Tag Archives: Overwatch

Trying to Find Data in the Activision Blizzard 2016 Financials

The final Activision Blizzard financial results for 2016 were announced yesterday.

ActiBlizz450

You can find all that was said and posted over at the company investor relations site.

Gone are the days of straightforward information when they used to tell you the World of Warcraft subscriber numbers and listed out revenue from those subscriptions as a separate line item.  You knew how the game was doing in straight up, hard numbers.

Now though, now the finance team has done all they can to declare everything is wonderful without really telling you where the money is coming from.  Now it is mostly bullshit like Monthly Active Users, as with this slide:

Activision Blizzard Q4 2016 Financial Results Presentation - Slide 7

Activision Blizzard Q4 2016 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 7

I mean, when the division that brings in the least revenue, King, has almost an order of magnitude higher MAUs, you’ve pretty much proven that MAUs are divorced from financial reality.  That is playing, not paying.

And then there are the oddly specific brags as we see on the next slide.

 Activision Blizzard Q4 2016 Financial Results Presentation - Slide 8


Activision Blizzard Q4 2016 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 8

I like this particular quote about WoW:

World of Warcraft time spent grew Q/Q, surpassing Legion’s launch quarter and all non launch quarters in the last 4 years

Time spent playing went up in Q4 compared to Q3.  That makes sense, really, since WoW Legion launched at the back half of Q3, so play time was probably going to ramp up after that.  But then things sort of fall apart as the quote goes on.  It surpassed all “non launch” quarters in the last four years.

So it isn’t doing as well as Warlords of Draenor or Mists of Pandaria launches I guess.  Seems like an odd thing to bring up.  And pining it down to just four years means… that things were better before that?  There was a quote previously about concurrency hitting a post Cataclysm high previously along with first day sales numbers.  So they are being cagey about anything that might allude to actual subscribers.

Still, it isn’t like Blizzard isn’t making money.  According to slide 10 of the presentation, Blizz is no slouch in net revenues and is the champ of operating income.

Activision Blizzard Q4 2016 Financial Results Presentation - Slide 10

Activision Blizzard Q4 2016 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 10

Activision topped Q4, but they released a Call of Duty title, so their previous quarters were not so hot.  Blizzard was a little more consistent over the last three quarters, if you dig into the financial model spreadsheet from the investor relations site.

But it is the highlights part under Blizzard that caught my eye.  Specifically, it says:

In 2016, >60% of segment revenue from non-World of Warcraft franchises…

That seemed like something from which I could get a hard number.  I decided to take a strict reading of that sentence and declare that it just mean WoW and not Hearthstone or any part of Heroes of the Storm.  Elsewhere in the presentation it was stated that Blizzard revenue was driven by WoW and Overwatch, so I don’t think assuming WoW-only for that statement is way off base.

Also, I chose to take 60% as a hard number, since if it was much more than that, they would have said so, since declaring that Blizzard isn’t totally dependent on WoW appeared to be part of the exercise.  It it had been 65% or 70%, they probably would have said that instead.

Given that, we can see right there on the slide that Blizzard’s revenue was $2,428 million, which indicates that WoW revenue for 2016 might be as high as $970 million.  Not bad for a twelve year old game.   Not as much as League of Legends in 2016 no doubt, but a bit more than Pokemon Go made in its first six months, if the number is correct.  Even if it is off by… say… 100 million… that is still a lot of income.  (That margin of error is more than GuildWars 2 made in 2016, as an example.)  The billion plus earning years might be behind the game, but it is still a money printing machine unlike any competing MMORPG.

As noted, Overwatch also got special mention in the presentation, so it must be doing well.  And even Hearthstone got a mention, having boosted its MAUs year over year, for whatever that is worth.

That leaves two of the Blizzard properties unaccounted for.  Diablo III didn’t have anything new to sell, so there was no real reason to expect that to show up for a special mention.  And then there is Heroes of the Storm, which has already been called out for problems that keep it from being a contender in its segment.  No mention gives that credence.

Overall though, Blizzard continues to make bank and WoW can support its 300 member development team (according to a GameSpot interview) and still turn a profit.  But with that many people working on the game, there isn’t any excuse for another long content drought.  We shall see if they can manage to avoid that before the next expansions.

Projecting on BlizzCon 2016

I must admit that this year’s BlizzCon doesn’t have much going for it in my book.

blizzcon2016

The only game of theirs that I have played in the last six months is World of Warcraft, and that got an expansion just about two months back, so there didn’t seem to be much in it for me.  I wasn’t going to actually GO to BlizzCon or anything, which would be a totally different experience, if only because I just got back from EVE Vegas… and, also, tickets to BlizzCon sell out in seven seconds.

So I was tempted to simply ignore the whole thing and ready about it in the funny papers next week.

Then Blizzard went and announced that “Weird Al” Yankovic was going to be the closing musical guest and I decided I kind of wanted to see that.  I mean, he isn’t Permaband, but he does have more than five songs.  With my daughter keen to see the costume contest and my wife always amused by the dance contest, I subscribed to the pay per view version of the event.

So there we are.

And if I am paying for the event, I am certainly going to pay attention to it and get at least two blog posts out of it, so here we go with the first one.  As with previous years, my mostly uninformed preview of the event will include what I want to see and what I actually expect to see.

World of Warcraft

As I noted above, WoW just released an expansion, so the options are limited.  It likely won’t be a WoW year on the main stage.

expect to see:

  • How great the Legion expansion is doing
  • Some hint about the next content drop
  • WoW in other media (film, TV, graphic novels, etc.)

want to see:

  • Details about the plan for 7.2, 7.3, and, one would hope, 7.4
  • When we will get flying in the Broken Isles
  • Something about retro/nostalgia/legacy servers – Yes, I know, the have already explicitly said they will NOT talk about this, but a man can dream right?
  • Nothing whatsoever about Mark Kern, who is still trying to inject himself into the legacy server thing so he can disrupt BlizzCon with it
  • Tom Chilton saying something he shouldn’t about WoW just one more time

Diablo Franchise

Unlike WoW, the world of Diablo is prime for something new.  Diablo III is going to turn five next May and even the expansion will be three in March.  Presumably, with more than 30 million copies sole, Blizzard isn’t going to let there be another decade gap between releases.  Plus, the 20th anniversary of the original Diablo is coming up.  They have to do something.

expect to see:

  • Positive but vague words about how popular the game remains
  • The Diablo 20th anniversary plan
  • MEUs MAUs and China
  • Something new coming for Diablo III seasons

want to see:

  • Diablo IV announced… Reaper of Souls setup the next game
  • A new expansion for Diablo III announced… if not a new game, at least this
  • Something about that remastered version of Diablo II they were talking about a year ago
  • The original Diablo either remastered or on iOS and Android… I would throw money at the screen for a good remaster of the original

StarCraft

The StarCraft franchise is in an awkward place as Blizz has sort of finished up what they initially planned to do for StarCraft II.  Last year the big news was DLC missions to come after Legacy of the Void shipped.  We got a three part module in this year in the form of Nova Covert Ops.  The first two parts have been released and the third is promised for December 1.

expect:

  • General “Woo, StarCraft!” stuff
  • Reassurance about the third part of Nova Covert Ops shipping
  • A DLC pack for 2017
  • Tournament play

want:

  • Remastered original StarCraft because, honestly, I would much rather play the old version if it wasn’t locked into 640×480 resolution (because this)

Other Titles

I don’t play the other Blizzard titles so I will lump them under a single heading to hide the paucity of entries about individual games while condensing the cynicism into a single, bitter pill.

expect:

  • Everything is Awesome playing on continuous loop, at least metaphorically
  • New hero and/or map for Overwatch
  • Positive Overwatch play time stats
  • A new card pack for Hearthstone that will make all previous packs obsolete
  • Some over the top stats for how many games of Hearthstone have been played
  • Some new play mode for Heroes of the Storm to try and make it at least visible in the market after League of Legends and DOTA2
  • Tournament plans or some such that make it sound like a lot of people play Heroes of the Storm
  • A mobile game from Candy Crush Saga division using Blizzard IP; Manic Murloc Melodrama or some such

want:

  • Overwatch on MacOS so my daughter will stop complaining about Blizzard betraying her
  • Any mention of the original Warcraft RTS games being remastered
  • Report on how that Cho’gall plan from last year turned out for Heroes of the Storm
  • A “Weird Al” song about any Blizzard product

And that is about it.  I hope it will be a big year at BlizzCon for Diablo, give the 20th anniversary and all, but I have been disappointed on the Diablo front so many times in the past that wouldn’t bet on it.

What else should I expect to see… and what do you want to see at BlizzCon?

Overwatch Goes Live

Blizzard’s new game, Overwatch, launches today, or yesterday depending on where you live.  May 24, 2016 is listed everywhere on the promotional material, though the worldwide launch schedule was a bit more complicated than that.

Ovwerwatch launching in a time zone near you

Ovwerwatch launching in a time zone near you

I think it is live everywhere it is supposed to be on launch day as of the time this post goes up.  There is a press release from Blizz about it and everything.

I had to be educated on this worldwide go-live because, I must admit, I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to the game.  Not that my not paying attention is in any way indicative of what other people have been up to.  The open beta was such a success that it got an infographic.

So many players in the open beta

So many players in the open beta

The reason I haven’t been paying much attention is… well… I suppose three out of four Google responses can help me out with that:

Back to this game...

Back to this game…

I wonder if people search on “Overwatch is bad” are looking for reasons to dislike the title or searching out people who don’t like the game?  I suppose that at least Overwatch isn’t dead yet.  Give it a few weeks.

Anyway, the game being bad isn’t one of the reasons.  I suspect the game is actually good, given what I have seen people writing about it.

No, it is more of the other three, where it feels something like Team Fortress 2, cast as a MOBA, for which somebody expects me to pay $40/$60/$130, depending on which edition, which adds up to totally not worth it in my book.  But, as noted previously, I am long past my FPS days.  If I don’t care enough to play the free ones, I am not going to pay to play one.

And then there is the fact that it is one of the few Blizzard titles not to appear on Mac OS.  That is a factor in our house because my daughter has a nice iMac.  She has been into TF2 off and on, which is available on Mac OS, so had her eye on Overwatch… right up until Blizzard said support for Mac OS was off the table.  Then she was pissed and will hear no more of this game.  She feels let down by Blizz.

Then there is the MOBA aspect.  Blizz has been making a big deal about playing heroes rather than classes for Overwatch.  So you choose a hero with a special set of skills and abilities, which sounds very MOBA-like.  I think I said something about that back when the game was announced at BlizzCon 2014.

But then there is also the MOBA monetization coming as well.  They haven’t started selling new heroes… yet… but skins are already available for purchase along with my least favorite aspect of free to play, called Loot Boxes this time around, where in you can pay money… and Blizz doesn’t go for that microtransaction currency stuff, they straight up value things in real world currency and bill your credit card directly… for random items.  I didn’t like that system when I was a kid and tried collecting baseball cards and nothing has changed my mind about it ever since.

Ah well, that might just be me.

So I won’t be playing Overwatch.  But it is a major launch from a developer who also happens to run an MMORPG, so seemed worthy of note, and doubly so since bits of Overwatch were salvaged from the wreckage of Titan, the MMO project from Blizzard that was cancelled a while back.  Also, it seems to be dominating the gaming news cycle right about now.

So will you be playing Overwatch today?

[A multiple choice poll appears above this line which gets blocked by some browsers]

Reviewing My 2015 Predictions

Here we are, approaching the back half of the last month of 2015, making it about time for a few “I do this every year” posts.

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

First on the list is predictions.  Back on January first I published a post with a series of guesses at events of the coming year.  The first set were about specific things I expected to come to pass.  Each was worth 10 points, with partial credit possible.  How badly did I fare there?

Predictions

  • At BlizzCon we won’t hear about the next World of Warcraft expansion.  Blizz is going to avoid the year long run up to a new expansion and focus on what we’ll get in Draenor in 2016.  That’s the plan going forward; a shorter run up to the next expansion, more focus on the current one, same two year gap between launches.

Well, I was way off on that.  Due to the way that Warlords of Draenor was failing to hold the user base Blizzard couldn’t even hold out until BlizzCon for the announcement, so the year long run-up to launch remains, unless they launch a lot earlier than they have said.  Zero points.

  • Blizzard will also punt on its PLEX-like item idea as foes of the idea in the forums will keep screaming “Diablo III real money auction house fiasco!” until the idea is put back on the shelf.

Wrong again.  Blizz decided they were good with the idea, so WoW Tokens are a thing.  Zero points.

  • BlizzCon will also see the announcement of a new expansion for Diablo III, breaking the “one expansion” trend for Diablo games.

This should have been.  Instead the Diablo franchise was barely mentioned at BlizzCon.  Zero points.

  • Heroes of the Storm will go live, at last, after BlizzCon.

Well, HotS did go live… just about five months before I predicted.  Zero points.

  • Overwatch, though, will stay in closed, invite-only beta in 2015.  We’ll hear good things, but we won’t get anything until next year.

Okay, I seem to be on track with this one at least.  Invite-only beta and not going live until Spring.  10 points.

  • EverQuest Next will not ship in 2015.  At least not by any definition I would consider a real release.  Rather, it will enter the “pay to play our unfinished free to play game” state that has haunted Landmark for the last year.  And it won’t even get to that state until after SOE Live.

I wish.  No word on EverQuest Next… and no SOE live either this year.  Zero points.

  • Push is going to come to shove at SOE, with EQN and Landmark drawing on more in-house resources but not necessarily providing more revenue.  One of the two Norrath games,EverQuest or EverQuest II, is going to get shorted on the expansion front this year.  There will be a virtual box to buy, but it will really be just a features and fixes expansion with no new levels, races, classes, or overland zones.  A few dungeons/raids and the usual set of AA options will be all somebody gets.

You know, this one looked like it was going to be spot on… my prediction wasn’t even dire enough, as SOE-cum-Daybreak was ready to abandon the expansion idea for Both EverQuest and EverQuest II at one point.  And then sanity… and a desire to make money… returned and both game got an expansion.  Zero points.

  • Also on the SOE front, Dragon’s Prophet will get the axe in 2015 and some new Asian import will get its chance.

Well, Dragon’s Prophet got the chop, but no new Asian import has replaced it, so half right.  5 points.

  • GuildWars 2 is going to ship an expansion in a box, virtual or otherwise, that will be the classic “give us money and get new content” exchange that we are all quite used to.  It will be a big win, hugely popular with the fan base, have many jumping puzzles, and ArenaNet will grumble all the way to the bank about how NCsoft made them do it.

I don’t know if there were as many jumping puzzles, but I wrote that just to tease Syp.  Otherwise, I think this is mostly on track, enough for 8 out of 10 points.

  • WildStar will go free to play.  NCsoft has a deal for the China market, so they can’t shut the thing down just yet.  But to get to China I am going to bet they have to go F2P.  And if you’re going to do the work for China, you might as well apply it in the west as well.

This one seems like “well duh” at this end of the year, but back at the end of 2014 things looked pretty dire for WildStar.  NCsoft just shutting it down seemed like a reasonable guess.  10 points.

  • CCP is going to break sovereignty in null sec in 2015 and cause a great upheaval in EVE Online.  Most sov will effectively be dropped and chaos will ensue.  Much mocking will come from other quarters of the game, until the wise realize that all those null sec players need to go somewhere, and it is either leave the game or bunk with them.  Soon the cry to fix null will be universal, just to save the game and everybody’s sanity. CCP will take one of their full five week dev cycles to fix it, but there won’t be any roll back.  Instead they will have new sov mechanics in place and will declare a null sec gold rush/thunderdome.  Hilarity will ensue and it will become one of the great legends of the game we tell to new players.  Meanwhile, the sov map will look pretty much the same at the end of the year.

Okay, nothing that bad happened.  And yet there is a thread of reality in the midst of all of that.  Certainly some old null sec alliances bailed on the whole idea of holding space when Fozzie Sov rolled out and made it far to easy to troll.  And some of them did end up in low sec space, the face of which changed as well.  But the map does look different here at the end of the year.  I’ll give myself one point out of ten for that thread of reality.

  • CCP will sell, transfer, or otherwise hand off responsibility for DUST 514 to Sony, including the employees left working on it.  It will remain connected to EVE Online, so orbital bombardment will remain a possibility, but Sony will be running.  It will end up in the laps of SOE in San Diego which will prompt another round of “SOE is buying CCP!” hysteria.  (But that won’t happen until 2016.)

Nope.  Instead White Wolf got sold off.  DUST 514 still lingers on at CCP.  Zero points.

  • The Elder Scrolls Online will muddle along in 2015, fixing bugs and waiting for the console version to ship.  The console version won’t ship until after summer however, and things will seem somewhat grim as the push to get it out becomes an “all hands on deck” development task, leaving the Windows version to drift for a couple months.

The console versions shipped on time.  I really don’t have a feel for how grim things may or may not be, or if they are muddling along, going downhill, or have seen a resurgence.  Zero points.

  • Funcom will also be in a bit of a muddle as LEGO Minifigures Online continues to under perform.  This will cause a replay of the LEGO Universe fiasco, with LEGO HQ wresting control of the software from Funcom, as they did with NetDevil, leading to about the same result as LEGO runs the thing into the ground and shuts it down.

The Lego Group hasn’t yanked the license from Funcom yet, but LEGO Minifigures Online has continued to under perform.  3 points.

  • Hacking and cyber attacks will be on the rise, and a major MMO studio will be kicked completely offline for a full week at some point during 2015.

I think we got past 2015 without this happening to a major studio.  Zero points.

  • EA’s claim that Star Wars: The Old Republic’s earnings are disappointing is a sign of something.  I expect less voiced content, if any, and more features like Galactic Starfighter, things that can boost cash shop sales.  Double credit if they use my droid battles idea from last year.

EA has taken the opposite tack with SWTOR and is pushing story and trying to force people to subscribe again.  I suppose that says something about the fickle nature of cash shops.  Zero points.

  • At Turbine, things will go as they have been for the last few years, with a slow retreat into its core money making items.  Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 will go the way ofEverQuest Mac the first time they need an update for a vulnerability.  A WB exec will order the plug pulled before the end of 2015.  They will be gone along with the pipe-dream promise of running your own server.

I thought this one was in the bag at one point, with AC down for a few weeks.  But somebody fixed it in their spare time it seems.  Their days still feel numbered, but for now, zero points.

  • Likewise, it will be a slow year for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online unless Infinite Crisis is a break-out success in the MOBA world.  It looks like it will be lining itself up against Heroes of the Storm, so that looks like a vain hope indeed.

Well, Infinite Crisis went down almost before it was actually live.  Content wise, it has been a slow year for Turbine.  On the LOTRO front we got a bit more of Middle-earth, but work seemed more focused on server merges and a new data center.  Still, that was more than I expected.  2 points.

  • Brad McQuaid, failing to find a reliable source of suckers funding, will throw in the towel on Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, leading wags to ask if this was supposed to be the rising part of the prophecy or if it was still part of the fall.

Brad soldiers on, continuing in his quest to relive 1999 yet again.  I just hope he has set his sites on a small target… a world that will feel alive with a few thousand people and a business model that will work for a similarly small number, because it just isn’t 1999 any more. Zero points.

  • Project: Gorgon will finally catch a break and gain traction via early access at Steam.  Some money will come in and allow development to move more quickly.

Well, I am going to declare a win on technicalities on this one.  Project: Gorgon did get green lit on Steam AND some money did come in… it just came in when the third Kickstarter attempt finally paid off.  For that I am claiming 8 points.

47 points out of 200 points possible.  Not a very good set of predictions.

No Shows

The other set from the predictions post was about which titles you might fully expect to ship in 2015, given past statements or promises given, which wouldn’t make it.  Those were five points each, pass/fail.

  1. Line of Defense
  2. Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtue
  3. Camelot Unchained
  4. World of Warships
  5. H1Z1
  6. Star Citizen
  7. EVE Valkyrie

Of that list, I think only World of Warships managed to go live in a form we would all agree upon.   Everything else on that list is still in some sort of alpha or early access or some form of not being actually done yet.  And of those that did not go live, EVE Valkyrie seems most likely to ship next, since it will be bundled with Occulus Rift when it ships.

The rest… I would be hard pressed to guess as to which one would actually cross the barrier and become a live, shipping, salable product.

Anyway, that gives me 30 out of 35 points there, for a total of 77 out of 235 overall.  Not a banner year for my guesses.  But that likely won’t stop me from making more when the new year comes again.

How did you do on your predictions?

BlizzCon 2015 – Scoring Need vs. Greed

Last Monday I put up a post which I called “Announcements and Need vs. Greed” that outlined what I thought Blizzard would announce (need) and what I wanted them to announce (greed).  That was actually a good time to write, on my part, because I managed to post before any of the pre-BlizzCon leaks.

BlizzCon2015

Now it is a week later, BlizzCon is in the past, and it is time to match up what I wrote versus what happened.  This time around I will go in reverse order from last time.

Overwatch

Need:

  • Whoo hoo, Overwatch!!1!

Plenty of that!

  • More cinematics

We got that as well.

  • More beta slots

I did not see any mention of this however.

Greed:

  • Vague gesture at a possible launch date

We got “Spring” so I think that counts.

  • Even more cinematics

Do the character intro reels count?

  • How this totally isn’t Heroes of the Storm crossed with Team Fortress 2

Okay, maybe I was being sarcastic.  Still, with more heroes, and female heroes, I guess they were at least on track for that.

  • Some sort of benefit for WoW subscribers

Does something from the pre-order count?

So lots of Overwatch hype, and a business model.  You’re going to have to buy a box, virtual or otherwise.  My daughter was especially hyped up about the Overwatch news, right up until she found out it was going to be available on Mac OS.  It will run on Window, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, but not her iMac.  She was very grumpy about that.

Hearthstone

Need:

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

Well, duh… in conjunction with something else at least…

Greed:

  • Another new battle mode

League of Explorers and all that.  That seems new-ish… I mean, there is a map right there on the playing board, right?  Maybe I should have paid more attention.

  • The ability to play within WoW, with benefits for WoW subscribers.

Not so much.  I want to play on that little board in my garrison.  I might even resubscribe for that.

People who like Hearthstone seem genuinely excited about being able to buy more stuff.  People like me, who played just long enough to get the hearthsteed… well, as long as it is making Blizz some money.

Heroes of the Storm

Need:

  • Reasons for people to spend money

More heroes, more skins.  That counts, right?

Greed:

  • Non-dull play mode

That was actually a trick statement, as I find the game itself dull.  Still, Arena mode will be a thing.  Wooo.

Even as a non-fan of HotS, I was at least amused that they took that long time WoW forum joke about two people each playing one head of two headed ogre and made it a thing.  Long live Cho’gall I guess.  I will be interested in how it spreads.  People at BlizzCon and with a Virtual Ticket will get the hero unlocked, but for everybody else you have to win two matches partnered up with somebody who has Cho’gall… playing as Cho’gall… to unlock it on your account.  I expect comedy, rage, and RMT to ensue.

StarCraft

Need:

  • Wooo, Legacy of the Void!

Well, we got that.

Greed:

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

While there was a leak later in the week about Blizz hiring to convert StarCraft, Diablo II, and Warcraft III into something playable on current operating systems, that wasn’t talked about at BlizzCon and is somewhere out in the future.

Meanwhile, StarCraft 2 will be getting DLC next year.  So at least there will be new things to do after Legacy of the Void.  And StarCraft 2 was pretty good as a spectator sport at BlizzCon.  I certainly prefer it to any MOBA.

Diablo

Here is where the disappointment train pulls into the station.

Need:

  • A new Diablo III expansion

No

  • A vague timeline for beta

No

  • Something else special for people who complete season objectives

Sort of…

Greed:

  • Diablo IV announced – I actually think this is the way to go

Hah, no

  • Diablo and/or Diablo II being ported to the Diablo III engine

No

  • Diablo or Diablo II coming to tablets

No

For anybody moaning about WoW not getting enough time during the keynote, let’s talk about how much time Diablo III got.  None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

This was not the year for the Diablo franchise.  There was one panel where it was announced that Diablo III would be getting a patch that would give players a new zone and a few other goodies.  That was it for Diablo fans.  Certainly nothing else to spend money on.  Blizz has been happy to announce how many boxes they have sold, but no new boxes are on the horizon yet.

So clearly BlizzCon 2016 will have the Diablo IV announcement, right?

World of Warcraft

Need:

  • The cinematic

We got it.  It was okay.

  • Chris Metzen on stage having an orgasm about the lore in Legion

There was some discussion as to whether or not Metzen had a “loregasm” or if it was just “loreplay,” but he was up there on stage doing what he does best.  Somebody on Twitter was complaining that he wasn’t dispensing details.  That isn’t what you put Metzen on stage to do.  He is the emotional call to action, not the numbers and specs man.

  • Hard dates for beta

Not so much.

  • Something vague about a ship date that will narrow it down to a three month window

I think “summer” pretty much fits the bill there, though remember when summer ends on US calendars.

  • A decent “hook” for Legion beyond “ten more levels and a class from Diablo III

There were lots of details in various panels that got people excited.  Now we just have to wait until it ships in about a year.

Greed:

  • A ship date

Didn’t expect it.  We’ll get that in May/June I bet.

  • Ravenholdt as the rogue Order Hall

So sorry.

  • Some reason to resubscribe today

I can pre-order Legion and have another level 100 character today… which would make six for me.  And that character would even get a level 3 garrison so I could expand my grind even further.

  • Some tie-in with the Warcraft movie

Not that I saw.  Did I miss something?

So lots of stuff about Legion.  I think people who complained about WoW not getting enough time at the keynote are forgetting that it isn’t 2009 any more.  There was a stretch there when WoW was pretty much the only game Blizzard had and BlizzCon was, essentially, WoWCon with a StarCraft tournament in the back room for the oddballs.

Now though, Blizzard has six balls in the air… well, five balls in the air and Diablo on the ground and rolling towards a dusty corner.  And they need some attention.  Would you buy the game that they didn’t mention in the keynote?

Anyway, Legion is the classic WoW expansion.  A new continent, 10 more levels, a new class, and an attempt to steer the ship in a new direction based on what they learned with the last expansion.  Specs will be differentiated, and you’ll be able to play all the specs on a character… so I guess having two level cap druids isn’t necessary any more… while skill trees will be more varied and will have more “meaningful” choices.

There is some further emphasis on exploration, though there will be no flying at launch, so people who can’t explore below 10,000 feet will be raging.  Hone your sense of entitlement and let the flight wars begin anew!

Then there is the whole scaling zones and dungeons thing.  You can go in any direction you want to level up, five zones will scale at need as will the five leveling dungeons.  Then there are five more level cap dungeons.  Cheers for getting everybody off the same pipe through the content, but I expect issues with the scaling and likely won’t be disappointed.

And then, after completely trivializing crafting in WoD, there will is an attempt to bring it back from the dead in Legion.

All of which is as maybe.  Things sometimes prove too complicated or prove unworkable in beta.

Still, despite my cynicism, it does sound like it might be time to plot a return to Azeroth.  My daughter seems keen, and doubly so after I explained the hunter specs to her.  Also, she has been trying out EVE Online for the last week and is so confused that she wants to just run quests and kill mobs.

We’re not running out to resubscribe today… and nobody in our house is pre-ordering Legion any time soon if I have any say… but after months away… I’ve been out since June and my daughter since March… Christmas break might be a good time to get cozy in front of a monitor and start wrapping up tasks in Draenor.  Coming in late has served us well in the past.  I think I enjoyed Pandaria as much as I did, in part, because we came in after the last big content patch.  So while others were wailing about the content drought, we were still figuring out farms and getting into pet battles.

Others looking at BlizzCon and WoW in particular:

BlizzCon 2015 – Announcements and Need vs. Greed

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

BlizzCon2015

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

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

Single word expansion title? Really stretching so far!

Single word expansion titles worry me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World of Warcraft

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

Need:

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

Greed:

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

Diablo

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

Need:

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

Greed:

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

StarCraft

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

Need:

  • Wooo, Legacy of the Void!

Greed:

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

Hearthstone

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

Need:

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

Greed:

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

Heroes of the Storm

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

Need:

  • Reasons for people to spend money

Greed:

  • Non-dull play mode

Overwatch

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

Need:

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

Greed:

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

And that is all I’ve got.

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

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

What do you think the big number will be tomorrow?

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