Well, we are now only a day away from Blizzard Entertainment’s eighth BlizzCon convention, and as has become a sort of tradition here, I will aim to bring you as much coverage as I can while I watch the live stream. I’d like to get a bit of a head start this year by setting the rumor mill in motion.
The biggest question on everyone’s mind will inevitably be: what is Blizzard’s big opening surprise announcement? BlizzCon has traditionally been the company’s favorite venue to open the lid on secret projects and plans. The first BlizzCon introduced us to The Burning Crusade. In 2007 we learned of Wrath of the Lich King. 2008 gave us our first in-depth look at Starcraft II and Diablo III. 2009 brought Cataclysm, 2011 ushered in Mists of Pandaria, and 2013 introduced us to Warlords of Draenor. But 2010 was a bit of an anomaly. In 2010, we got nothing, and it’s probably no surprise that I remember that year the least of the four I followed.
Even numbers are off years for Blizzard. There was no BlizzCon 2012 for a reason; they had nothing substantial to announce. So where do we stand in 2014? It is too early to announce World of Warcraft 7. Diablo 3‘s Reaper of Souls expansion is less than a year old, and we’ve known about StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void forever now. There is Hearthstone. But as fun as it may be, it’s just a card game. So you might be thinking Heroes of the Storm, Warcraft: The Movie, or Project Titan.
Titan would be the best guess, as Blizzard’s biggest, most ambitious upcoming project. Except Blizzard canceled Titan in September. Yes, after seven years of development, Project Titan went the way of Starcraft: Ghost. This wasn’t a spur of the moment decision, either. Blizzard had been “reevaluating” the project for a year, aka deciding if they should can it, so it’s not as if this was going to be the big BlizzCon announcement and they had to change their plans at the last minute.
Hmm… A repeat of 2010 then? Maybe. Probably? If Blizzard have a truly new game in store for us this year, it’s going to catch everyone off guard. Blizzard trademarked the title Overwatch earlier this year, and that has gained a lot of attention for lack of anything more concrete to speculate over. Overwatch could just as easily be the next Hearthstone expansion though, following Curse of Naxxramas. I think we can safely assume Blizzard will pump one of those out a year as long as people are willing to keep buying them.
So what will the big opening showcase definitely not be? I remember hearing a rumor years ago that after WoW 5, which would be Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard were going to shrink their expansions from two years down to one. That’s stupid. I’ll believe it when I see it, and I’ll still think it’s stupid. There will be no World of Warcraft 7 announcement at this BlizzCon. It’s also not likely to be Warcraft: The Movie or Heroes of the Storm. How do I know? Because there are introduction and overview slots scheduled for both of these projects immediately following the opening mystery segment.
But wait, Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 are going to have “What’s Next?” segments on the panel stage after the opening. So that leaves ???. Maybe, just maybe, Blizzard have a really big announcement in store. But they have scheduled events in such a way that it appears to rule out all six of their currently known major projects. Blizzard take years upon years to develop new games. That is why we knew about Starcraft: Ghost for an eternity. That is why we knew about Project Titan for an eternity. That is why the Starcraft II announcements were really just icing on a cake we had long known was in the oven. Blizzard is a company with Duke Nukem Forever syndrome, not an organization that spits out new titles out of the blue in a year’s time. Whatever the gaping two hour gap between BlizzCon 2014’s Opening Ceremony and its first presentations and panels will be, I predict that it will be anticlimactic.
Still, why the secrets? If the space is just going to be filled by a general overview of everything Blizzard, surely they would tell us. They wouldn’t get our hopes up for nothing, would they?
Well, I have one idea. StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void. The one hour “What’s next?” panel certainly suggests that we won’t already know what’s next, but that could be misleading by intent. Wings of Liberty was released in July 2010. Heart of the Swarm came out in March 2013. At that pace, Legacy of the Void is due around November 2015, conveniently coincident with BlizzCon 2015 (where World of Warcraft 7 will be the obvious big deal). If Blizzard don’t want Legacy of the Void to go up in a puff of smoke, November 7, 2014, is the day to hype the shit out of it. They surely aren’t going to give it a measly one hour discussion on a side stage. Sure, it’s going to be more like Diablo III: Reaper of Souls than a big freakin’ deal, but Starcraft 2 needs more publicity. The Diablo series is now intimately tied with Warcraft. Every WoW subscriber owns the original D3, because you got a whopping year-long subscription free for buying it, and it only came out two and a half years ago. Starcraft 2 has been around for four and a half now, and let’s face it, the solo campaign for Heart of the Swarm was a boring letdown compared to Wings of Liberty. The game lacks casual players like me because it requires constant practice to maintain skill, so it competes with WoW for Blizzard fans’ time in a way that Diablo 3 doesn’t. It’s by far Blizzard’s best franchise, never mind that I’m a WoW junkie, and it’s been slowly isolating itself to Koreans and hardcore aficionados. My realid list is always capped at 100 players, and it’s totally normal for me to catch a WoW gamer playing Diablo or Hearthstone. Starcraft just never happens. It should, because it’s better than all those other games, but it doesn’t.
So what do you do at BlizzCon 2014? Hype the hell out of Legacy of the Void and announce a streamlined, highly publicized and consistently broadcasted esports league that brings the top tier of Korean competition to the front page of my Battle.net app every weekend. If I could watch Day broadcast a Jaedong vs. Life zerg throwdown at the click of a button in my Battle.net interface, without having to dive into a foreign corner of the internet to find it, bye-bye raiding. And don’t worry Blizzard, I’ll still subscribe to do mindless fishing and archeology while I watch. The tail end of the SC2 WCS Global Finals is getting exclusive coverage with no overlap from other events on Saturday, so I’m pretty excited about that. And Day is one of the tournament’s broadcasters. His commentary is always epic. I don’t know if that’s a sign of anything. Maybe it’s just a distant hope.
But are there any other options? Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard’s DotA-style free-to-play project, is getting one more hour of show time than any other project, and the official BlizzCon 2014 site background suggests it:
Kerrigan as a human, Arthas as a Death Knight, and a Diablo III Warlock all engaged in combat? That sounds like Heroes of the Storm to me. But then, if that’s the game they’re openly making a big deal about, it’s not going to be the secret surprise, is it? Well, I’ll break down the announced non-competition content and you be the judge:
World of Warcraft: 4 hours total
1 hour WoD changes overview
1 hour Content Q&A
1 hour Cinematics panel
1 hour Documentary
Warcraft: The Movie: 1 hour presentation
Diablo III: 2 hours total in two separate “What’s next?”-type panels.
Hearthstone: 2 hours total
1 hour “What’s next?” panel
1 hour Arena guide and strategy Q&A
Starcraft II: 4 hours total
2 hours total in two separate “What’s next?”-type panels.
2 hour “exhibition” on a side stage, no further information
Heroes of the Storm: 5 hours total
1 hour “Overview”
2 hour “exhibition” on a side stage, no further information
1 hour audio panel
1 hour character and team-building guide
*mysterious* Unannounced Content: 3 hours total
2 hours of empty space to follow the opening ceremony
1 hour of empty space on the main stage Saturday, 11:30 to 12:30.