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General Articles: BlizzCon Overview

By Richard Cox on October 14, 2008

BlizzCon Overview

As many of you who were following my blog over the weekend know, I was at BlizzCon again this year. For those of you who followed those daily reports, no fear, there will be stuff here I didn't talk about there. For those of you, who didn't, feel free to head over and check those entries out as well. Most of it will be covered here, but you never know.

First of all, I'll get all bias out of the way. I absolutely love BlizzCon. And no, it isn't because I'm a WoW fanboy, I don't even currently play WoW. Nor am I really a fanboy of any of their other games. I love the Diablo series, but come on; it's been years and years since I've played D2. Nope, none of that is the reason. I love BlizzCon because as a Community Manager, and one who has worked both IN the industry and in the press covering the industry, I recognize BlizzCon as THE standard when it comes to running a community appreciation event. I've been to most of them; DAoC's Roundtables, SOE's Fan Faires, etc, none of them even come remotely close to BlizzCon. In my opinion one of the most important things a company can do to show appreciation to their community is have a great live event with fun activities, tournaments, great swag and devs accessible to the community. Blizzard does all of this in spades with BlizzCon. So if you're in the industry and in a community relations role in said industry, and aren't attending BlizzCon to take notes when it rolls around, you're doing your community a great disservice.

Now I'm not saying they do everything perfectly, no one's perfect, not even Blizzard. They could definitely be better at anticipating demand. The fact that they completely sold out their initial batch of 15,000 tickets in 15 minutes, yes, that's 1,000 tickets a minute, insane huh? That shows they left a LOT of people who wanted to attend just out of luck. I realize they've more than doubled each event, but with the next one they seriously need to plan for tripling instead of doubling, even if that means finding another venue to host it in. Also, I think they dropped the ball on the Blizzard Store setup this year. Last year they had less than half as many attendees and two stores set up, both of which always had long lines. This year, they more than double the number of attendees, but leave just two stores, which resulted in people standing in line for over five hours just to buy a BlizzCon t-shirt. There should definitely have been four stores this year. Also, I think someone going around with a t-shirt cannon or even just tossing them out the old fashion way, with the BlizzCon t-shirts would have been a great touch.

Not that the swag back every attendee got with their ticket didn't rock. Here, let me list off the rockingness of my swag back for you:

  • 1 Inflatable Frostmourne Sword
  • 1 WoW Mouse pad with a place to insert a photo
  • 1 Special Edition Vasco Blizzard Authenticator
  • 1 BlizzCon '08 TokyoPop Sketchbook/Notepad
  • 1 StarCraft: The Board Game Typhon Promotion
  • 1 Pandaren Brewmaster Brand Beer Coozie
  • 1 Pack of WoW QQ Noob Tissues
  • 1 Pandaren Brewmaster Brand Bottle Opener
  • 1 Inflatable 'Paladin in a Bubble Hearthing Away' beach ball
  • 1 set StarCraft 2 Wristbands
  • 1 canister of Zerg Creep Ooze stuff
  • 1 Blue Diablo 3 Mana Stress Ball
  • 1 Frostmourne Hilt Keychain
  • 1 WoW: TCG Heroes of Azeroth Starter Deck
  • 1 Bottle of Blizzcon '08 Hand Sanitizer with Carbineer
  • 1 WoW: WotLK Light up Pen
  • 1 BlizzCon 2008 Keychain
  • 1 WoW 'A Bird in Hand' Quest Bookmark
  • 1 WoW Action Figures Pin
  • 1 Blizzard Store Merchandise Catalog
  • 1 Troll Mask
  • 1 Arthas Postcard
  • 1 copy of the WoW Ashbringer Comic, BlizzCon Exclusive
  • 1 Lich King sticker
  • 1 Figure Prints Pendant
  • Approximately 8-10 assorted ad/deal cards/fliers

Oh, and of course don't forget the scratch off card with the StarCraft 2 beta access and polar bear riding murloc pet, can't forget that. So yeah, when it comes to swag, it generally doesn't get much better than what you walk away from BlizzCon with. But really, who doesn't love the chance of catching a free shirt flying over their head at a convention?

There were more than enough various contests, tournaments and fun of all types to keep everyone happy. Tournaments took place in the original StarCraft, WarCraft 3, WoW Arena 3v3s, and even the first ever StarCraft 2 tournament. All told over $200,000 in prizes were given out and some of the matches were a blast to watch. The contests took place over in the main hall on Friday night, the best easily being the costume contest. Watching that contest made me realize how little free time and money I have on my hands compared to some of these people. Some of the costumes were just insanely well done. While I was unable to get pictures of all the entrants, I got several, including shots of the five finalists and the winner. I want my own Speedy the Turtle... The /silly contest had its funny moments but drew a lot of moans, groans and outright boos from the crowd. The dance contest was funny, in a sometimes painful, sort of way. Jay Mohr did an excellent job in my opinion of MCing the contests, even though there were obviously times that didn't go according to schedule or plan and he had to ad lib a lot. Saturday night's closing festivities included the stand up antics of the lumberjack looking Kyle Kinane (which was unannounced and a surprise, at least to me) and (announced and known about) Patton Oswalt. Both were quite funny and seemed to win over the crowd, especially compared to when Jay Mohr tried to do his act last year before the concert. Mental note: don't go commando in corduroy pants. And then the night ended with a concert featuring 'Level 80 ETC' and 'Video Games Live' as it did last year, but they never get old.

So all that aside, I know why you're really here, the meat and gravy of the convention, what did I learn about the various Blizzard games. To make things easier, I'll break it all down by product, starting with the only game of the three that we actually cover here on the site, World of Warcraft. Unfortunately, WoW had the least news to report on, as the show was definitely mostly focused on Diablo 3 and StarCraft 2, so I'll cover them a bit as well.

World of Warcraft:

As stated above, there wasn't a whole lot of stuff we didn't already know talked about in regards to WoW at BlizzCon. With Wrath's release right around the corner, just about everything that could be talked about concerning the expansion has already been talked about. The two big items to come out of the convention concerning WoW were: In the first patch after the expansions launch, mounts will gain the ability to swim, meaning far less time spent having to stop to resummon your mount after crossing a body of water. And there was some vague talk/rumoring of being able to change your character's appearance, face and hair, for a fee in the future.

The WoW class panel talked a lot about how the existing classes in WoW would change with the launch of the expansion. I'll run through the list rapid-fire style listing off the changes I managed to get into my notes and remember off the top of my head:

  • Druids: Druids are getting a fairly major overhaul to their talent trees, across the board. It will be a lot harder to really split your spec across multiple trees in the future. With the feral tree you'll REALLY need to decide on either cat or bear. Resto druids will be getting some love with some new heals and tangling roots will work indoors now, adding more crowd control to the class.
  • Hunters: Hunter changes seem mostly focused around making the class easier to play. Pets are being changed around to be easier to manage and new stable slots being added. Shot rotations are being looked at and they'll receive a new shot, Freezing Shot.
  • Mages: Their changes seem primarily focused on the DPS side of the house.
  • Paladins: Not much change here damage wise, most of the Paladin changes seemed to be centered on available gear and some work on the seals and judgments. They will also get some love when it comes to their healing and how it works in PvP.
  • Priests: Shadow priests should be getting a significant boost in the DPS area as well as healing priests being helped, mostly due to the new 'spell power' attribute on gear boosting all spells across the board rather than being limited to certain spell lines. They're also getting a new damage ability.
  • Rogues: Rogue changes will help them out against multiple targets with a new ability. Sap is getting a boost.
  • Shaman: Shamans will be getting all kinds-a new toys to play with; a new crowd control, totem consolidation, a new damage spell AND even a new healing spell.
  • Warlocks: A couple new skills here and a lot of "we want to..." concerning demon selection and making affliction better.
  • Warriors: They seem to want to make warriors more fun overall. Some talent juggling going on, a new ability for Fury warriors to allow dual wielding 2-handed weapons and a couple new talents.

Continued on Page Two

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