I’ve been traveling for MMORPG.com for something like four years now, but in all this time I’ve never been to a BlizzCon until this year. I can’t say BlizzCon was on my list of cons to hit, after all, I’m not particularly a fan of most of the studio’s franchises. I did enjoy the original StarCraft and Diablo III, but other than that, Blizzard’s games generally don’t do much for me.
That said, I recently got hooked into Hearthstone, despite my disdain for Warcraft. And as a League of Legends player, I found myself interested to find out what Blizzard would do with its first official foray into the MOBA genre with Heroes of the Storm. This was a good thing, as I initially groaned at the idea of having to cover BlizzCon back when I found out it was a possibility a few months ago. My first BlizzCon and something to actually look forward to? Why not!
There was one universal appeal to BlizzCon that for whatever reason I didn’t think about until I got there and witnessed it for myself: the Blizzard fandom. I work in community, so I love seeing people come together around shared interests, but it just didn’t hit me until I got there. Fans are what make most cons awesome and there are few more passionate fans than Blizzard fans. This is something fairly easy to perceive just being a gamer, but it’s really something else in person. While BlizzCon is a great place for Blizzard to interact with fans and make major announcements, the show is ultimately one giant LAN party for Blizzard fans. Fans meet up with their friends, their guild mates, or even make new friends altogether. This is really what BlizzCon is about and the energy from the fans was palpable the entire time I was at the show.
Even as someone coming in without much interest in what Blizzard had to announce (aside from Hearthstone and Heroes), I found myself far more captivated than I expected to be. Watching the Warlords of Draenor announcement, I pointed out Gorehowl, my favorite Hearthstone card and (apparently) an iconic Warcraft axe, when I saw it in the presentation. I thought the focus on Orcs was awesome and I was genuinely impressed with some of the things Blizzard announced for the WoW expansion – and I don’t even play the game! I mistakenly mentioned this appreciation to my friends, who now continually troll me about my supposed intentions to finally pick up WoW with Warlords (I’m not). They’ve been dogging me to play WoW since it came out and given my resistance over the years, they found my reaction to Blizzard’s expansion shocking to say the least.
The energy from the fans just made me feel part of the community, even as an almost complete outsider. I even contemplated picking up some amazing Blizzard art as part of the charity art auction. What the heck was going on with me?
At one point, I caught myself yelling “F Priests!” when I saw Blizzard announce upcoming Priest nerfs for Hearthstone on a nearby screen. I felt good about it, until the girl next to me exclaimed, “Hey! I play a Priest!” I then felt only slightly bad about it. OK. Not really. Priests suck.
Finally, I got to get my hands on Heroes of the Storm, my main curiosity coming into BlizzCon. I don’t know that Heroes will replace League of Legends for me, but I can tell you I’ve been jonesing for it every minute I’ve been away from it since BlizzCon. It’s a lot of fun and I think Blizzard is definitely onto something here. They’re sort of pulling a Nintendo and marching to the beat of their own drum with Heroes, but I think it may just work. Despite League’s approachability, there is still a huge subset of gamers who are intimidated by it and I think Blizzard is going to tap into those players the same way they seem to have done with Hearthstone and card games. Will we see 32 million viewers tune into a Heroes world championship the same as we did with LoL? That’s hard to say, but I think Blizzard made the right choice with the direction of the game, and I don’t feel the gameplay suffers for it.
Overall, BlizzCon was an altogether surreal experience for me. Never in a thousand years would I think I would be at a gaming con spending my evenings playing a Warcraft digital card game, appreciating impeccable Blizzard cosplay, and chatting up a bunch of Blizzard fans. While you won’t find me playing World of Warcraft any time soon, I do think I’d love to be back at BlizzCon next year. Blizzard fans are simply awesome.
Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB