We never like to bring bad news to serious game fans, but the latest flood of news out of PC giant Blizzard could be seen as either a disappointment or a pleasant surprise. We all know that the development team is hard at work on Diablo 3, and directly or indirectly, Blizzard has revealed that it's unlikely that their next expansion, StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm will be released before next year. This cloud has a silver lining though, as Blizzard has also announced that if Diablo 3 also fails to launch by the end of 2011, then the publisher will be unveiling "a minimum" of two properties next year.
We had reported earlier that Blizzard may have accidentally let slip an apparent launch date for Heart of the Swarm for January 2012. We all know how much time the developers like to spend ironing out all the details, so the expansion being locked into the new year may have been unavoidable.
According to Eurogamer, Blizzard is doing what they can to get the next third of StarCraft 2's story into the hands of fans, but even with their best efforts a 2011 launch is seeming less and less likely.
When StarCraft 2's game director Dustin Browder was asked if the expansion would be released by 2012, his words likely weren't what fans were hoping to hear:
"I don't know the answer to that...We're working on it as hard as we can. We're really trying to push on this and get it out as soon as we can...I don't think you'll be playing it this year. That seems very unlikely to me. But we're pounding away on it as fast as we possibly can."
It's unlikely that fans were expecting anything but Blizzard's best efforts for the upcoming expansion, and the look at the Zerg's new unit is a sign that they have plenty in store for fans. We were more than satisfied with SC2, considering it the best multiplayer title of the past year. If the ending cinematic for Heart of the Swarm that leaked a few months ago turns out to be true, then Blizzard will be carrying some serious momentum into the second expansion.
Diablo 3 and Heart of the Swarm are both in our list of most anticipated titles for 2011, so it goes without saying that we would be more than disappointed to see them both delayed. Blizzard is currently "hoping" that they'll be able to make Diablo 3 into the game they want it to be in time for a 2011 release, which in itself is neither surprising nor a relief.
It may turn out to be a blessing in disguise though, when placed alongside comments made during an investor call last week.
Having to give the news that the publisher may end up releasing absolutely nothing this year is never a welcome task, but Activision-Blizzard CFO Thomas Tippl gave a few details to calm their investors. Namely, that if no new games were released this year, Blizzard would be releasing "a minimum" of two titles in 2012.
If Diablo 3 and the StarCraft 2 expansion didn't make it to stores this year, then they would obviously be two of the implied titles. So what would the third be? If Blizzard's leaked projections are to be believed, the only game that could reasonably be ready for launch would be in the World of Warcraft universe, but with no news from Blizzard on the matter we're left scratching our heads.
We can only hope that Blizzard manages to do the impossible, but it's seeming more and more likely that we'll have to look forward to playing Diablo 3, StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, and an unknown property sometime in 2012.