During last month’s Blizzcon, and in all the weeks since then, we have been pondering the World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth expansion announcement. Several new features were revealed, including Allied Races and Warfronts. However, none of the new systems came with much attendant detail and, in fact, were often said to be “still in the process of development” or came with devs saying, “we’re not sure yet”. From our view, the rushed feel of the Battle for Azeroth announcement suggests that this was not exactly what Blizzard wanted to reveal during Blizzcon.
Over the course of the last two expansions, Blizzard has stuck to a pretty fixed timeline between announcement and release. For instance, Warlords of Draenor expansion was announced during BlizzCon 2013 and was released almost exactly a year later in November, 2014.
Legion was announced in August, 2015, during Gamescom and released in September 2016. So if we were to follow this general pattern, it would suggest BFA to be released in November 2018. Can you deal with that much Argus? However, there are some compelling reasons we believe this may not happen.
At BlizzCon 2013 (WoD) & BlizzCon 2015 (Legion), we not only learned great details about new features such as Artifacts, we also knew an approximate timeline for the closed beta, for the pre-event and the general quarter when the expansion would be released. Think of this: None of the currently announced features coming in BfA is really new. They simply build on the foundation laid in Legion, such as the greater rifts that will become island invasions with additional features in BfA. Classes are not being changed significantly at all either.
Legion pre-orders began right after BlizzCon 2015. BFA has yet to go up for the pre-order. This is significant because it means that, from a dollar perspective, Blizzard missed Black Friday and the Christmas buying rush. It does appear, however, that preorders will start be soon given the datamined player icons from StarCraft 2 for pre-ordering the expansion.
War Crimes by Christie Golden was released in May 2014 - six months ahead of the pre-event for WoD. Illidan by William King came out in May 2016 with the pre-event kicking off in August. BFA’s Before The Storm by Christie Golden has recently been pushed to mid-June 2018. This possibly means that the pre-event at its earliest would not start until September 2018 - pushing the release into October or later.
It feels as if Blizzard itself is unsure of its own timeline at this point. While the company may still make the general 1-year timeline between announcement and release, it feels as if this is very compressed and being rushed out the door.
SO WHAT DID THEY WANT TO ANNOUNCE BUT DIDN’T?
Over the course of the last several years, many of the “old guard” WoW developers have moved off of World of Warcraft and into “unannounced projects”, including developers such as former Game Director Tom Chilton. This has led to a lot of speculation about what exactly that unannounced project could be.
- More than a few job postings for significant positions on a project asking for candidates to have “massive multiplayer game development experience” and, in fact, several are still open including that of Creative Director.
- There was no Diablo presence at all during Blizzcon 2017, a first in the history of the annual convention.
- Diablo III was released in 2012, with the Reaper of Souls expansion added in 2014. Since then, only the 20th Anniversary event and the Rise of the Necromancer DLC have been released.
- In Legion, it feel as if Blizzard was merging WoW and Diablo with things like Challenge Rifts, wardrobes, the simplification of the skill systems and the perpetual hunt for better gear.
Don your tinfoil hat here please: World of Warcraft feels as if it’s wrapping up to either end completely or to go into maintenance mode. Think about it: The engine is old despite improvements. All of the major plot mechanics and threats have been or are being wrapped up. In Battle for Azeroth, for instance, it is clear that, faction war aside, we’re heading to the Old Gods, the last major “threat” now that the Burning Legion is gone. Major lore characters that have existed since the strategy games are being killed off or disappearing or having their stories feel like they’re reaching their conclusion. We truly believe that WoW 2 isn’t something Blizzard is interested in. It would never be able to measure up to its predecessor. It simply could never exceed what World of Warcraft is after 14-years.
Diablo is obviously an IP that could be very easily be adapted to a multiplayer online game far larger than it is right now. Perhaps it will be something more akin to Guild Wars 1 with social lobbies for players to meet one another in before heading into more instanced content. Perhaps it could manifest itself in something similar to Destiny 2. Whatever way it happens, Diablo is the best of Blizzard’s existing IPs for transition from what it is now to full-blown MMO. Unlike WoW, a Diablo MMO breaks new ground for the IP.
Of course, it’s almost equally possible that Blizzard is working on Diablo 4 or a Starcraft massive multiplayer strategy game or even on Warcraft 4. Or...we could be totally wrong on all counts. But, at least from our view, we’re going to hold out hope that the breadcrumb trail that seems to exist will lead to World of Diablo.
What do you think?