This Friday marks day one of this year's BlizzCon festivities. The powerhouse developer and publisher will spend the weekend celebrating the global player communities of Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo. Each year, the fan-centric event draws in Blizzard addicts from around the world to show off cosplay, get hands-on time with the newest games, and be the first to hear the latest announcements from the company.
Though most companies use E3 or PAX to unleash big reveals, Blizzard prefers to throw its own party to celebrate new projects. We've got some big ideas about what kind of bombshells Blizzard could drop this weekend and we're hoping at least one of our dreams comes true. Let's get started...
World of Warcraft Expansion Pack
By lunchtime on Friday the "WoW: What's next?" panel will kickoff at Blizzcon and MMO addicts will hopefully get some clarity on the future of the nine-year-old king of MMOs. Blizzard recently trademarked "Warlords of Draenor" and the popular assumption is that it might be the title of the fifth expansion for World of Warcraft. Whether or not it's actually called Warlords of Draenor, we still put money on the announcement of a new expansion.
As much as we'd love to see Blizzard reinvent the MMO wheel with a brand new game or IP, it seems like WoW is just too profitable for the company to send out to the pasture at this point. After the fan backlash of the gutting of Azeroth in Cataclysm, we think the best fans can hope for is the introduction of a new zone similar to The Burning Crusade's Outlands.
The things we'd like to see most in a new WoW expansion include the addition of variety in races (Fel Orcs, Dark Iron Dwarves) rather than a brand new race, an account wide bank for all characters, and a mentoring system that allows downscaling to help friends level in a fun way. If we're considering really unlikely possibilities, then we'd love to see a third faction that is more evil than the Horde and the Alliance. Why not throw the Burning Legion into the mix at this point?
Something about Titan... Anything. Pretty please.
Speaking of new ideas, it would be great if Blizzard surprised everyone and finally dropped some details about the long-rumored Titan project. Up until a few months ago when Blizzard announced that the mystery MMO was undergoing major changes and being delayed until 2016, we all thought this was the year we'd finally get a peak at the project. Unfortunately, it seems like quite a long shot now.
There is nothing on the scheduled panels that suggests the company will have anything to say about Titan, but we can always hold out hope. Although WoW remains profitable, there is no denying that the game is still bleeding subscribers. With AAA competition like The Elder Scrolls Online on the way, we would love to see the company that laid the groundwork for the current MMO landscape succeed where so many WoW clones have failed and usher in the next game-changing MMO.
Sneak Peak of the Warcraft Movie
Let's stop daydreaming about Titan and bring things back to reality. Duncan Jones, director of the indie sci-fi hit Moon, will make an appearance at BlizzCon Saturday morning for a Warcraft movie presentation. The director will be joined by senior VP of story and franchise development Chris Metzen and chief creative officer Rob Pardo. Speculation is that the team will have some CG test footage with them.
A realistic hope is that the team will share (and hopefully post online) the teaser footage that the folks at this summer's Comic Con had a chance to see. Shooting doesn't begin at full pace until the beginning of 2014, so it seems unlikely that we should hope for any more footage than that. Some casting announcements seem like a safe bet though.
Heroes of the Storm Gameplay Footage
There's no denying that the cartoon trailer for Blizzard's recently announced MOBA Heroes of the Storm was adorable. The short announcement battle that pinned characters from Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo up against each other had the charm of a low budget Super Smash Bros. commercial. That said, if the game is anything like other contemporary MOBAs, the real deal won't retain much, or any, of that cuteness.
League of Legends and DOTA 2 (the current kings of MOBA) are infamous for the lack of love in their player communities. The genre is punishingly difficult by nature and players are left with little to no tutorials to find their footing on the unforgiving battlegrounds. If Blizzard is able to capitalize on a market of gamers that would be interested in a less intense, less serious MOBA; it may really be on to something with Heroes of the Storm. Hopefully, we'll see some gameplay footage this weekend and get a better idea of who the target audience is for this game. There are Heroes of the Storm events on both Friday and Saturday that should shed some light.
Cross Game Incentives
With the launch of the Hearthstone beta, Blizzard is pushing a new integrated launcher for all its games. Players can already communicate with friends in other games thanks to their Battle.net accounts and the company is handing out loot for games in the special editions of other games. We'd love to see more of these cross-game promotions and rewards for fans that are all-in when it comes to Blizzard.
For example, wouldn't it be great if you were rewarded for paying your monthly WoW subscription fee by receiving some amount of gold to spend in Hearthstone or a new item in Diablo 3? Plenty of other similar rewards could be created as the company continues to expand its microtransaction strategy beyond the WoW mount and pet shop. Blizzard definitely recognizes the commitment that its fans have to all the company's IPs and we believe now is the time to start rewarding players that spend their gaming time in multiple Blizzard universes.
News should start to pour in from BlizzCon as early as Friday afternoon, so be sure to check back and find out which of our predictions/hopes were the most accurate. The WoW expansion pack may be the most logical bet, but nobody will blame you for holding out hope for some Titan details. We wouldn't recommend putting money on it though...
Is there anything you're crossing your fingers to hear from Blizzard this weekend? Sound off in the comments.
Follow Denny on Twitter @The_DFC.