.

Those assailing Section 230 like to pretend they are defending free speech, but the opposite is actually the case.  There is a high correlation between rich people against Section 230 and rich people who like to sue anybody who says anything negative about them.

If Section 230 is repealed, if you write something objectionable on the internet, the hosting site can be sued.  They will then have the choice between spending money to fight a legal case over your dumbassery or deleting what you wrote and promising to keep you and anybody else from posting such things.  How do you think that is going to work out?

Removing Section 230 would basically give the litigious veto power over internet content and hosting services would start to behave in ways to avoid getting sued, which would mean disallowing comments in many places and preemptively deleting most anything political.

And if you don’t think that is going to spill over into your favorite online video game forum, you are wrong.

The only bright side is that while many people hate Twitter and Facebook, other tech and telecom companies are starting to realize that this would affect them as well, so they’re beginning to pull the appropriate strings on the politicians they’ve paid for in order to keep things as they are.

What will I do when the blog turns 15?

I mean besides write a long post full of stats and start including a “Fifteen Years Ago” section into my month in review posts?  Having almost 5,800 blog posts gives me data set of information that I always feel I could do more with.  Though, that said, you’ll get a bit of historical data next week, driven largely by the tenuous historical record that is this blog.  We’ll see how that flies.

What Else?

That is all I have right now.   am sure there are a lot more questions I want the answers to in 2021.  What did I miss?

Anyway, we shall see if I get answers this year. Some of them are clearly going to have simply “no” as an answer which, while unsatisfying, is still an answer.  At least I do not have to score questions, just figure out what happened with them.  Roll on 2021.

Reviewing my 2020 Predictions

It is that time of year where I go back to my post from the first of the year where I have generally thrown out some rash ideas as to what might come to pass over the next twelve months.

2020 banner by my daughter

There is a long history of this around here:

I am generally wrong on most of my predictions, though I usually excuse/rationalize those predictions as just a thought experiment as to what might happen.

This year however, I ended up being more wrong than usual, and that is in part because I failed to predict the global pandemic.  COVID 19, the Cornavirus, has done me in, figuratively if not yet literally.

Anyway, it is still that time of year, so I’ll go through the predictions and see if I managed to score any hits at all and where I was thwarted by the ‘rona.

Each prediction is worth 10 points if correct, unless otherwise noted, and partial credit is available.

1 – Daybreak Up

When your predictions don’t come to pass… well, maybe you were just ahead of your time.  So I am going to recycle this one.  By the end of the year Daybreak Games won’t exist in its current form.  New owners, new acquisitions, new partners, or just spun out into a couple smaller studios built on geographical locations (San Diego and Austin being the basis), there will be drastic changes.

Not so much.  I mean sure, they did their little internal studio division thing, and tried to declare them “indies,” so now we have Darkpaw, Rogue Planet, and Dimensional Ink “studios,” but they’re all effectively the same company.  Daybreak even acquired another studio this year.  No parts were sold off… individually at least.  We’ll get to the who shebang later.  But otherwise they seemed to hang on.  Did they even have a layoff in 2020?   If not I suspect that was due to the ‘rona boom in video games.  0 points.

2 – Norrath Forever

Pessimism about the company overall aside, I expect the EverQuest franchise, fresh off a couple of big anniversaries, to continue humming along as before no matter where it lands.  There will be the usual content updates mid-cycle, a special server launch for each, and then the standard end-of-year expansions for each game.  You don’t mess with things that are working.

This one on the other hand pretty much came to pass.  I guess I covered myself both ways, but I have to have a gimme or two so I don’t completely zero out.  10 points.

3 – Struggling Royales

H1Z1 and PlanetSide Arena will both be toast on the PC platform.  I wrote this before we got the word on PSA.  I won’t take half credit up front.  The burden will just be on H1Z1 or Z1 Battle Royale or whatever it is called now, to prove me wrong.

How is H1Z1 still alive?  I guess it is still rolling okay on PS4, but I can’t even take some partial credit for the PC side getting shut down.  More ‘rona bonus?  0 points.

4 – PlanestSide Promises

Daybreak has been telling people they will have a big PlanetSide 2 related announcements in the new year.  But no matter what they announce, it will fall flat.  Daybreak has another game in decline and cannot figure out what to do about it.  I guess when your only answers in your bag are “battle royale” and “retro server,” you are kind of stuck.  What else do they have?  PlanetSide 2 on the Switch?  Expect little and you won’t be disappointed.

PlanetSide 2 seems to be rolling along under the Rogue Planet banner.  It got some updates over the year.  I don’t think there was anything that qualified as a big announcement. I mean, they were hinting that PlanetSide Arena would lead to PlanetSide 3 and we’re nowhere close to that.  Do outfit wars and shattered warp gates get there?  I think the biggest surprise was how many people actually play the game… and how few pay.  I’m giving myself 5 points here as it was just business as usual.

5 – Unexpected Party

Standing Stone Games will take a page from their… well… we still aren’t sure how Daybreak and SSG are connected so lets just say “partners” for now… partners in San Diego and roll out a new special rules Lord of the Rings Online server.  Like Blizz, SSG needs something splashy for LOTRO for its non-expansion years and the 2018 LOTRO Legendary server went pretty well for them.  However, rather than just replaying the nostalgia card once more they will make up a much more convoluted rule set for this new server.  It will go badly.

Nope.  SSG just goes on and on telling people that they can’t make a real retro server while they let the current one languish.  Instead they wrapped a game update and a quest pack with a $99 bow and called it an expansion.  0 points for me, though we do know how they are connected to Daybreak now.

6 – Avatar’s Shroud

Lord British has washed his hands of the whole thing and the new company (Catnip Games, no doubt because you’d have to be on drugs to think things are going well) has already reneged on more promises, a sign that times are bad for this strange, very much not for everyone title.  I expect that online play will be shut down before the end of the year, leaving backers with local single player as their only option.

Once again I see the hand of the ‘rona here saving another title that seems to be slipping into oblivion.  Lord British is still long gone, but the servers still seem to be up.  This will probably be the last time I ever mention this game in a post, unless it falls over dead.  0 points.

7 – Shadowlands Forseen

I am calling an August 18th launch for the next WoW expansion, Shadowlands.  That month has become the Blizz sweet spot for WoW launches.  Not a lot else tends to launch in August, there is the summer for pre-expansion events, and things tend to settle down by BlizzCon when the company likes to start talking about the next thing.  2 points lost for every week I am off the date.

Not even freaking close.  Who knew back in January that Blizz would decide to break the “time between expansions” record for the franchise?  Not me.  I can’t even blame the ‘rona for this… much.  I guess work from home might have slowed down progress.  Still, 0 points.

8 – BlizzCon Announcements

Read my lips: No new games.  Just reworks, remasters, and expansions of the current games and franchises.  Maybe a mobile version of something… a tablet version of StarCraft or a watered down phone game with a Warcraft theme… but nothing new.  Need more pylons.

No BlizzCon, no BlizzCon announcements.  My cynicism was wasted as the ‘rona did for this event.  0 points.

9 – Diablo Before

At BlizzCon there will talk about Diablo IV, along with some art and a bit of game play video.  What there won’t be is a release date announced in 2020.

Again, no BlizzCon, 0 points.

10 – Wait of Immortals

For reasons that will not be disclosed, Diablo Immortal will fail to ship again in 2020.

Hah!  Cynicism pays off this year at last!  10 points.  Booyah!

11 – Classic Future

At BlizzCon, and not one minute before, Blizzard will announce a very conservative, no dates given save for maybe with a hint towards summer of 2021, plan for a classic server based on The Burning Crusade.

No BlizzCon… have I said this enough already?  0 points.

12 – Activision Encroachment

By the end of the year the Battle.net launcher will feature the Activision logo more prominently as it becomes the Activision-Blizzard launcher.  No need for the team in Santa Monica to roll out their own launcher when the team in Irvine already has one.

No logo change yet… but there are FOUR freakin’ Call of Duty titles on the launcher.  I’m giving myself 2 points for that.

13 – New Eden in Decline

As mentioned before, CCP has gone into a very tactical phase of development with EVE Online.  That isn’t a bad thing.  The game needs it.  But there is no vision for the game, no future path being sketched out, and space nerds require optimism and forward motion.  Retaining another percent or two of new players won’t help much if the old guard can’t pass on enthusiasm to them.  I expect the 2020 PCU and MER numbers to show a slow, consistent decline.

It was looking this way… and then came the ‘rona surge and the PCU popped through the 40K mark for the first time since 2017.  0 pointsEVE is dying, but not any time soon.

14 – The Eternal POS

CCP will fail to remove the storied Player Owned Starbase from New Eden yet again.  They are growing exceedingly rare, but they are still out there.

I’ll be going on POS shoots until I retire it seems.  With the war on they aren’t even all that rare.  10 points.

15 – CSM XV

The usual round of CSM election nonsense will carry on.  In the end, it will be eight null sec representatives dominating the council again, with any null sec incumbent that runs getting returned.

Well, seven null sec representatives dominating the council in any case, and one incumbent, Sort Dragon, didn’t make the cut, though he was an alternate and only got on after Killah Bee dropped out.  3 points for being somewhat close.  I don’t think the ‘rona had any influence here, except for increasing voter turnout.

16 – HyperNet Relay End Point

CCP will shut down its HyperNet Relay within a  year of it launch due to issues related to local gambling regulations, which will be spurred by the situation in the next prediction.  It is always a risk to chain predictions together, but I’ll go there yet again.

Nope.  The in-game gambling mechanism has turned into an in-game scam machine where the people listing buy most of the tickets, get their item back when they win it, and make some ISK from the few suckers who bought in.  There is nothing EVE players cannot corrupt.  0 points.

17 – Gacha Movement

After predicting no movement on lockboxes and gambling for a few years now, the pot seems to have heated up enough that the frog might be in trouble in 2020.  My assumption up to this point has been that the industry wouldn’t be dumb, that the ESA would promise that the industry would police itself with a few concrete proposals while dumping a lot of contributions on key political players.  But the industry has been greedy and dumb and arrogant and even antagonistic, what with “surprise mechanics” and trying to upstage hearings on the subject by loudly announcing a set of empty promises.  You have to look contrite and helpful in order to give politicians the cover they need to roll over and take your bribes contributions.  Also it is a presidential election year in the US, so politicians will be looking for softball issues to champion, and when the NRA is telling you that video games cause violence…  Anyway, the industry is going to have to actually put up something real to avoid regulation beyond Belguim.  Look at what happened to Juul when politicians decided it was a safe vote getter to jump on vaping.

Turns out politicians have better things to do during a global pandemic that worry about video games.  The ‘rona strikes again.  The world was distracted enough that EA thought it was a good idea to put a lockbox ad in a kids toy catalog.  Way get attention back on the topic.  Still, nothing really changed.  I should have kept betting against Gevlon on this.  0 points.

18 – Guild Wars Decline

With the contractions and departures at ArenaNet, Guild Wars 2 will potter along with small updates, bits of content dressed up as living story seasons, and replays of tried and true things like the Super Adventure Box.  The game won’t be in “maintenance mode” the way Guild Wars is, but it will be clear a year from now that its heyday has passed.

Everything got a boost during the ‘rona, but then Mike O’Brien left to form a new company called Mana Works and… well, I don’t pay close enough attention.  I know the Super Adventure Box came back for another visit.  But there was also that End of Dragons expansion thing, so I guess that was a “no.”  0 points.

19 – City of Villains

NCsoft will finally make a public announcement about the City of Heroes servers out in the wild using the original code.  It will come from a lawyer and will include the words “cease” and “desist.”  NCsoft will attempt to stomp out these servers and will force them to be much lower profile than they have been in 2019.  But they won’t go away.  Software, once freed, is very difficult to contain.

Nope.  Can’t even blame the plague.  0 points.

20 – New World Order

Amazon’s New World will be delayed past May to launch in the fall.  Once launched it will be… fine.  An Ark: Survival Evolved kind of game, probably what Smed wishes H1Z1 had been like at launch.  It won’t break any new ground and after a flash at launch will fade into the crowd, successful but not headline worthy.

I actually thought about starting to write this post back when New World was delayed until fall.  I seemed to be right on the money.  And then the can got kicked down the road again, this time into 2021.  5 points for being right for half the year.

21 – Won’t Ship Yet Again

The following titles won’t go live or otherwise be available to customers in any way that we would agree on was complete.  Early access, open beta, or eternal alpha states do not count.  Two Points per title.

  • Camelot Unchained
  • Crowfall
  • Torchlight Frontiers
  • Dual Universe
  • Anything at all from Chris Roberts

I’ll go negative points on that last one if he ships two things.  But I think we all know that isn’t going to happen.

I could argue that nothing called Torchlight Frontiers shipped, but there is that pesky, and apparently mediocre Torchlight III running around.  Still, the others were not a tough call.  This is sort of me annual “I dare you to ship!” category.  8 points.

22 – GameStopped

The only way GameStop is going to be around a year from now is if they shed enough weight to make it into the Christmas season.  Black Friday might as well be “life or death” Friday for them.  But I don’t think they will make it that far unscathed.  In order to get the freedom of movement required to get that far they are going to have to declare chapter 11 bankruptcy.  That will let them get out of store leases and give them the breathing room to carry on.  But even then they will be a shell of their former selves by the time I write up the results post come December.

I thought this one was a freakin’ shoe-in back in January.  GameStop looked to be on its last legs.  And then the ‘rona hit and video games became essential toward maintaining our sanity.  GameStop, like gun stores, was on the essential businesses list.  And now Microsoft has invested in them.  They live to fight another day.  0 points.

23 – Steam Engine

Life as usual for Steam.  The four usual seasonal sales.  Epic will keep sniping away and trying to get people to pay attention by throwing free games at them while most people will still see Steam as the default source of PC games.  It is the post office of gaming.  Steam will continue to revise their game acceptance policy, but otherwise carry on as always with no big changes in 2020.

I guess.  This gets back to the idea that predictions, like team goals, should be measurable.  Maybe if I paid closer attention I could make a hard call one way or the other, but I am going to just go with the fact that it feels like this happened and give myself half credit.  5 points.

Bonus Prediction – Guild Wars 3 Announced

Sure, why not?  Guild Wars 2 is slowly ebbing, NCsoft needs something to keep fans in that area happy, and I am sure there is a crew around that believes they have learned enough from GW2 to do it RIGHT this time!  They don’t have to ship anything.  At most they have to do some hand waving about another monuments thing for specific achievements, which will get people grinding away again.  Give me 10 bonus points if this comes to pass, though it is so out there that I ought to ask for more.

Ha ha ha ha… no.  0 points.

Super Double Bonus Prediction – PA buys Daybreak

This one came up a couple months back when Daybreak was registering new names for itself and CCP announced that EVE Vegas was going to become EVE San Diego.  The obvious (to me) conclusion was that Pearl Abyss MUST be buying Daybreak and then merging their fan events together.  I left this as a comment and it became a post over at Massively OP.  I figured I ought to codify it here as a prediction.  Have a couple of drinks and say it three times fast and it sounds pretty logical.  And if it comes to pass I want 20 bonus points.

It was a wild conspiracy theory when I made it, but I still had a hope that it might come to pass.  But no, Pearl Abyss did not bit.  But then EG7 came along and bough them!  I am going to give myself 1 Point for at least being right about them being acquired in 2020.

That gives me 59 points out of a total of 230 possible, not counting bonus points against me.  That gives me a 26% correct ratio, which is pretty bad considering how many of those picks I thought were gimmes back in January.

But it is still a tiny bit better than my 2017 picks, so not my worst year ever.

And now to consider what 2021 will bring.

Will the ‘rona boom continue for a while?  What will happen if the vaccines are a success and we can all go back to work, school, travel, and the other activities we’ve been denied over the last year or so?  Are video games going to take a hit when we can all go out to eat and see movies again?  Will there be any theaters operating in 2021?

WoW Shadowlands Sales Stacked Up Against Past Releases

This has become a staple post after every WoW expansion release, usually because Blizzard puts out a press release about the first day sales full of superlatives.  And so it goes for Shadowlands.

This time though Blizzard has out done itself with a press release declaring Shadowlands “the fastest-selling PC game of all time industry-wide” having had 3.7 million first day sales.  That is some boast, though the previous champion was, by their accounting, was Diablo III which had 3.5 million first day sales.

They also have a few additional brags.

  • In the months leading up to the expansion’s release and the time since launch, the game reached and has sustained its highest number of players on monthly or longer-term subscriptions compared to the same period ahead of and following any WoW expansion in the past decade, in both the West and the East.
  • Players have spent more time in Azeroth year to date than in the same period of any of the last 10 years.
  • In addition, total player time in game this year to date has nearly doubled compared to the same period last year.

The last bullet point is a solid one, since numbers were up a year ago due to WoW Classic, so topping that says something.  The first point is time bound by expansions that launched in the last decade, which basically means since they pissed a lot of people off with the Cataclysm expansion.  The game’s peak no doubt remains in the Wrath of the Lich King era.

A chart from 2015 back when we used to get subscriber numbers

Still, it is good to see the game doing well, though for the video game industry the pandemic has been a rising tide that has lifted all boats it seems.

Anyway, like I said, there is a press release like this every expansion.  Battle for Azeroth had one two years back which pegged its first day sales at 3.4 million, and Legion had one before that which put it at 3.3 million, and so on down the line.  The totals, so far as I could figure it out some time back, should now look like this:

  • Shadowlands – 3.7 million
  • Battle for Azeroth – 3.4 million
  • WoW Legion – 3.3 million
  • Warlords of Draenor – 3.3 million
  • Mists of Pandaria – 2.7 million (first week)
  • Cataclysm – 3.3 million
  • Wrath of the Lich King – 2.8 million
  • The Burning Crusade – 2.4 million
  • World of Warcraft – 240,000

Those are mostly “first 24 hours” of sales, except where noted.  After Cataclysm Blizzard needed to give Mists of Pandaria a bit more runway to get into the zone I guess.

And, of course, we get into what really counts as day one sales.

With the original World of Warcraft  launch, that was all boxes purchased retail.  I recall the story of Blizzard having to divert the truck filled with employee versions of the collector’s edition to the retail channel because the game was selling out.

Day one of The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King both saw midnight launch parties at retailers.  I recall a pallet of TBC collector’s edition boxes sitting on the floor at Fry’s in Sunnyvale the day it launched.  But I haven’t been down to a retail store to buy a physical box for a WoW expansion since WotLK.  Since then digital sales and pre-orders have been my thing and have no doubt come to dominate the sales numbers.

Because, technically, that 3.7 million number isn’t the first day sales number.  That is the number of units they were able to recognize revenue on due to having shipped the product on November 23rd.  The expansion had been selling via pre-orders for a long time.

I have a post back from November 7, 2019 where I compared four upcoming MMORPG expansions that mentions that the Shadowlands pre-orders were already open and available.  That is more than a year ago, so we are not talking a single day sales record… or probably even “fastest selling” if we were able to get the actual sales data from Blizzard.  I strongly suspect that the most sales in the shortest space of time still belongs to some of the older titles.

I am now also curious about how long pre-order periods have been for WoW expansions over the years.  I am going to guess that Shadowlands, which ran over a year in pre-order mode, would top that list.

Still, that is a lot of sales, and with that big revenue recognition burst I expect we’ll see World of Warcraft pop up a few spots on the SuperData Research November chart when we get that later this month.  Can it dethrone League of Legends?

Of course, as that list I made indicates, nobody is likely to debate whether or not Blizzard can move boxes, virtual or otherwise.  Can they keep the subscribers though?  That has been a problem for several expansions in the last decade.

Other coverage of this announcement:

Addendum: Shadowlands record broken already by Cyberpunk 2077.

A Smooth Slide into Shadowlands

I expressed some concern about the launch of the Shadowlands expansion in my post on Sunday, wondering if the server problems I had been seeing might impact the new experience.

But when it came down to it, at least on the Eldre’Thalas server, things seemed to go pretty smoothly.  (Though there were problems elsewhere I hear.)

I had read that the starting hook for the expansion hook would be out in front of the fountain before Stormwind Keep, so set myself up there early in the day.

The fountain, with some people beginning to gather

A little before 3pm local time, the hour of the launch for me, I logged in to gather with the other early birds to get right into things.  Ula had some free time as well, so we grouped up and waited around the fountain, which by that point was quite crowded.

The early crowd is ready

Moments after 3pm hit there was an announcement in the area by Highlord Darion Mograine.

Hear ye!

And then a death gate opened up before the fountain and people started piling in.

If all your friends jumped into a death gate, would you do it too?

It was through there to Icecrown and Bolvar Fordragon who had a few feats of strength for people to go through before he sent them off into the Maw to go find the people scooped up by Sylvanas in the pre-invasion.

So why am I dragging your little bits around the ceremony again?

And then it was into the Maw, the so-called crucible of the damned.

Welcome to The Maw

And it was a grim, dark hellscape with some of the tormented to fight and some of the regulars to find.  You end up with Jaina Proudmoore and Thrall to start with and end up on an exciting run through the place.  You find Anduin Wrynn and have to work to free him, and then Warchief Baine Bloodhoof.  The place is a torment and everybody wants to get out, and has been struggling to do so since they were taken.

Together you work your way to what my be a way out of the place, a portal that seems to respond only to your presence.  So they cover you while you escape.

Jaina, Baine, Anduin, and Thrall while you fiddle with the thing

And then, hey presto, you’re teleported to Orbios and your first achievement.

I fought the Maw and the Maw won…

There you meet the locals, talk about what is going on, get a tour of the place, and generally take your time, heedless of the fact that your recent pals are still being tormented.  But they have a way of doing things.  There is apparently enormous red tape in the after life.

From there you get sent off to Bastion to ingratiate yourself with the locals and run through their bright and shiny lands, the polar opposite of the Maw when it comes to style, and help them deal with their personal issues.

Seriously, Jaina, Thrall, Baine, and Anduin got themselves recaptured covering your escape, and were clearly unhappy about it.

Anduin is not at all happy

And now you’re farting around with really some of the most annoyingly chirpy mobs in the game who all sound like they’re in a cult if you start paying close attention to what they’re saying.  It is like being in the 70s.

Still, when in Rome… so you go along with the initiation, fight your personal demons manifested, relive past events in brief, and haul around their anima, the precious resource that drives things around there.

At first I thought they said “anime”

You get some armor, spar with some initiates, dust, tidy up, and attend some more lectures on the whole thing.

Ula and Vikund at another seminar

Doing all the fetch and carry and introspection gets you a level pretty quickly.  I was level 52 before the evening was out, and well on my way to 53.  The first person made it to 60, the new level cap, in just three hours.

But I gather that the level grind is not the big deal in Shadowlands.  Once you get to the level cap you have to pick a covenant and start earning your way into that as an alternate advancement method.  Something beyond just a rep grind so far as I have seen, though I haven’t looked too closely yet.

You get some new gear naturally, though I was surprised that it took a while for the first pieces to show up.  They were not in a hurry to replace everything you had in the first half dozen quests.  And some of it wasn’t good enough to replace what I had.  While I didn’t work very hard on the Heart of Azeroth in Battle for Azeroth, the first neck slot quest reward wasn’t cutting it as a replacement.

Heart of Azeroth wins today, even if it is cut off from its life force

Likewise, the big sword I got from Nathanos Blightcaller was better than the first weapons that came my way as drops or rewards.

My blade remains viable

And while the server seemed solid and I did not see any queues later in the evening when I logged back in, things were still a bit off.  I tried to group up with Ula again later on and we got stuck in different phases even though we were on the same quest.  We tried the dreaded “party sync” option, and while it did indeed get us onto the same quest again, we remained in different phases.

And perhaps some of the quests are meant to be solo, but it would be nice to have some indication of that.  Later, when we tried to add Skronk to the group, we had similar issues.  He couldn’t join the group at first, then he was in a different phase, and even after the part sync put us onto his quests, we still couldn’t all get into the same phase and visible to each other.

And that was on top of the usual factional annoyances.  This is one of the expansions where the Alliance and the Horde have identical experiences, so we’re all out there mixed together in Bastion.  But if a fellow Alliance member tags a mob, I can still join in and get credit, but if somebody from the Horde tags it, it is now gray to me and gets me no credit.  If we’re essentially fighting on the same side this round, maybe adjust that?  I don’t know.

But the advancement is going quickly enough that hopefully Bastion will be in the rear view mirror before too long.  It the sort of environment that brings up thoughts like, “I’m not saying Sylvanas is right, but looking at this place, I am not saying she is completely wrong either.”  Hell, one event involves a bunch of the locals sick of the routine and rising up against the status quo.  I had to go help put that down despite my sympathies.

Vikund ready to enforce conformity

But it is just a zone, and some zones you like and others you don’t, though the narrative in it feels like an extended intro that I kind of want to wrap up but never quite gets there.  Will I want to go through this with alts?

I will admit that the place looks pretty good.  A lot of work went into things.  I just have to get through Bastion and get back to rescuing people from the Maw, right?

Other first night posts:

 

Sunday WoW Classic about Plans and Bans

With the coming Shadowlands release in retail WoW, just about a week away now, not a lot of attention has been paid to WoW Classic.  The place hasn’t emptied out, but Stormwind and Ironforge do not have the same busy feel that they did before the Shadowlands pre-patch.

Classic is as classic does

  • Naxxramas and the Scourge Invasion

Phase six, or WoW Classic version 1.13.6, will start going live on December 1st.  On that date the Naxxramas raid will open up.  Then, just two days later, on December 3rd, the Scourge Invasion event will start, with flying necropolis showing up in high level zones and the Argent Dawn offering rewards to fight the invasion.  Also, world PvP objectives will be added in the Eastern Plaguelands and Silithus.  This represents the final planned phase for WoW Classic.

  • Raider Ban Wave

There were reports of a large number of bans being handed out to raiders, including whole raid groups.  While Blizzard has declined to discuss details, they did say in a forum post that when this happens it is usually because the raid group was found to be using some sort of terrain exploit.

  • Future Direction of WoW Classic

With the coming of phase 6, the original plan has been completed and the questions begin to turn to “What’s next?”  Some people want to see Classic Burning Crusade naturally.  Blizzard could also open up a fresh round of WoW Classic servers for people who missed the opening days of the initial round, or for those who just want another fresh start.  Daybreak has made a business out of pretty much just that with EverQuest.

But there are other things that might be on the horizon.  With the ban on broadcast input software , something Blizz made sure to indicate applies to WoW Classic as well as retail, for the first time in the game’s soon to be 16 year history, WoWHead collected some of the things that Blizzard has been up to that might spell a further divergence from the purist dream of vanilla WoW recreated and a move in the direction of a WoW Classic that fixes a few more of the issues that were a problem back in the day.

We will probably have to wait until BlizzCon Online in the back half of February to get any sort of hint as to what the future might bring.  If nothing else, the Shadowlands launch will likely carry the headlines and the company’s attention through the end of the year.

Friday Bullet Points Including a Free WoW Weekend and Multi-boxing

It is Friday and I have a few short but timely items to write about, so it is time to go into PowerPoint mode and crank out some bullet points.  I will read them directly off the slide during my presentation just to annoy you.

  • Free World of Warcraft Weekend

Blizzard has declared that November 5th through the 8th is “Welcome back Weekend,” which means you can log in and play WoW for free as though you were a subscriber.

Free for a while

This will allow you to check out the new starting zone experience and the level squish.  I am sure a dedicated player could get a fresh character to the level cap in just a weekend.

The one thing this offer does not include is WoW Classic.  See the fine print.

  • WoW and Multi-boxing

Blizzard posted a notice this week that has been widely misinterpreted as a ban on multi-boxing.  There are a lot of bad headlines out there that say multi-boxing has been banned.  This is not technically true.

Rather, Blizzard has decided that software like ISBoxer that can be used to broadcast keyboard and mouse inputs to multiple clients will no longer be allowed.  The statement specifically calls out that, and that alone, as what is being banned.

Veterans of EVE Online know what I am talking about, as ISBoxer and like software has been banned there for a while.  Once upon a time there was a player who would fly a fleet of stealth bombers and do exactly timed bombing runs.

In WoW you can spot people using such software that fairly easily.  The classic example from a while back was a full group of shaman moving in unison, dropping the same totems as a group, and casting the same spells at the same time.

Warnings will be issued for those using such software now, ramping to “account actions,” up to and including bans, over time.

But you can still multi-box and long as you are not using input broadcasting software.  There are even some addons out there that will help you out with that.  But no more ISBoxer.

  • Shadowlands Beta

I think it is pretty safe to say that if I have now gotten an invite to the Shadowlands beta, then anybody who wants in can probably get in.

Something in my inbox last week

While it is getting close to the launch date there is still time to get in and provide feedback.  Blizz has been posting about areas and items they would like people to try.

  • BlizzConline will be Free

While BlizzCon was cancelled this year to the pandemic, Blizzard previously announced they would be doing a virtual BlizzCon, BlizzConline, February 19th and 20th of next year.

BlizzCon Online is the way I always attend anyway

In an eight minute fireside chat video with J. Allen Brack, he confirmed that the online event, which will also mark Blizzard’s 30th year as a company, will be available for free;  no virtual ticket required. (~50 seconds into the video)

 

Do You Need a Level Booster for Shadowlands?

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post comparing four MMO expansions that were all available for pre-order.  Three of them, the expansions for EQ, EQII, and LOTRO, shipped back in late 2019.  The remaining one, Shadowlands, is expected to go live later this month.

There is probably an interesting discussion to be had comparing Blizzard’s longer horizon versus Daybreak’s ability to get an expansion… or something pretending to be an expansion… out every single year.

But I won’t be going there today.  Instead I want to pick up on one of the aspects of the pre-orders that I noted in that post from a year ago, the presence of character level boosters.

The level boost, or insta-levels, or whatever you want to call them, were seen as a solution to the “too many damn levels” problem that a relentless history of expansions… EverQuest will be going live with expansion number 27 this year… had created.

And level boosts were a quick and easy way to get characters into the latest content, the “good” stuff where most of the long term players were.  At least if you did them correctly.

LOTRO introduced one that only got people to the first expansion when there were already two more beyond that.  Not exactly into the “good” stuff.  They later changed that, but for a stretch their boost seemed hardly worth the price.

EverQuest had a decent boost that got you close to the current content.  But that was back when level 85 was good enough.  More than six years later their boost inexplicably still only goes to level 85 while the level cap is up around 115.

The EverQuest II side of the house managed to keep their boost up to date, so it would get you close to the latest content.  The main problem was that boosting up into a high level character left you with mind boggling array of skills and spells to sort out.

And then there was the team at Blizzrd which diligently updated their level boost concept with each expansion, throwing in such a boost with each purchase.  They even put together a little tutorial about your skills and how to play your freshly boosted character.

But that has changed with the coming of Shadowlands.  Blizzard decided to try and solve the levels problem by resetting everybody to level 50 as part of the big level squishShadowlands… and if my theory is correct, every expansion going forward… will get you the 50-60 experience while all of the old content exists in parallel 10-50 tracks.

I’m just going to keep using this graphic

With this change, the level boost option fell out of the basic expansion.  Blizz also knocked $10 off the price, reducing it from the $50 mark that they charged starting with Warlords of Draenor, back when the level boost idea was introduced.

Digital versions of Shadowlands

The question is whether or not the base edition needs it any more.

With the level squish there are certainly fewer levels between a new player and the “good” stuff, the new expansion.  And those levels come fairly quickly.  I had three characters at level cap before the squish and now have seven there with not a lot of effort.

WoWHead reported that the optimum route for a Horde player could get you to level 50 in under six hours.

You can also use an addon like Azeroth Auto Pilot to guide you quickly through.  You’re probably good in about eight to ten hours there as the addon tries to save you every second, to the point of auto-accepting quests as soon as you open them up.  Screw quest text, go go go go!

An old hand at the game can get there in under a day’s play time, so I am sure a new player could get there in two days or so.

But that still represents time and effort.  Blizzard knows this, which is why the level boost isn’t going away.  It is still there in the store if you want it.

Still seems expensive

Furthermore, if you want to spend just $20 more on the expansion and opt-in for the Heroic Edition, you get the character boost plus a new mount and a transmog set.  That is a hell of a deal, if you assume that the store price for the boots ($60) and the store price for mounts ($25) represent their actual value.

If you’re into that, then you’re probably already eyeing the Epic Edition, which for just $40 over the base package gets you all the stuff from the Heroic Edition plus a few more items.

The hard core though, they already know what they’re buying.

Shadowlands Collectors Edition – Physical Items

As the time for the expansion approaches and my need to grab a copy with it, I am leaning towards the base package.  If the character boost was the only factor in my decision, it would be done.  I have more than enough options at the level cap and, unless Shadowlands is really alt friendly, I will probably only end up pushing three or four characters through it total.

Sunday WoW Items Before Shadowlands

We’re into November, and a bunch of stuff is coming up in World of Warcraft, not the least being the Shadowlands expansion.  But that is out on the 23rd, and a few things are in between then and now.

The November 1 calendar entries

Darkmoon Faire

It is the start of the last Darkmoon Faire before the expansion, and the first one since the big level squish.  You can get a final five points in any of your Kul Tiran or Zandalarian professions before Shadowlands profession updates arrive.  My main is just 3 points shy of finishing engineering, so I’ll be in there with him.  You have until Saturday night to get that done.

I’m also going to see if I can figure out the deal with heirloom gear.  Most of mine seems to be useful only through level 34 now, which isn’t so useful in a 10-50 alt leveling context.

Day of the Dead

It is also your chance to run the Day of the Dead event.  Get on this right away though, as it is a single day event.

Anniversary Event

World of Warcraft turns 16 this year, and the anniversary of the initial launch coincides with the launch date for Shadowlands.  I guess they did not want the two events interfering with each other or confusing anybody, so the anniversary event starts today and ends on November 22nd.  The 23rd is reserved for Shadowlands.

End Date

The event itself is a modest example of the genre.  You get a package in your mail box with some time warped tokens, a quest starter for a time walking event, a firework, and the usual xp boost token.

16 years means 16% boost

I am going to guess that Blizz doesn’t want to go into Shadowlands while giving people an xp boost.  They’ll save that for later.

The Headless Horseman’s Mount

Once again I queued up for the Headless Horseman.  I was half-hearted when Hallow’s End started, but was motivated by Belghast’s post about going all out for it.  Having done an audit of all of my characters, I knew that I had 18 characters who were level 20 or higher after the squish, the minimum level to run the Headless Horseman’s instance.

The first couple of the days I just ran with the dozen eligible characters on the paired servers, Eldre’Thalas and Korialstrasz, that I think of as home.  At the end though I dug out some old characters, spec’d them up, and ran with anybody I could get in the queue.

But, after the final run this morning as the event wound down, I found myself once again without the mount.

Not mine

Lots of masks, a lot of candy, a few rings, one sword, but no mounts.

On the bright side, I didn’t do horribly with the rando alts.  I’d probably go back and spec a couple of them to tank specs just to shorten the wait in the queue, but I didn’t do too bad.  I only had one bad group along the way, which wiped on the event three times before I bailed.  I was tanking that one with a level 50 pally and was putting out more DPS than the rest of the group combined.

Next year in Scarlet Monastery I guess.

Blizzard Hangs On During a Quiet Q3

We got the 2020 Q2 financial results for Activision Blizzard yesterday, and it confirmed that the video game market is still doing pretty well.

Overall the combined company had a very good Q3 2020, well up over last year, though much of the good news came from the Activision side of the house, where they were still riding the Q2 Call of Duty launch for all it was worth.  The company is even talking about hiring 2,000 more people to keep up with demand.  That is a long way from the 2018 results when they were cutting staff.

Activision Blizzard Q3 2020 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 9

The Activision team was up almost 3x over their Q3 2019 net revenue.

Blizzard, while up, was only up a small amount over Q3 2020.  However, Q3 2020 was the start of the Blizzard revival where, after two quarters in the doldrums, WoW Classic launched and revived their fortunes.

Meanwhile, Q3 2020 was in something of limbo state as the Shadowlands expansion was slated for a Q4 launch.  There was little new to entice people players back.  There wasn’t even the expansion pre-patch to raise some excitement.

But the slide deck rightly looks for Q4 2020 to be a big deal.

Activision Blizzard Q3 2020 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 7

Blizzard got the Shadowlands pre-patch out earlier this month, unveiling the big level squish for all to see and experience.  And now we have a date for the start of the expansion pre-launch events, November 10th, and the launch of the expansion itself, November 23rd.  Blizzard will be able to recognize revenue on all those pre-orders the day it launches.   The is usually a pretty big ka-ching moment.

However, outside of World of Warcraft there isn’t a lot of big news.  Hearthstone carries on, with a new expansion on the way.

Overwatch remains popular, though a year after the Overwatch 2 announcement it doesn’t feel like much has changed.  I flagged Overwatch 2 as one of the “big four” announcements at BlizzCon 2019, but I don’t pay enough attention to the game to know what has gone on since then, except for the fact I haven’t seen any headlines about it lately.

Diablo IV remains somewhere in the distant future.  I think I said 2022 last year when it was finally announced, and I might have been optimistic with that call.

And then there is Diablo Immortal, perpetually in some new stage of testing, but never quite ready to launch.  It can’t fail it they never release it I guess.

So Q4 is almost guaranteed to be big for Blizz, but unless Shadowlands gets more traction than Battle for Azeroth did, there isn’t a lot else to depend on after that.  For all the other franchises, it is still WoW that carries the load.

You can, as always, find all the numbers over at the Activision Blizzard investor relations page.