Today's news will probably seem to be a purposeful theme, an assessment that isn't far off the mark. In case there are some who may not have been paying much attention to gaming news lately, today marks the beginning of Blizzard Entertainment's (mostly) annual fan convention, Blizzcon. Attendees from all over the world have made their way to Anaheim, California, usually renown for Disneyland but for this weekend, all eyes are on the convention center and the news that is likely to rock the MMO and general games space that will emerge from it.
Blizzcon 2014 is back and Blizzard is ready to show off its prowess as one of the world's preeminent game development companies. Love it or hate it, there is, as has been said many, many times, no arguing the fact that Blizzard's games set industry standards in many ways. The Warcraft series will be celebrating its twentieth anniversary. World of Warcraft is turning ten this year. Diablo 3 is a PC and console juggernaut. Hearthstone has become one of the world's top ten revenue generators in a very, very short time. Heroes of the Storm is likely to launch soon with a fresh new take on the MOBA genre. Starcraft 2 continues to be a formidable eSports machine. The Warcraft movie has finished filming and fans around the world will get their first glimpse of the universe brought to life.
While quiet for this past year, Blizzcon 2014 seems on the edge of big news, big announcements, big contests, big events -- everything larger than life and ready to burst forth on the gaming world.
Everyone with an interest in Blizzard games has a list of hopes they'd like to see come to fruition this weekend. Here are a few of ours:
Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void to Finally See a Release Date
Starcraft 2 was announced as a trilogy of games, each 'chapter' centered on one of the game's races: Terran, Zerg and Protoss. It has been four full years since Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty, the Terran chapter, was released and eighteen months since Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, the Zerg portion, was released. As Blizzcon 2013 got underway, many players were hoping to hear that the release of Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void, the Protoss section of the trilogy, was imminent. When the announcement didn't happen, fan disappointment was audible. Let's hope that Blizzcon 2014 brings joy to fans of realtime strategy and to those who are eager to see the Starcraft 2 story told from a new perspective.
Heroes of the Storm Shows Off a Fresh Take on the MOBA Genre
With attendees likely to have quality game time playing Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard's take on the growing MOBA genre, there is bound to be a lot of new buzz and excitement built around the game. Currently in late alpha testing, the pool of players is growing and we'll hopefully hear news about beta and then release.
There is no question that HotS will have a huge impact on the MOBA gaming community. Blizzard seems perfectly content to take on Riot Games and League of Legends, as well as SMITE and any other contender for the searing hot revenue stream that MOBAs offer. Add in generous brand recognition due to heroes coming from all of Blizzard's IPs and you have a likely candidate for game of the year.
Hearthstone's eSports & an Expansion?
This year marks the first debut of Hearthstone on the eSports front. Already coming in tenth in the world for revenue generation, there's no question that Hearthstone is fast becoming a force in the hugely popular eSports field. Several preliminary rounds have already completed and fans around the world will be able to watch the finals of what promises to be an entertaining event...maybe all of us 'wannabes' will learn something watching!
In addition, Blizzard has been hinting around at an expansion and it's likely that, if this is true, the announcement will be made at Blizzcon. With any piece of lore out of thousands in the Warcraft world, it's anyone's guess (with a few hints thrown in by the Blizz trolls themselves) where the expansion's newest cards will come from.
Diablo 3 Expansion
With one expansion already on the books and a successful launch on consoles, Diablo 3 is doubtless due for some new content, new features, new skills and, dare I say it? New classes. Yes, we all remember well the less than successful Druid and Assassin classes added to Diablo 2 but Blizzard has learned since then and we can only hope that the Diablo 3 universe expands soon.
Nothing says Blizzcon like the astonishing cosplayers that descend on the event to show their love and devotion to all of Blizzard's titles. We're likely to see Sylvanas Windrunner, Kerrigan, Deckard Cain, Illidan Stormrage, Jim Raynor, maybe even a murloc or two all making their way around the Anaheim convention center and entering into the ever-popular costume contest.
Probably of the most interest to many is anything to do with Warcraft. Whether looking for the original Warcraft realtime strategy games to be reimagined or hoping to hear news of a brand new RTS in the form of the much-desired Warcraft 4 or an announcement of the next World of Warcraft expansion (remember Blizzard has promised annual expansions!), fans will be watching closely.
Let's not overlook the fact that Blizzard loves numbers and the not-so-coincidental fact that it's been twenty years since the original Warcraft RTS, Orcs & Humans, was released and ten years since the entire online game world was set on fire by World of Warcraft. Given the imminent in-game celebration for WoW's 10th anniversary, and the love of the universe's lore, this year seems primed for big news on the Warcraft front.
Blizzard is no stranger to mystery announcements and for purchasing strange unexplained domain names and registering trademarks for unannounced projects and expansions. As possible as anything else, Blizzard could come out with something entirely unexpected that will once again capture the imagination of many gamers.
So there you have it: A few things we hope to find out in the next 48 hours. What would you like to see from this year's Blizzcon? Let us know in the comments!