Tag Archives: Hearthstone

Nostalgia and the Legacy of Blizzard North Keeps Blizzard Strong in the Q3 2021 Results

For Diablo, our plan to enter an era of unprecedented content scale for the franchise has experienced a strong start with the September release of Diablo II: Resurrected, the return of one of the most acclaimed titles in PC gaming history. First week sales of the title were the highest recorded for a remaster from the company.

-Activision-Blizzard Q3 2021 Presentation

As anticipated, yesterday saw the Activision-Blizzard Q3 2021 financials announced, which covers the period from July 1 through September 30 2021.

I put those dates in there just to be clear as to why I expected at least a little drama on the Blizzard front being that is the timeline when the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing hostile workplace lawsuit was headline news in the gaming community.

If players were really mad at Blizzard for being a horrible company, then it feels like there should have been some pain on their bottom line.  Instead, Blizzard posted its strongest quarter in 2021, bringing in $493 million, up $60 million from the $433 posted in Q2 and $10 million ahead of the $483 million posted in Q1.

Those were not “launch a new WoW expansion” numbers like Q4 2020, but they were still ahead of “its a pandemic and we’re all stuck at home playing video games” numbers.

Activision Blizzard Q3 2021 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 13

Margins were down a bit, 38% in Q3 compared to 43% in Q1, but still up when measured against Q2, when they dipped to 33%.

Overall, things were looking up for Blizzard in Q3, which might have been expected to have been the summer of their discontent.  What saved Blizzard’s bacon?

Apparently Diablo II Resurrected is a very popular title.  According to the earnings call it was a huge hit in South Korea, which might explain why I see Battle.net queues close to midnight Pacific time.  While people have been upset about BNet’s performance, it is apparently one of those problems related to being too successful.

That, however, was the extent of the good news at Blizzard as their achievements slide in the presentation deck shows.

Activision Blizzard Q3 2021 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 8

It opens with the quote I have at the top of the post, which honestly could have been taken as faint praise given how the Warcraft III remaster went.  Even the StarCraft remaster wasn’t a huge of a deal.  But Diablo II Resurrected, which launched on PC and consoles in September, was enough to carry the quarter, because the rest of that slide is excuses and qualified successes.

Diablo Immortal, which I keep reminding people had a playable demo at BlizzCon 2018, is now slated for some point in the first half of Q2 2022, while Diablo IV is nowhere in sight.  It seems unlikely for 2022.

The Overwatch 2 entry is likewise vague on when it might be a thing that can generate revenue.  2022 doesn’t seem to be the target anymore.

Hearthstone is hard to judge, so whatever “stable” means, that was what it was.  We’ll see if the new game mode warrants a big mention when they review Q4.

And World of Warcraft, which is running both retail and classic modes now, recorded the strongest engagement for a non-expansion year which, given the cliffs the subscriber base has been driven off of for some of those years, might not be as big of a brag as you might think, especially when they’re running Shadowlands and Burning Crusade Classic in parallel.  That the Monthly Active Users for Q3 2021 stayed stable at 26 million for Blizz while D2R was booming probably means WoW was down by quite a bit.

So I guess a qualified good quarter for the Blizzard side of the house, even if they are the third place studio, such that people are starting to refer to the company as “ABK,” for Activision Blizzard King.

It also seems that bad behavior didn’t harm them as much as it might have.  But gamers are not, as a larger group, an especially politically aware group I imagine.  I noted yesterday that Riot didn’t seem to suffer from bad behavior, with League of Legends remaining hugely popular even as headlines haunted them.  Maybe being a bad place to work doesn’t hurt your bottom line, which I am sure will make everybody toiling in the video games industry happy.

You can certainly argue that the lack of a strong plan for Shadowlands and having no other fresh titles on deck hurt them as much, if not more than, the investigation by the state of California did.

We will see have to see what Q4 looks like, with the new Hearthstone game mode, WoW Classic Season of Mastery, and the cat mount being the only big items visible.  I’m surprised the cat mount didn’t get a mention on the Blizzard slide.

But we won’t get the Q4 news until February, so we’ll see what happens then.

Related:

October in Review

The Site

It is the last day of the month and I know what you’re all dying to hear about.

You want to know how a month of ads went, right?  RIGHT?

Well, you’re going to hear about it anyway.  It is Halloween and that is my trick.  Treats come later, if at all.

For the month of October, up through yesterday, the ads on the blog earned a total of Fourteen Dollars and Eighteen Cents, not counting today, because the ad calculation for a given day only shows up the next day.

Results through October 30th

Not bad.  Better than I expected honestly.  It I can keep that going the Premium hosting plan will pay for itself.  Each ad served up is apparently worth about 0.0176 cents, so quantity matters.

I hope that all of the regulars have some sort of ad blocker running all the same, because some of the ads are a little too on the point relative to my writing I think.

This is an image of an ad, not an actual ad

Ula told me that she saw an ad for New World on the site at one point.  She even sent me a screen shot.

Once again, an image of an ad, not an actual ad

That sort of ad appearing here would greatly please me.

But I mostly see old people ads, which might be because the algorithm knows I am an old person.

Anyway, feedback on ads is always welcome.

In other site related news, after five weeks of going back and fourth with a random series of WordPress.com Happiness Engineers… they just put your email responses in a queue for whoever is up next… it looks like polls are working again and that the issues I pointed out have been mostly fixed.  Of course, the Happiness Engineers kept telling me I was wrong and everything was as it was supposed to be almost the whole time… when they were deigned to respond to my actual issue rather than just linking me to a help file that was not at all helpful… so I would send them an “I told you so,” but it would just go to some random person with no history on the topic.

Okay, one Happiness Engineer did, in fact, acknowledge the issue… actually multiple issues… I was bringing to them and even said they could reproduce them.  But my response went to somebody else and that was the end of all helpfulness.

Still, the whole experience was better service than I used to get when they just let rando unpaid volunteers do their support, which generally resulted in somebody giving an opinion about your blog rather than dealing with the actual issue.

One Year Ago

I started using that 34″ ultra-wide monitor.

Somebody at Google Stadia was ranting about making streamers pay.

Blizzard delayed the Shadowlands expansion.  But they were building up for the AQ war supply event in WoW Classic.  And we got a late November launch date before the month was out.  WoW seemed to be hanging on according to the Q3 2020 results.

I was also wondering if we were going to get a level squish with every WoW expansion going forward.  And then the big level squish patch hit and all our level 120 characters were suddenly level 60.  The only thing was to try it out, though it was a bit strange.  The new Exile’s Reach starter area was… new.  We put together a little group to try the level squished Northrend.

Ula made us an instance group video about our time in Sunken Temple.  Then there was the running of the Gnomes.  And then we started some prep for a little instance called Blackrock Depths.

Meanwhile, StarCraft II fell off of Blizzard’s active development list.

The EverQuest team announced the Claws of Veeshan expansion, the EverQuest II team announced the Reign of Shadows expansion, and the  Lord of the Rings Online launched their War of Three Peaks expansionette.

And in EVE Online World War Bee was in full swing, with PAPI finally trying to gain a foothold in Mother Delve.  That led to Guinness World Record setting battles, which CCP got us ready for by introducing a UI Only mode to the game.  That was some timing.  I’ll sum up the war as a list:

And outside of the war I did a bit of quiet mining in the new ore distribution plan.  The Reavers SIG turned six years old.  We got a Crimson Harvest event for Halloween.  The Howling Interdictors update gave us stasis bubbles.  And then there were the Triglavians.  They captured 27 empire systems and, with another update, they were yanked into a new Triglavian region named Pochven.  Farewell Niarja.

Sean Connery, the favorite James Bond of many, passed away.

Finally, there was the tale of the Canadian visitor.

Five Years Ago

Amazon’s game studio announced some games including the alleged MMO New World.  Being given almost no information about New World did not stop some people from banging the hype drum, boosting expectations, and generally setting themselves up for disappointment.  I wonder how that turned out?

Also announced was the Nintendo Switch, which would allow millennials to play video games at roof-top parties, if the trailer was to be take literally.

Civilization VI launched and became the first Civ title I did not acquire at the soonest opportunity.  It just didn’t excite me.  Instead I was getting my strategy game fix with Stellaris.

I reviewed the Mineserver Kickstarter campaign a year after its launch.  The units were nine months late at that point, with no end to the wait in sight.  The whole thing eventually failed to get off the ground.  Another Kickstarter crash and burn.

I made it to level 20 in Pokemon Go.  There was also a Halloween event.

Tom Chilton, of unfortunate quote fame, let out another one when he said that World of Warcraft had over 10 million subscribers again after the Legion expansion launch.  Blizzard, having taken a vow of silence on subscription numbers the year before, denied everything and claimed he was mis-quoted.

Over at Daybreak they were discontinuing game cards and taking H1Z1: King of the Kill off of Station Cash as an RMT currency.  They did give us firm dates for the two Kurnak based expansions for EverQuest and EverQuest II.

In EVE Online, while we were fortifying Delve our foes in the Casino War began to turn on each other, with Pandemic Legion and their followers declaring their intention to take Tribute and Vale of the Silent away from Circle of Two and TEST.  All I could do was give a Nelson Muntz, “Haw-haw!” at that turn of events.

Still, that wasn’t half as much fun as CCP declaring casinos against the EULA with the coming of the Ascension expansion.  Our foes would have to actually earn ISK in-game.  I wondered what that would do to the economy.

We also got the YC118.9 update which, among other things, meant the death of the in-game browser.  We did get breast cancer awareness skins.  Yay, pink skins!

At our end of New Eden there was a lot to do.  I was fighting the Blood Raider menace with my Ishtar and looking for ways to help the coalition.  Reavers turned two years old and were blowing up citadels and fighting over timers in Querious.  The coalition itself was ranging up into Fountain with a new doctrine.

And in World of Warcraft the Legion got its first post-launch content drop while my own enthusiasm for the expansion was starting to wane.

Finally, I was at EVE Vegas, but since it lasted through Halloween I didn’t post about it until November.  Also, a new version of my blogger feed was operating in the side bar.

Ten Years Ago

We all said farewell to Steve Jobs.

Tobold was predicting that CCP would go bankrupt in 2012.  I am never going to let that one go.

I summed up what I liked and disliked about Need for Speed: World.

I got Civilization II running on Windows 7 64-bit.  People still come here for that article.  I managed to get it to run on Windows 10 since then.  But it didn’t work back then with my original 16-bit copy, I had to get the 32-bit version, Civilization II Gold Edition.

I started another contest, this time for Azerothian travel posters.

I recalled the start of the alien invasion!

EA was planning to unify all of its free to play online games to use the same in-game currency… something that never actually happened… also, I think all the games on the list are dead now.

Nintendo was talking about augmented reality on their new 3DS console.  Five years later we got Pokemon Go… on iOS and Android.

The announcement of their Unity release got Gaff and I back to TorilMUD to mess around with the Tako Demon.  I had to work to remember some MUD command syntax to get his corpse afterwards.

Then there was BlizzCon.  The instance group was already bemused by Cataclysm, and the mention of Pandas did not revive our spirits.  Pet Battles seemed interesting at the time.  In coming to grips with the Pandaria announcements, I assumed that I would end up buying the expansion.

And then there were other WoW related things, like the announcement of the Guardian Cub, which some people predicted would be like PLEX in EVE Online.  Not quite, but it probably provided test data for the eventual WoW Token idea.

In EverQuest, on the Fippy Darkpaw server, after much complaining, SOE seemed to suddenly wake up and start doing things.  Problems were, you know, solved!  It was becoming a kinder, gentler server.  Sort of.

And then there was Rift.  We started scouting it as a potential home for in instance group after the disaster in EverQuest II.  The scouting went well enough that we all ended up in Telara.

Finally, I was sorting through many press releases and wondering where this so-called GDC Hall of Fame was.

Fifteen Years Ago

The site got a mention in VirginWorlds Podcast episode 33 while Blessing of Kings was telling me how to be a raider in World of Warcraft.

I was defending instancing and game company forums as well as moaning about the fact that I couldn’t find a decent video card for my AGP motherboard.  Also, Blizzard’s WoW patcher was pissing me off as well while Lore was mocking WoW groups. [Damn, that was done in Flash, so I guess it is gone now.]

Our Saturday night World of Warcraft instance group completed our first full dungeon run in the Deadmines.  That meant my first dungeon run write up.  And my second.  But we got it on our third try.  Then it was off to The Wailing Caverns.  Did anybody have a five player dungeon adventure path like WoW back then?

I decided in EVE Online that covert ops would be a good career choice.  It certainly sounds cool.  However, the effort was cut short when I got to some of the pricier skills.

When it came to the then upcoming Lord of the Rings Online, I was up in arms about pointy ears and monster play, while the approaching Age of Conan made me think more about Barsoom.

I felt that fall urge to run around in EverQuest,  no doubt prompted by another EQ nostalgia post, plus I wanted to take some pictures of Faydwer in order to compare them to the upcoming EverQuest II expansion, Echoes of Faydwer.

I also jumped into EverQuest II and got all confused (nothing new there) about the trade skill changes that occurred during the 10 months I was away.

And I spent some time carping about MMO pricing plans and wondering what pen and paper games might make good MMOs.

Twenty Years Ago

Dark Age of Camelot launched.  While I never played it… we were about to have a new baby in the house and we were having internet issues, and the world was falling apart due to 9/11… I had some friends who gave it a try.  I remember it being billed as “EverQuest without the suck” at some point.  Anyway, it is still alive, which is surprising because EA owns it.

Civilization III also showed up back in October of 2001, and I most definitely bought a copy of that.  I liked a lot of the ideas it brought, but it lost some of the raw simplicity of its predecessor.  I ended up playing a lot more Civ II even after Civ III was around.

Then there was Motor City Online, which was a bit of a precursor to Need for Speed: World.  I am kind of sad I missed it.  Of course, it was an EA MMO, so they scrapped it in less than two years, opting to go all in on The Sims Online.

Twenty-Five Years Ago

Marathon Infinity, the last of the Marathon series of shooters from Bungie came out.  That was the era of the awkwardly shaped software boxes.  I owned a copy.

Most Viewed Posts in October

  1. The Crimson Harvest Returns to EVE Online
  2. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  3. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  4. Robbing Some Space Banks
  5. The LOTRO Fate of Gundabad Expansion Targets November 10th Launch
  6. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  7. A Week in New World
  8. Watching Dune Part One
  9. CCP Releases the ESS Reserve Bank Keys and Hands Out ISK in EVE Online
  10. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  11. Word Ad Unleashed
  12. A Necromancer in Diablo II Resurrected

Search Terms of the Month

soe-game-today
[Not as many as there once were]

play civ 2 on windows 7
[Old OS and an older game]

ancient winter poncho
[I must insist, no Ponchos!]

всадник без головы 2.4.3
[Good luck with that, I never caught him]

Game Time from ManicTime

One game stands out on the list, and I will get to the reason why in its section below.  But it was generally a light month for me.  I did not play as little as I did last month, which was the least I played games since I started tracking my time, but it might be in contention for second place in that regard.

  1. Diablo II Resurrected – 83.52%
  2. EVE Online – 6.60%
  3. EverQuest II – 4.82%
  4. New World – 2.60%
  5. World of Warcraft – 1.07%
  6. Hearthstone – 0.76%
  7. WoW Classic – 0.44%
  8. EverQuest – 0.18%

I am not going to bother writing a section below about Hearthstone.  I played its new mode just long enough to earn the rat mount in WoW.  That is pretty much the sure fire way to get me to play.  And I really only logged into EverQuest to compare its version of the Overseer mini-game to the EverQuest II version.

Diablo II Resurrected

Clearly the game of the month for me.  That was in a large part because the inner ear infection I had after our trip to Hawaii just didn’t want to let go.  Even as I write this I still cannot hear very well out of my right ear, though the pain and most of the ringing has subsided.  The doc says it will get better over time, but you learn as you get older that your body takes a lot more time to recover from these sorts of things.

Anyway, with my head hurting I was really only good for a game that I could sit and click on, and that is where Diablo II Resurrected came in.  I am still playing it, even feeling better because it is still a game I enjoy, but at the start of the month it was all I could handle.

EVE Online

The post war quiet period continues.  I did actually get into a fleet and run off to a structure shoot late last week (kill here) just to keep up my record of getting on a kill mail every month for however many months I have managed that in a row.  If zKillboard is to be trusted, I have been on at least one kill mail every month since April of 2014.  That is kind of a streak.  Otherwise I have been logging in to check on events, get login rewards, and to keep up by PI stuff, though I have been pretty lax on that front.  Still, even with my low effort it netted me about 200 million ISK.

EverQuest II

As I mentioned in a post last week, I was suddenly filled with enthusiasm for EverQuest II, then I did the things I wanted to and kind of fell off.  I am still undecided about the next expansion, though that won’t come until late November or early December.  I also have to say that I still greatly prefer the EverQuest version of the Overseer mini-game.  I have no idea, for example, how to get new agents in the EQII version, while that is pretty much built in to the EQ version.

New World

The strange thing about New World is that I read a lot of news and blog posts about the game, and they almost all make me want to not play it.  That is generally the opposite of the norm, though I may very well have become more curmudgeonly with age.  Almost everything anybody writes about FFXIV makes me not want to play that either.

Still, I did log in a couple of times, if only to check out what Amazon gave me through their Prime Games program.  I haven’t even given a thought to transferring to a new realm or whatever.  At least there are no queues on my server, though the general lack of queues might point towards the direction the game is settling down into.

Pokemon Go

As with much else this month, I didn’t spend a lot of time with Pokemon Go, though I did go out and get a Pokestop daily, just to keep that streak bonus going.  It would have been a light month but last weekend our raid group binged on raiding and I ended up getting almost 150K xp out of that thanks to a timely luck egg.  I spent most of my Pokecoins on remote raid passes, but what else was I going to spend them on?

Level: 41 (92% of the way to 42 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 670 (+5) caught, 694 (+5) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 13 of 15
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Magikarp because he earns candy in 1km which I need for a task

World of Warcraft

It was Hallow’s End so I once more put forth a desultory effort to try and get the Headless Horseman’s mount.  I wasn’t all that into it, but I ran that dungeon at least once a day looking for that long denied drop.  It did not drop.  And so my record of failure on that front remains pristine.

WoW Classic

Since I detailed the instance group off into Diablo II Resurrected I haven’t spent much time in Burning Crusade Classic.  Though, as I pointed out in the D2R section above, I was also not really up to playing it for some of the month.  We’ll get back to it at some point.  We have not yet hit the point where we cannot overcome instances as a four person group.

Zwift

My attempt to exercise regularly has carried on fairly well so far.  My minimum goal remains a 20 minute ride three days a week and I have not fallen below that, though I have depended on the weekend, my makeup days, when work has been too busy for me to break free for a ride and a shower.

My distance so far is almost exactly the same as the drive from our house in Silicon Valley to Disneyland, at least if you could ride your bike down Interstate 5.  My stat totals:

  • Level – 10 (+1)
  • Distanced cycled – 372.4 miles (+107.5 miles)
  • Time – 20h 0m (+5h 32m)
  • Elevation climbed – 15,138 feet (+3,786 feet)
  • Calories burned – 12,296 (+3,513)

Coming Up

The Activision-Blizzard Q3 2021 earning call is on Tuesday, which should be interesting.  Will they cop to their problems on the Blizzard front or will they go with the usual anodyne phrases about post-expansion cycles and something about people going outside finally?  That will no doubt lead to a post here on Wednesday to cover how hard Blizz has been hit.

Some things are launching.  There might be an EverQuest and EverQuest II expansion, though at least one of those will likely wait until December just for the sake of timing, and the November one will no doubt come late in the month to avoid stepping on the LOTRO expansion, which will hit on November 10th.

The WoW Classic Season of Mastery will launch on November 16th.  There is also something called Endwalker that is going live on the 23rd.  That will probably be pretty quiet, right?  There won’t be a million blog posts about that I am sure.

Then, probably most important in my book, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl lands on November 19th.

Also on the list for November are new Call of Duty and Battlefield titles and the remaster of the original Grand Theft Auto trilogy,

Finally, an Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim Anniversary Edition launches on November 11th to celebrate a decade of Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim being ported and remastered for every platform known to man.  It seriously feels like the game has been out much longer than that given how often something new comes out about it.  I’d better go make sure I note that launch in the “Ten Years Ago” section of next month’s review.

Oh, and I am reminded that it is also IntPiPoMo, or International Picture Posting Month, in November.  The idea is to post 50 images to your blog, which I’ll probably do by just continuing to operate as normal.  Take the wins where you can find them.

Activision Blizzard, the Lawsuit, and the Q2 2021 Financials

You don’t want to do that either. You think you do, but you don’t.

-J. Allen Brack, BlizzCon 2013

I am pretty sure that J. Allen Brack would be pretty happy just being known as the guy who arrogantly pissed all over, and probably helped delay, the huge money maker that WoW Classic turned out to be.

I am also pretty sure both he and the company wish that statement was worst thing to come out of BlizzCon 2013.

But yesterday saw him step down as President Blizzard… a polite way to say he was the first big sacrifice in the wake of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing hostile workplace lawsuit.  He was joined by the SVP of HR, Jesse Meschuk

Not that he didn’t deserve it.  Sure, a lot of the most egregious behavior happened on Morhaime’s watch, but Brack was still in the thick of things, still a leader in the company during that time as well.

Brack was replaced by new Blizzard “co-leaders” Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, both of whom have roots outside of Blizzard.

For those of you who like the “Bobby Kotick is cementing his dominion over Blizzard” narrative, it has been noted that Morhaime was CEO of Blizzard, Brack was President of Blizzard when he replaced Morhaime, and Oneal and YBarra are co-leaders now, whatever that means.

And the Brack announcement went out in advance of the Activision Blizzard Q2 2021 financial results announcement, no doubt following the theory that you get bad news out of the way before and hope that you have good news during and after.  So was it a good thing that Kotaku pointed out that the company is losing T-Mobile as a sponsor of their Call of Duty and Overwatch esports league before the call as well?  And then there was the expected shareholder lawsuit.

Which brings us to the report.  You can find the detailed financials, the presentation, and the recording of the call over at the investor relations page.

The presentation opened right up with five actions the company is taking in light of the lawsuit and the protests both from outside and within the company.  They are:

  1. We have asked Jennifer Oneal and Mike Ybarra to assume responsibility for development and operational accountability for Blizzard.
  2. We will continue to investigate each and every claim and complaint that we receive. When we learn of shortcomings, we will take decisive action. To strengthen our capabilities in this area we will be adding additional staff and resources.
  3. We will terminate any manager or leader found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences.
  4. We will be adding resources to ensure and enhance our consideration of diverse candidate slates for all open positions.
  5. We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We will be actively reviewing that content and removing it, as appropriate.

Again, this is a change from the stubborn defiance that was the hallmark of the initial response from the company, but is unlikely to be enough in itself to soothe anybody.  The employee organizers are still not buying the company’s new tack.

When it came to the numbers, all three pieces of the company saw a decline in revenue from Q1 2021, though that is not unexpected given the roll back in pandemic restrictions we saw midway through the quarter.  People went outside and did things, a trend that will no doubt continue into Q3 if the price of airline tickets and rental cars are any indication.

Activision Blizzard Q2 2021 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 11

Blizzard alone was down $50 million in revenue when compared to Q1, which was a direct hit to margins.

When it came to singing Blizzard’s praises, the song remained the same, a tale of Azeroth making the money while other franchises languish.

Activision Blizzard Q2 2021 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 7

WoW bookings doubled year over year, with much of the credit going to the launch of Burning Crusade Classic.  A lot of people bought that pack with the lizard mount.

Hearthstone kept on rolling as well, cranking out yet more expansions.

And while Diablo II Resurrected holds promise for the company, Diablo IV is still on the distant horizon and Diablo Immortal has been pushed back again, this time to the first half of 2022.  We could see a four year gap between when it was announced at BlizzCon 2018 with a playable demo and when it finally ships.

Meanwhile over at Massively OP, where they have been keeping score, the running tally of monthly active users for Blizzard continued its downward trend, with the company shedding another million users.  We don’t know where they came from or where they went, but they aren’t hanging out in Blizzard games anymore.

After being down in revenue and players in Q2, we have yet to reckon with Q3 and the iceberg that is the California lawsuit.  The only thing Blizz has in the near future is Diablo II Resurrected and some likely misguided hope about “stronger engagement” with the Shadowlands expansion.  But people were already leaving retail WoW for FFXIV before the shit hit the fan.

I appreciate that Activision Blizzard seems to have finally decided that they need to clean house, though the cut off for responsibility is clearly enforced before you get to the C-level suite, but the company clearly needs to step things up a couple notches or the Q3 results will be a bloodbath.

Diablo II Resurrected and the Rest of BlizzConline 2021

BlizzConline has come and gone.  It was certainly more subdued than any BlizzCon though, when you don’t have a packed auditorium cheering, you cannot expect the same energy.

BlizzCon Online over yesterday

Yesterday I went through what I considered the “important bit” for me, the status of WoW Classic and the coming of The Burning Crusade.  But that was obviously not all that Blizzard had to talk about.  So here, in my order of importance, are other bits from BlizzConline.

Diablo II Resurrected

This was the other item I was keen to hear about, and I was not disappointed.  Blizzard officially announced their remaster of Diablo II.  Having just replayed the original last year… and no longer really having the option since my big new monitor simply won’t work with it… I am excited to see this.  I am pretty much a guaranteed sale here.

The return of the classic

What they showed… remastered 3D graphics as well as the option for the 2D experience… up on screen side by side with the original looked very good, both true to the original and updated to current standards.  They also have some improvements… a larger stash, a more comprehensible character and skill sheet… that looks good.  The details are up on the site for the product, including the graphical comparisons.

Plus they are going to launch it on PC, XBox, PlayStation, and Switch.  Seems like they are going all in on this.  They are even hyping up cross-play for different platforms, so you can access your character on any of the above hardware.  I am only interested in it on the PC really, where it will be $40. (Or $60 with Diablo III and all its addons thrown in.)

As with Burning Crusade Classic, the deep dive panel (video here) was less technically focused… again, no slides or charts or numbers… and more about the drive to deliver both an authentic Diablo II experience and bring the game in line with modern expectations.  The level of detail discussed was impressive.  I suspect we’ll hear again from David Brevik about how Blizzard can’t do this, that, or the other thing, as occurs whenever talk of a Diablo II remaster comes up, but Blizz seems set to prove him wrong.

And it is expected to launch in 2021, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they did a repeat of the original for an end of the year release.  That fact that the list December on the page where you can pre-order it… because of course you can pre-order it… seems a likely sign.  We shall see.

I am excited about this, though I know Blizz has dropped the ball on the remaster thing before, back with Warcraft III.  I hope they learned the right lessons from that.  But if they are going out on consoles, this will have a lot of resources behind it.

Shadowlands Updates

It isn’t so much that I dislike the Shadowlands expansion… it seems interesting and fun in its own way, and I jumped on board at launch… it is more than when I stack rank what I want to play on a given evening it tends to fall into third or fourth place… fourth now that Valheim is on the scene.  Unfortunately, that means I am so far behind on covenant stuff (they barely know me at this point) and have missed so much that I am probably out until the second summer of Shadowlands when they smooth out the curve to let the slackers catch up.

Anyway, they announced the first big content drop, the 9.1 Chains of Domination update.  Kaylriene has a write up that covers it and the presentations in more depth than I could manage, so that probably ought to be your destination if this is relevant to your interests.

Blizzard Arcade Collection

Blizzard, on a retro rampage with their 30th anniversary, has brought back their original console titles, The Lost Vikings, Rock N Roll Racing, and Blackthorne, in the Blizzard Arcade Collection.

Back in the lineup

I have never played any of these titles.  I know just enough about them to get the occasional reference to them in WoW… the Vikings, for example, are in Uldaman.  But the games have been brought up to date and will be available on XBox, PlayStation, Switch, and PC.  I might actually give this a try on my Switch Lite.

Diablo Immortal

We have been hearing about this since BlizzCon 2018 when Blizzard failed to manage expectations after putting the Diablo franchise in the position of honor in the schedule, leading everybody and their dog to expect a Diablo IV announcement.  They told us directly to not get our hopes up, but it was right there on the schedule.  And then after the keynote the schedule was updated to say Diablo Immortal.

Phone Diablo

Still, the word out there is that it is a pretty solid title, sitting in the story line between Diablo II and Diablo III.  I would probably give it a try on my iPad if it isn’t to dear in price… absolutely if it is free, though we know how that can go.  Of course, that is part of the problem;  we still don’t know many solid details about the game and the Blizzard site about it doesn’t have much to add.  I feel like I know way more about Diablo II Resurrected after two days than I do about Diablo Immortal after more than two years.

Hearthstone Classic

I’m not going to play this.  I played just enough Hearthstone to get the Hearthsteed mount in WoW, and then a bit more on my iPad, but it isn’t a game that holds me.  I am just amused that they’ve thrown so many expansions and changes into the game that they’re ready to drag out a classic version… though I guess it has been six years.  Time flies.

Diablo IV and Overwatch 2

We heard about the rogue class in Diablo IV and about the myriad PvE missions in Overwatch 2, but both titles are still more than a year out, so I just cannot get myself at all worked up.  There are too many things to interest me between now and whenever to divert my attention.  Also, the announcements were not all that earth shattering.  I’m not saying there isn’t something Blizz could say about either that would kindle a deep interest, they’re just not there yet.

BlizzConline Overall

Not bad.

I mean, it is hard to argue with some of the solid announcements they had.  There was enough WoW focused stuff to keep me engaged along with enough other stuff that it didn’t feel like the “WoWCon” BlizzCons of a decade back.

I was also happy it was free and readily available via multiple services and that the videos from the panels were uploaded and ready on YouTube almost immediately.

Still, it didn’t quite have the full BlizzCon feel.  As I said previously, it felt different not being in front of a live studio audience.  I may love the written word, but writing “the audience roared” and hearing a BlizzCon audience roar of its own accord in reaction to something announced on stage at the Anaheim Convention Center.

I didn’t mind the chatty nature of the panels.  I like to hear the devs talk and they have done some nice videos in the past like that.  I especially remember the series with some of the original devs talking about making WoW as part of the WoW Classic launch build up.  But I am not sure that eight minutes of that in a 30 minute panel that is labeled as a “deep dive” is quite on the mark.

I felt that there was a lot less hard information presented and that the details that were given us often were not accompanied by the bullet point slide pages to which we have grown accustomed from past BlizzCon panels.  It isn’t real unless it is in PowerPoint, right?

I also wouldn’t be surprised to find that the panels and presentations were all pre-recorded and just queued up to play.  With no live audience and nobody holding up today’s paper in frame ransom note style how could we tell?

In fact, in writing that, I will swap to saying that I would actually be surprised to find that most, if not all, of the panels were NOT pre-recorded and queued up to play.  I mean, why wouldn’t you go that route?  Though, if you did, you’d think we’d get more slides.

So, it was good for what it was.  Life in the pandemic dictates what we can do.  I think they could have done better with info, but maybe the things I wanted had not been nailed down yet.  I don’t think it had quite the impact that a live BlizzCon would have, but we still got some very big announcements.

Looking Back at BlizzCon 2019

BlizzCon 2019 was sure a hell of a lot better for Blizzard than BlizzCon  2018.

I watched some of panels I wanted to see, but not all of them yet.  So, while this isn’t quite a hot take on the event, it is my impressions about what was announced in a slightly more detailed fashion than my recap of the big four announcements post I did on Friday.  That post has links to all the cinematics and game play videos that Blizz posted as they announced things, if those interest you.

So, lets dive in by categories that almost line up by franchise.

World of Warcraft

A new expansion.  Pretty much a requirement at BlizzCons that fall on odd numbered years.  So they got that right.  But honestly, I am not sure how I feel about Shadowlands.

Part of that is just what you get when your game gets past maybe three expansions, they start to blur for all but the most hardcore.  There are some cool things in the plan.  The covenants things seems like it could make for interesting choices.  I like the return to a plan to focus on classes rather than specs.  A single narrative arc that drives you through four zones in order is back to the old school, and how alts will be handled seems innovative.

No more re-grinding

Better character customization is good direction.  Everybody can be a death knight now.  But the ideas for a new class… again, perfect chance for a necromancer class to show up… seems to have been bypassed.  And thus in its way it will be more of the same, more zones, more levels, more dungeons, more raids, and so on.  And it feels a bit like they were inspired by Stranger Things, which means we will no doubt run into plenty of references to the show.

It sure looks like the Azeroth Upsidedown to me

Wait, did I say “more levels?”  I meant LESS levels.  The level squish is coming.

Leveling up after Shadowlands

I said Blizz wouldn’t do it, so I have clearly been proven wrong on that front.  And my concerns from that post remain, though there are some updsides.  It sounds like they will rescale… again… all of the old content so you can get to level 50 playing through any previous expansion then head into the Shadowlands.  Still, it will be odd to have max level characters in WoW and WoW Classic at the same level.  There were more details about this in the deep dive, which I watched, and I will probably throw together another post just to look at how leveling is going to change with Shadowlands.  But the level squish is coming.

Overall though, you can color me somewhat interested in the expansion.   I am sure the fact that it was made available for pre-order will get hopes up that it will show up sooner rather than later, but I doubt it will show any time before June of 2020.

There is no doubt another post to be made in Blizz moving to three levels of expansion packages, especially just as Daybreak moved to four levels.  No level 120… eventually level 50… boost with the base package either.

MMO Champion has a good outline of the main presentation.  Or you can look at the pretty pictures on the official expansion page.

WoW Classic

We got the very bare minimum of news about WoW Classic, something I indicated might end up being the case back at the start of October.  There was a bit of “isn’t this great!” and the date for the phase 2 unlock (November 12th), and that was that.  No future plans, no talk about expansions, and nothing even daring to look in the direction of somebody low key hinting that there might be anything like original content for the WoW Classic path.

In fact, WoW Classic was stuck in the “oh, by the way” section of the keynote with StarCraft II and Heroes of  the Storm.  Talk about being put on the bench.  Even at the WoW Q&A session the question about future expansions for WoW Classic was pretty much deflected.

But Blizzard moves slowly, something I have to keep reminding myself.  I am sure they are still trying to figure out what to do with this unexpected success story.  We will likely have to wait until next BlizzCon to hear anything new I guess, but that will put it after the Shadowlands launch, so Blizz will be able to focus on it.

I will say though, at least we got a self deprecating crack from J. Allen Brack about serving vanilla ice cream at the BlizzCon concessions.  He didn’t think we would want it, but it turns out we did.

I don’t find Brack to be a particularly compelling or convincing speaker.  He lacks Metzen’s energy or Morhaime’s air of goofy humility.  And, of course, after the infamous quote, I associate him with a level of smug condescension, which biases my perception even when I agree with what he is saying.  We all see things through our own filters.  But at least he was willing to stand up there and remind everybody how wrong he was.

I previously wrote that if he said something about that quote I’d stop bringing it up every time I mentioned him.  I think I can stick to that now.  I won’t mention it every time, though I reserve the right to bring it up when it fits the situation.

Diablo

Diablo IV was announced, to nobody’s surprise.

It looks interesting.  I like the direction they are going.  Darker.  A more open world.  Mounts even.  No RMT auction house.  I have no doubt I will play it some day.  But that day will be… when?  2022?

I guess I can see why they didn’t want to announce it last year.

Basically, I will be a lot more interested in this when it seems like its launch is imminent.

Overwatch

Again, if even I was predicting something like Overwatch 2 more than a month ago, then having that announced was probably not a huge surprise.

I am not an Overwatch player.  I don’t even eat the cereal.  But I am interested in how they are handling Overwatch 2, which is more like an expansion than a new game.

If you own Overwatch, you can keep playing that and your play will overlap with Overwatch 2 players, which includes all the original content plus all the goodies you may have gotten.  Overwatch 2 players will get their own content as well, including a PvE campaign.

I think the latter, the PvE campaign, might be the key here.  The thing that the original lacked was new stuff to sell players… besides loot boxes.  And if loot boxes are you revenue stream it might be prudent to diversify that a bit.  But additional PvE co-op campaigns, that is something Blizz could sell people on.

It is interesting to see how they have chosen to go.  EA gets you to buy their latest Battlefield game by shutting off the servers to the past ones.  I assume Activision does something similar with their Call of Duty games, along with leaving a year gap between launches and trying to add new gimmicks with each annual generation.  In contrast, Blizz wants to keep people playing together.  I suspect that you won’t be able to buy Overwatch once Overwatch 2 is out.  But if you do have the original, you won’t be left completely out in the cold.

Hearthstone

A new expansion.  What a surprise!  It isn’t like we don’t get a few of those every year in any case.

The real surprise was that Blizz decided to take the Auto Chess/Auto Battler idea and integrate it with Hearthstone with their new Battlegrounds play mode.  That demonstrates some oddly un-Blizzard-like thinking, since the obvious route was to copy Teamfight Tactics and Dota Underlords and build it off of their MOBA.  I didn’t exactly get how this was going to work, in part because the description during the opening ceremony was pretty fast and in part because I have no interest in Hearthstone so I didn’t watch the panel where it would have been explained.

At least I haven’t watched it yet.  It was well down on my list of priorities.  I might still, just to get an idea where Blizz is going with this.

Warcraft III Reforged

The re-release of Warcraft III seems to be getting closer.  No ship date was announced, but they are spreading the beta further afield now.  If you were at BlizzCon or had the Virtual Ticket, you now have access to the beta and can download it from the Battle.net launcher.  I was actually in already, as I saw I was able to install it early last week, though I couldn’t tell you if that was because I was special or because they started opening it up to Virtual Ticket holders early.  Either way, it seems unlikely that I will download it to play before it goes live.

StarCraft II and Heroes of the Storm

A new commander and a new AI for the former, and new unit for the latter, all mentioned during what felt like an apologetic side bar in the midst of the opening ceremonies.  I was not expecting much, and so was unsurprised when that was exactly what we got.  Still, being in the same segment where they mentioned the Blizzard Arcade at BlizzCon, where you could go play Rock n Roll Racing and Lost Vikings, does tend to set a tone.

The Heroes of the Storm fans are probably happy for any scraps they get, but the StarCraft II playerbase has to have some mixed feelings since SCII is still one of the Blizz esports titles.

Unmentioned

I did not hear anything about the remaster of Diablo II yet again.  It came up as part of the ideal for Diablo IV, but it was left out otherwise.  I still want this.  I would happily take a GoG.com version updated to run on Windows 10, though I would really like something more akin to the Warcraft III Reforged full remaster for modern screen sizes.  Maybe someday.

Then, maybe I missed it, but I didn’t hear anything about Diablo: Immortal.  Did fan reaction really bury that?  My complaint from last year wasn’t that it wouldn’t find an audience, just that it was presented to the wrong audience.  They put some updates on the official site… it was mixed in with the feed on their “all news” page… but they seemed loathe to mention it yet again in front of a live studio audience.

Also, any hope for a completely new game or IP was left in the dust.  Everything was an expansion or a sequel.  There wasn’t even a mobile version of any other Blizzard IPs mentioned.  Hearthstone might have had the only new idea… or, newly stolen idea, this being Blizzard and all… with it picking up the Auto Chess/Auto Battler idea.

Virtual Ticket

The Virtual Ticket plan still seems like an acceptable value to me.  There is still a list of panels I want to watch that I could not make time for over the weekend, so I am able to watch them at my leisure.  As I noted previously, this year Blizz has decided that access to the videos will remain up until March 2020.

One feature I noticed was that Blizz also gave Virtual Ticket holders access to the videos from the past two BlizzCons as well.  So you can, if you want, go back and watch the horrible Diablo: Immortal panel or the informative Play Nice, Play Fair panel that was completely bypassed by the gaming media that often rages about how companies like Blizzard do nothing to contain player toxicity.

BlizzCon Overall

This should have been pretty much the ideal BlizzCon for the company, with four big product announcements.  Back at the start of October it looked to be huge.  And then, of course, there was the Hong Kong thing, which necessitated the apology, which I covered in its own post.

After Blizz banned Blitzchung and the outrage was at its peak there were wild predictions that they might even cancel BlizzCon.  Or, if BlizzCon went on, it would be tightly controlled, a mirror image of the repressive Chinese state on stage in Anaheim.  Would Brack even get up in front of the audience live, or would he just appear on the monitor so the engineers could cut out the sounds of the crowd should they get 40,000 people chanting “Free Hong Kong!” or some such?  Would Blizzard be able to contain the outrage of the fan base?

In the end, things went mostly as they usually do.  The vast majority of the fans were there to see Blizz and to revel in the spectacle and be a part of the event.   Cheering was the norm.  And when, during the WoW Q&A panel, a questioner ended his interaction with a message about Hong Kong, he wasn’t cut off or ejected from the event.  People chanted a bit and Blizz let it all pass like the guy in the Winnie the Pooh costume, who showed up on camera at least once.

People will take whatever message they want from that.  You can read into that the promise of better behavior from Brack’s apology, or you can assume it is Blizz throwing a minimal bone to some fans that does not otherwise reflect corporate policy.  It still puts them ahead of the NBA in either case.

In the end though, Blizz clearly won the news cycle.  Every “What about Hong Kong?” story had to contend with a dozen or more “OMG! New Things!” stories out of BlizzCon.  With that and what will likely be a somewhat rosy Q3 2019 earnings report later this week (thanks to WoW Classic) and the 15th Anniversary WoW events coming up, the company seems to be well positioned for the balance of the year.

BlizzCon 2019 and The Big Four Announcements

Not at all my review of BlizzCon or its announcements, but just a note about what the big four announcements that came up in the opening ceremony.

Diablo IV

As expected, the next entry in the Diablo franchise is finally here.

The focus is darkness, world, and legacy.  They want to get back to what the series was like, while keeping the snappy game play of Diablo III.

There is a cinematic and a game play trailer available to watch.  This was the first of the four main stage presentations lined up for today.

World of Warcraft Shadowlands

The next expansion for WoW.

Sylvannas is off to Ice Crown to take us to the world beyond death.  This ended up as the third unannounced panel on the main stage for today.

The Lich King awaits

Available for pre-order today, launching in 2020.  There is also a cinematic and an expansion overview video.

Hearthstone Descent of Dragons

And then Hearthstone got a new expansion.  I figured on that.

What I did not count on is that Blizzard would decide to go with Hearthstone as the basis for their new 8 player Auto Chess/Auto Battler destination.

There is, of course, a cinematic video for the expansion and a trailer for the new mode, which is called Battlegrounds.  This ended up as the fourth unannounced presentation on the main stage.

Overwatch 2

Not unexpected.

Overwatch 2 will have new modes, new maps, some new heroes as well as a PvE campaign.  It will be linked into Overwatch, so players of the original will get to play with owners of the new game where they overlap and all your goodies and progress will be saved.

This ended up as the second big main stage presentation today.  And naturally there is a cinematic trailer and a game play video to go along with the announcement.

Other Items

There was an statement up front by J. Allen Brack about the Hong Kong fiasco with an apology and a promise to do better, hinged on watching Blizzards actions going forward.  This won’t be enough for some I am sure, but it was more than I expected.

StarCraft II and Heroes of the Storm also got small mentions, the usual additions one might expect for titles on the back burner.  Also, Warcraft III reforged is expanding its beta.  I’m already able to download it.

WoW Classic also got a mention.  It was the minimum I expected, the phase 2 unlock date.  But J. Allen Brack also mentioned that they would be serving vanilla ice cream at BlizzCon.  He didn’t think we would want that, but maybe we really do.

The last two unannounced presentation slots were for Diablo IV related panels on day two, so nothing else new to come.

Anyway, much more to watch and think about over the weekend.  Look for a post on Monday I suppose.  I get an extra hour to work on it this weekend as Daylight Savings Time ends on Sunday.

Looking Forward to BlizzCon 2019

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

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

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

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?

Hearthstone

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.

StarCraft

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?

New Stuff

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?

Waiting

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?

SuperData Says that Hearthstone is Up and WoW is Down

It is time for the monthly digital sales chart for April 2019 from SuperData Research, and it does have more than the usual amount of changes.

SuperData Research Top 10 – April 2019

On the PC end of the chart the top six remained the same, though League of Legends swapped places with Dungeon Fighter Online, retaking its long held first position.

After World of Tanks though, there were some changes.  Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 made the cut a month late, likely due to an end of the month release. (It topped the console chart last month.)  And Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice stayed on the chart, which is pretty good for a single player game.  Hearthstone West made the cut as well, riding the wave of yet another new expansion into ninth place, and CS:GO popped back up into tenth place yet again.

Missing from the list completely though was long staple World of Warcraft, which does not bode well for the sagging title.  Then again, SuperData put up a chart showing that the WoW Classic Beta was drawing a lot of people to watch it on Twitch.

So it may be nostalgia that revives its fortunes… if we can wait until August.

Also not on the PC chart: Any battle royale games besides Fortnite.  Neither its early rival, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds nor the hot release earlier this year, Apex Legends, are there.

The chart is only ten deep, so we don’t know what 11-20 looks like, but still it is a blow to not make the cut.

On the console section Mortal Kombat 11 topped the list, followed by Fortnite and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.  Last months top finisher, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, was down in 10th place.  And, gone missing after a long, long run on the list was Grand Theft Auto V.

And on the mobile end of the chart Honour of Kings regained the top spot from Perfect World, which fell to second place, while Candy Crush Saga and Pokemon Go fell to fourth and sixth places respectively.

EEDAR has their top ten list for April out as well.

  1. Mortal Kombat 11
  2. Days Gone
  3. MLB 19: The Show
  4. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2**
  5. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate*
  6. Grand Theft Auto V
  7. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice**
  8. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII**
  9. NBA 2K19
  10. Yoshi’s Crafted World*

*No digital data
**No digital data for PC

As is the case, this is US only data, combines PC and console sales, and does not include digital sales where indicated.

For EEDAR’s social media impressions Fortnite remained on top, followed by usual suspects of League of Legends, Grand Theft Auto V, and CS:GO, with Hearthstone slipping into the fifth spot, supplanting DOTA 2.  Again, this is likely due to a new expansion released for Blizzard’s collectable card game.  Apex Legends, which topped the chart in February, remains out of the top five, corresponding with its drop from the SuperData charts.

Other items from the SuperData Research report:

  • Growth in digital console spend makes up for sluggish PC sales. Consumers spent $8.86 billion digitally on games across console, PC and mobile worldwide in April, up 7% from the same month last year. Premium console, up 17%, was the fastest-growing segment due to the continued mix shift towards digital channels for full game units. PC overall declined 4% year-over-year despite modest growth within the free-to-play segment.
  • Mortal Kombat 11 has the best digital launch in franchise history. MK 11 sold 1.8 million digital units across console and PC in May, up from 400,000 units for Mortal Kombat X in 2015, largely due to rising digital download rates on console.
  • NBA2K growth accelerates as the NBA post-season heats up. We estimate NBA2K in-game spending grew 101% year-over-year in April, marking the largest single-month growth rate the franchise has seen since 2016.
  • Apex Legends falls out of the top rankings on console and PC. Apex Legends generated $24 million in April, down significantly for the second month in a row. Monthly revenue now sits at just over one-quarter of the launch-month sales from February.
  • Overwatch and Hearthstone still face declines despite new content updates. Both titles saw a sequential bump in total digital revenue following new content releases, but still declined 15% and 37% year-over-year, respectively. On a combined basis, Overwatch and Hearthstone digital revenue across all platforms is down 39% year-to-date compared to the same time period in 2018.

BlizzCon Yawns 2018

Well, BlizzCon has come and gone and some of it was pretty tepid.

BlizzCon 2018

My rough draft title was just “BlizzYawn 2018,” but it wasn’t all that bad.

As I have said in the past, the problem with BlizzCon is in part because it was effectively WoWCon for a number of years, so if you were a WoW fan you had a lot of people catering to your needs and whims during that time.

Now with six franchises sharing the spotlight, if you are only interested in one of the titles, and they split the coverage evenly, 83% of the show is not of interest to you.  Nobody is getting all the attention, or even most of the attention anymore.  And if your title doesn’t even get equal time… like Diablo last year and StarCraft almost every year… or if what Blizz shows isn’t anything you’re interested in… like Diablo for a lot of fans this year… then you’re not off base to feel left out.

Anyway, I spent a bunch of time watching with the Virtual Ticket and I still found a lot interesting, even if a lot more wasn’t for me.

Opening

Mike Morhaime came out to open the show and greet everybody as he does every year. However, this time it was a farewell tour. He introduced J. Allen Brack, new CEO of Blizzard, got a handshake, and was sent off stage left for likely the final time on stage at BlizzCon.

I am still not sure how I feel about the change of leadership.  The leader gets blamed for all bad things and praised for all good ones, but in many companies is more likely riding the wave of events rather than shaping them.  So maybe the change won’t matter.  Blizz is old enough to have a culture set in concrete, and there is nothing so difficult as trying to change corporate culture.

And, of course, J. Allen Brack is this guy.

World of Warcraft

With J. Allen Brack now at the top of the pyramid they had to have the new chief of WoW come out and speak. While not an impressive figure, John Hight isn’t nearly as tall as his predecessor for instance, he did show more charisma on stage than the unemotive J. Allen Brack.  I mean, he was no Chirs Metzen, but who is? (Except for that guy in line at the WoW Q&A.)  Still, he seemed excited and invested and glad to be there.

When we got to the actual “What’s Next” presentation for WoW Ion Hazzikostas took the stage to actually get into the details as to what is coming with the Tides of Vengeance update, which is coming on December 11.  Basically, they are trying to follow the successful path they went down in Legion while improving on some of the things, like azerite armor and such.

He was followed up by Ryan Shwayder, formerly of SOE, the 38 Studios fiasco, and the Nerfbat blog, who spoke of new allied races coming with the 8.1.5 update, changes to Darkmoon Faire, holiday updates, Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin remaster, and portal rooms in Stormwind and Orgrimmar.

Basically, lots of things are coming and, while I am not totally invested in WoW at the moment, there were things on the list for me.  Blizzard is still trying to tend to its biggest money maker, not that I doubted they would.  They haven’t addressed every little concern, but clearly there is still a lot going on.

WoW Classic

This was the interesting bit of BlizzCon for me.

First, the big news.  We got a ship date… well, a ship season anyway… for WoW Classic.  It is slated to launch in Summer of 2019, so at some point before September 23.  Going back and looking at what I have said in the past, I was clearly betting on 2020.  But the timing of Summer 2019 seems about perfect as that would put it a year after the Battle for Azeroth launch, about the point when many expansions start shedding players in large numbers.  It will also be pretty close when all those “six months for a mount” subscriptions start to come due.  It is like they planned that.

The other item is that WoW Classic access will be part of your WoW subscription, something I fully expected.  No conspiracy there to my mind.  You want to make it easy for customers to give you money.

And then there was the “Restoring History: Creating WoW Classic” presentation.  I wish they would put this up on YouTube, because it was great to watch. They spoke about how they managed to unearth all of the WoW 1.12 data from a backup of a backup and how, to solve the problem of making it run, merged it into the current WoW cand Battle.net framework.   With just some adjustment to data formatting they were able to get a prototype running.  This solved a lot of infrastructure problems for them and gave them a solid platform that works with their current systems.

Now there is a matter of paring back some of the things that come with that framework which led to a segment about their design philosophy.

Overall design philosophy

The last bit means if something is working the way it was back in 1.12, that is the way it should work.  There were some easy choices to make.

The easy stuff to eliminate

Other things were less obvious items, such as the debuff limit.  In 1.12 you could only have 16 debuffs on a boss.  That was a technical restriction, not a design choice, that they managed to get past later, so the number is now 255.  But since it was 16 back then it will be 16 in WoW Classic because to change it might change the raid and dungeon meta.  Other things they might let in, but only after close scrutiny.  You will likely be able to shift-click on in-game mail to collect attachments, but in-game mail will take an hour to be delivered.

Also, because WoW didn’t spring on us fully formed certain things will be introduced over time in waves.  The time frames are not set yet, but this is what they are considering, including the appropriate in-game events to go with them.

Raid progression

This opens the question as to whether or not they will be starting new servers over time as well, because maybe you want to run the Onyxia era raiding, but the server has already progressed to AQ.  We shall see.

And then there was the WoW Classic demo, which let you run around either Westfall or The Barrens in a character boosted and geared to the right level.  On the first day there were so many people that Westfall was effectively scourged of NPCs, even on a low population server (there were 20 servers up), but I was able to run around a bit.

Later in the evening, when the BlizzCon people stopped playing, things got more manageable and I was able to hunt the Defias and such.  While I didn’t go in with a strong mind as to how things ought to be, every time I touched the UI I was reminded of how things had changed and remember what it was like back in the day.  For example, remember how “B” used to just open up your first bag by default?  There were lots of those revelations.

Blizz has done a really good job so far, though there is clearly some work left to do.  Some random screenshots:

I am actually really impressed with how serious the WoW development team seems about WoW Classic.  This feels like Blizzard getting serious about a project and being determined to do it right, a welcome change and pretty much a complete about face from the “it can’t be done” and “you think you want this” messages of the past.

Candy Crush Diablo

This was the surprise disappointment part of BlizzCon for me.

Here is where Blizzard learned that if your user base is mostly PC gamers, with a smattering of console fans in the mix, announcing a new mobile title might not be the best BlizzCon plan.

Diablo Immortal, the NetEase created game set to bring the Diablo franchise to mobile platforms, was the only thing Blizzard had for the franchise, and did not sit well with fans in the Diablo hall at BlizzCon. Blizz had their most dedicated fans in the audience that day and managed to disappoint them en masse.

This seemed to be one of those polarizing moments. It you were an outsider or a member of the gaming press, you were likely fast to criticize the reaction of the fans. More entitled toxic gamer hate.  This is why we can’t have nice things.  Do you guys not have phones?

On the other hand, imagine if you were a fan and saw the primacy of place given to the “What’s Next for Diablo” presentation on the schedule, something that sets expectations even when Blizz tries to cool down the anticipation. The IP with the biggest announcement is always up first after the keynote. You have spent money on the Virtual Ticket or, worse, spent a lot of money getting to Anaheim for BlizzCon, and the announcement Blizzard has about the Diablo Franchise is essentially not for you. You might rightfully feel more than a bit betrayed if the only news you got was for somebody else, somebody not even at BlizzCon.

Blizzard had their core audience right there and was talking past them to some potential future fans who weren’t even watching.  I mean, they literally said that Diablo Immortal was for a market segment that doesn’t play Diablo.  So the complete lack of cheering or any enthusiasm in the crowd was a big red flag at an event where cheering is the norm. You have to have made a pretty serious con mistake to get there.

Guess what? Platform matters. Blizzard makes games for the PC platform with some titles available on console, and I am honestly surprised the PC and console players get along as well as they do. Yes, Hearthstone is available on mobile, but given that it only ever cracks into the top ten on the PC charts, my guess is that the PC demographic dominates. And Hearthstone fans were not sitting in the Diablo room.

Nor were Hearthstone fans or other mobile players at BlizzCon interested in the demo it seems. Pictures  from the demo area for Diablo Immortal showed sparse interest in the title from all BlizzCon participants who lined up to play all the other demos.

And the response from fans was entirely predictable.  We have seen it before.  We watch Disney kill Club Penguin with its mobile plan, ignoring the loud complaints of its installed base.  We saw a quite a tepid response to EVE Echoes, the mobile EVE Online game also being made by NetEase, just two weeks ago.  The saving grace at EVE Vegas was that we knew a mobile game was in the works and CCP had the good sense not to make the EVE Online keynote all about an outsourced mobile game.  Blizzard totally missed the expectations of their fans and is paying the price.  The Diablo Immortal videos on YouTube are getting a huge amount of down votes, so much so that they have removed and re-posted them in hopes of clearing the down vote tally.

You know what could have alleviated the pain of Diablo fans? Literally any news about something new for the franchise on PC.

A teaser for Diablo IV would have been oil on turbulent waters.  A mention that they were working on a remastered version of Diablo II, something we’ve suspected for three years now, would have dissipated most of the outrage.  But the only other news to announces was that Diablo III for the Switch was now available, but Nintendo had been bombarding us with that for weeks already.  Good for Switch owners, not all that interesting to the core Diablo fanbase.

I might hope we have a lesson learned here, but probably not.  Blizzard is certainly trying to walk this back without blaming the fans.  They love to stoke up that fan passion when it is going their way, so they have to eat it when it gets out of their control.  It is at least good that they get that.

As for own feelings about Diablo Immortal, I am sure it will do well with some demographic, but that isn’t me.  I like slower games on my iPad and on my iPhone I only ever play Pokemon Go, mostly because I have a small iPhone, which I prefer, so I need to put on glasses to see tiny text on the screen.  And given that the gaming press, which was so quick to jump on Diablo fans, could barely string together three nice things to say about Diablo Immortal in their own write ups, it seems unlikely that I will bother to give it a look.  Oh, and it is always online, just like Diablo III.  No single player for you!  The hits just keep on coming.

Of course, while this grabbed so many headlines and hot takes, it was only a small part of BlizzCon overall.

Addendum: And now word is going around that Blizz considered mentioning Diablo IV, then decided against it, leaving them with anger at BlizzCon and removing some of the surprise from any future announcement because now we know it is a thing.  Now they’re just using it as damage control.

Addendum 2: Now Blizz admits there was a Diablo IV video made, but denies there was ever plans to show it at BlizzCon.

Overwatch

Unlike Diablo fans, those there to see Overwatch seemed pretty happy.  They got a new character to play, Ashe, and a couple of cinematics.  I don’t play Overwatch, so it is difficult for me to gauge how much this meant.

They are also getting a kids cereal with loot box prizes inside.

Lucio Ohs

This is really a thing coming in December.  A free loot boost is now part of this complete breakfast.

Hearthstone

No surprise here, a new expansion was announced, Rastakhan’s Rumble, a troll and Stranglethorn Vale themed package.  Seemed to get all the cheers Blizz could ask for.

Heroes of the Storm

A new character to play, Orphea, who is free to all BlizzCon participants.  There was also some gameplay updates slated for 2019.  I’m really at sea when it comes to HotS, but fans seemed happy.  But since I hear so little about HotS outside of BlizzCon, my suspicion is that they are happy to be getting as much attention as they do.

StarCraft II

StarCraft II got Zeratul a new co-op commander.  Also coming are building skins and the ability to earn skins and such by watching SC2 esports events.  I keep thinking I will go run the single player campaign for this, since the base game is free now… but somehow I never do.

Warcraft III Reforged

The good BlizzCon surprise, even though I mentioned it as a possibility last Thursday, was Warcraft III Reforged.

The return of RTS again

This one interests me.  I’ve been back to play Warcraft III and blogged about it.  It was the last Warcraft RTS, was very popular, and a player mod for the game, Defense of the Ancients, essentially kicked off the MOBA idea and is largely responsible for what became League of Legends and DOTA 2.  But it also came along in 2002 and once World of Warcraft hit in 2004, Warcraft III fell into the background, like everything else at Blizzard, as the company tried to get hold of the overwhelming success of WoW.

It’s legacy is huge, but timing put it in the shadow of its younger sibling, so I wonder how the remaster will play out.  It is available for pre-order at $29.99, which includes the expansion The Frozen Throne.  Or, for ten dollars more you can get the Spoils of War Edition, which gives you items in other Blizzard games including a mount in WoW.  Given that $25 is the usual toll for a WoW mount, that might be a deal.

Also, now that we have this and StarCraft remastered, Blizz might finally get to Diablo II remastered.

Destiny 2

Activision continues to try to horn-in on the Blizzard launcher.  They already have Destiny 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 in their own little roped off section.  It was announced at the start of BlizzCon that the Destiny 2 base game was available free to download from the Battle.net launcher, and would remain so until November 18th.  So if you want to try it out and have about 80GB of drive space to spare, there it is.  Of course, they hope to get you hooked so you’ll buy the expansions.

Panels and Other Events

If the gaming press had really wanted to roast gamers, they might have spoken up about how sparse the crowd was for the “Play Nice; Play Fair” panel.  That was an empty hall.  But I am going to guess the gaming press didn’t bother going either given that Google didn’t show me a single result when I went looking for which gaming news site covered it.  The press isn’t as different from the fans as they would like to think I guess.

I have long since gone off the cos-play and dance competitions.  I’m just not into it enough to care after watching it for a few years.  There are too few fresh stand-outs for me.

There were also five channels at BlizzCon devoted to “esports,” which I am putting in quotes just to annoy people, and I didn’t watch a single minute.

Still, I watched and enjoyed quite a few of the panels.  There are still some I want to watch before the time runs out on the Virtual Ticket and they disappear forever.  I think I might have enjoyed “Build A Panel: World Creation in WoW” the most, as it combined my enjoyment of looking behind the scenes on how things are made with just enough silliness.

Overall I suspect that for the rare Blizzard fan who loves all of their games equally, this was a reasonably satisfying event.  Everybody got a little something… well, except for the core Diablo audience.  But it you love Blizzard uncritically, as some seem to be demanding we should, then Diablo Immortal was good for you too.

Of course, people have been complaining about BlizzCon since the second one, during that dream era when it was just WoWCon.  The long time complaint was always that Blizz shouldn’t bother unless they have a huge announcement.  The few times there has been a huge announcement do tend to set a high bar.

However, I am fine with a tepid BlizzCon when it comes down to it.  In the end there is always more going on than I am able to watch and sometimes the fine details are more interesting than the big announcements.  And I got to play WoW Classic, which got me back to playing some WoW, so op success for Blizz on this front I guess.  I might even hit level 120.

Others in the neighborhood talking about BlizzCon 2018:

Looking Towards BlizzCon 2018

BlizzCon starts tomorrow, so it is about time I got around this post.  I have ordered the Virtual Ticket, so I will be watching all of what is coming.  However, the question is, what will we actually see?

BlizzCon 2018

  • World of Warcraft

There will no doubt be some words about Battle for Azeroth, how everything is fine and wonderful and even if it isn’t Blizz will be making things better shortly.  There might even be a mention of some new content and plans and maybe a reference to how the game will be fifteen years old next year.

But the main thing will be WoW Classic.  Once I ordered the Virtual Ticket I figured out how to download the demo so I could play it once it goes live.  It doesn’t get its own entry on the Blizzard launcher… not yet at least.  Rather, it is one of the options under “Region/Account.”

The option to select

There are not any Patch Notes, the link there points to to WoW 8.0.1 patch notes.

Once you have selected it, you can click the “Install” button and off you go.

The download

The download itself is… substantial.  It weighs in at 11.5GB, so I suspect we are getting more than just The Barrens and Westfall as part of the package.

Given that I said last year that this BlizzCon would be all about WoW Classic, at least on the WoW front, I suspect that will be the case.  I don’t know what else they would go on about.

The play time people will be allowed for WoW Classic, even for the home download, is reported to be capped or otherwise limited, which I am sure will bring out some rage.  And reports indicate that the experience will be very much in the classic vein.

  • Diablo Franchise

There has been considerable buzz around the Diablo franchise over the last few months, with speculation that we might get a Diablo IV announcement.  And, looking at the BlizzCon schedule, the first item on the main stage is Diablo: What’s Next presentation.  That primacy of place usual goes to the franchise with the big reveal.

On the other hand, Blizz has been dumping cold water on rumors, warning people not to expect too much.  So who knows.

I would still like to hear something about Diablo II remastered, something they mentioned ages ago.  Other than that, and taking Diablo IV off the table, I don’t know what else they would have to present.  I mean, Diablo III on the Switch is nice and all, but it is old news by now, even if it officially launches tomorrow.

  • Overwatch

A new hero seems to be in the works.  A new map or a new play mode would be interesting, but as with the Diablo rumors, Blizz has been trying to set expectations low.  Since I don’t play Overwatch, I am not sure what else they might announced.  New cosmetics maybe?

  • Hearthstone

Hearthstone seemed to do pretty well as a franchise over the last year.  But with a collectible card game the path forward is always clear; new decks and new play modes.  Would anybody bet against one or both being announced?

  • Heroes of the Storm

It is getting a “What’s Next” presentation on the main stage, so something is up.  I suspect we will hear more about how they are going to make it better and/or more competitive with its rivals… though, it main rival, League of Legends, has been down so far in 2018, so maybe the MOBA thing is fading.

Also, new heroes and new cosmetics I am sure.

  • StarCraft

What do you do when your franchise doesn’t get a “What’s Next” panel until mid-way through day two?  I suspect that means no big announcements.

StarCraft and StarCraft II have their own room and channel for the esports league competition, so the franchise remains a staple there.  I expect that the most likely news will be some sort of adventure pack for SCII.

  • Others

Along with the StarCraft and Diablo II rematsers, there was also talk of a Warcraft III rematser as well.  Maybe we might hear something about that?  StarCraft made it and is on the launcher, so the trail has been blazed.

And then, of course, maybe Blizzard could announce something new.  They have been hiring for new projects and they are good at announcing and keeping momentum going through until launch.  But I don’t see any large, unaccounted for open slots on the schedule.  Maybe that “Inside Blizzard” presentation is just a decoy?

Anyway, that is my somewhat mild forecast for BlizzCon.  Blizz could still shake things up with a surprise or two, but unless there really is a Diablo IV announcement I think WoW Classic will be the big item for the event.