This year’s Blizzcon is scheduled for just over a week from now. It will contain the usual keynotes and panels about Blizzard’s main titles, World of Warcraft, Diablo III and Starcraft. Newer entries into the Blizzcon Hall of Fame like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm will also receive a lot of love this year as well.
What has me wondering, however, is what those massive gaps in the Blizzcon schedule mean. These are the times and places that are usually reserved for THE BIG THING™ that Blizzard is most keenly focused on in any given year.
A cursory look shows that the Keynote will take place on Friday morning, ending at 11:45 a.m. Then nothing, not a single thing, sits on the schedule until after 2:00 p.m. This is not the Blizzcon of the past and it is prime gaming real estate.
So all this brings us to the Speculation Café. Pull up a chair and see what is at least theoretically possible that Blizzard will introduce to the world during the keynote and explain in further detail in the time slots that, as of now, remain empty.
Unannounced projects -- The Realm of Pure Speculation
Blizzard has a known history of starting and later stopping projects, purchasing mysterious domain names that never see the light of day, and registering trademarks for hidden reasons. All one has to do is look at the recent cancellation of Titan, the game that many hoped would be introduced at Blizzcon 2014. As of last month, we know that this is not to be.
Even though development on Titan ended, Blizzard has at least a few projects that have been rumored, mainly fueled by domain purchases by Blizzard.
Prometheus: Very, very little is known about Project Prometheus other than rumors that tied it to Titan and indicating that it is a brand new IP rather than a revisit of existing Blizzard games. Those now game-less Titan developers have to go somewhere, perhaps Prometheus is their new home?
Overwatch: In the spring of 2014, Blizzard registered the “Overwatch” trademark. Of particular note is the fact that Blizzard hired Left4Dead’s Michael Booth and that he is apparently in charge of one of the company’s ‘micro-teams’ similar in size and scope to the Hearthstone and Heroes of the Swarm teams. Given Booth’s background, it is possible that Blizzard may be planning another new IP, perhaps a shooter of some sort.
Unnamed Cooperative Shooter: Speaking of shooters, seven years of development went into Project Titan. Even scrapping the MMO, there has to be a vast storehouse of assets that could be utilized to create a cooperative shooter of some sort.
Starcraft Ghost, Diablo Expansion or Diablo 4 - Safe, But Not Every Exciting
Starcraft Ghost was announced in 2002 and was being developed for then-gen consoles, including the Nintendo GameCube, XBox and PlayStation 2. Ghost would have fallen under the banner of an adventure shooter with military sci-fi thrown in for good measure. However, in 2006, Blizzard announced the cessation of development on Ghost, a game that fans of the Starcraft universe and Nova Terra were eager to see come to fruition. No word has come out of Blizzard about bringing this hugely popular character and IP back into development but anything is possible, right?
In fact, as late as March 2014, Blizzard Producer Alex Mayberry said:
"I think the idea is still perfectly viable," while discussing the game [Starcraft Ghost] ahead of tomorrow's launch of Diablo 3 expansion Reaper of Souls. "I don't know if we'll ever do it but I think it's something we'd like to do."
"I don't know," Mayberry adds. "Maybe some day we'll take another look at that but I don't think it'll be any time soon. I think it's an idea that still lives inside the halls of Blizzard."
Has it been long enough yet? I'm still banking on Nova vs Kerrigan someday.
What about Diablo 4? Nothing has been said and Diablo 3 is still riding high after big sales and a successful port to consoles earlier this year. The game could certainly see another expansion, though it is unlikely Blizzard would grant such “mundane” news the prime spots on the Blizzcon schedule. If THE BIG THING™ is Diablo related, and for it to be important enough to score prime time, the news would have to be Diablo 4 in order to generate enough OOMPH for top billing.
Warcraft: It's What I'm Betting On
I’m placing my money on All Things Warcraft, to quote the title of Reza Lackey’s weekly column. The stars are perfectly aligned for one, or several, Warcraft-related things to happen, all of which would generate a huge amount of interest.
I believe it’s no coincidence that prime panel time is left empty the same year that celebrates both the twentieth anniversary of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans and the tenth anniversary of World of Warcraft. What better way to celebrate two such monumental milestones than with one or more announcements all related to the Warcraft IP?
Overhauling & Republishing the original Warcraft games: Blizzard has a huge following for all of its Warcraft titles, but not just WoW fans, as many would speculate. Builders have used the Starcraft II tools to recreate epic moments from Warcraft II (see Warcraft: A New Dawn) and these models are damned fine. If fans can do it, why not Blizzard overhauling and re-releasing some of the finest strategy titles out there?
Let’s also not forget that the Blizzard launcher was datamined and found to have references in it to Warcraft III, surely indicating Blizzard’s support of bringing at least that title to regular Battle.net service. Both background images and icons were added. Let’s hope this happens soon!
Warcraft 4: A brand spanking new entry in the series: Perhaps the most interesting, and to my mind, the most plausible, announcement that Blizzard could make would be that Warcraft 4 is finally making its way into the world. The built in audience, the same audience that has been begging for more than a decade, is enormous. It is also a way for Blizzard to expand the Warcraft universe in ways that go beyond the strategy title itself. Blizzard has said that World of Warcraft has ten years of expansions and stories yet to tell. What better springboard for those stories and expansions than with the addition of Warcraft 4 and its likely expansive lore?
In addition, with the huge rise of eSports, a new potential goldmine could be created with competitive leagues forming around Warcraft 4, maybe even enough to unseat Starcraft 2’s eSports chokehold (for Blizzard products, that is) and give the company a chance to tap into the gigantic RTS eSports market.
My money is definitely on Warcraft 4.
What about you? What do you expect Blizzard to announce at Blizzcon next week? Do you think any of the above are plausible or is there something else out there? Let us know in the comments!