Warcraft veterans clamoring for that classic RTS experience might get a pleasant surprise at next month's BlizzCon event, if a recent update to Blizzard Entertainment's Battle.Net launcher is any indication. A background image and icons for Warcraft III and its expansion The Frozen Throne have been discovered in the same application that launches Blizzard's current games like World of Warcraft, Hearthstone and Diablo III.
The Irvine, CA-based developer actually announced that it was working on updating Warcraft III for modern PCs at BlizzCon 2013, so it appears that this side project may be finally coming to fruition just in time for a potential near-future announcement.
To be clear, the game is simply being updated to run on modern operating systems. Significant improvements to the graphics or other major upgrades are not expected. On that note it will be interesting to learn what Blizzard charges, if anything, for this 12 year old game.
Warcraft III and its expansion The Frozen Throne are available for $9.99 each through the Battle.net store alongside other older titles like Diablo II and the original StarCraft. But Blizzard does have a history of giving some of its older titles away for free. '90s classics The Lost Vikings and Rock 'N Roll Racing can be downloaded for free from your Battle.net account page.
No one will know for sure what's up until Blizzard is good and ready, but it's hard not to speculate about what this could mean for the future. Blizzard recently announced that its next-gen MMO Titan was officially canceled. Company executives said that games like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm have proven that not every title requires a team of hundreds of people to be successful. Also consider that there are a lot of Blizzard fans today who only discovered the company through World of Warcraft in 2004 or later.
Could Blizzard be thinking about giving away one of its most beloved titles for free (or at least, on the cheap) to gauge interest in a Warcraft 4? Could it be a platform to launch other products, content or expansions? The company has never ruled out the possibility of returning the Warcraft series to its RTS roots, but has stated that it preferred to progress the franchise's story through its flagship MMO. It would make sense though with Titan now off the table if the company has circled back to reconsider and take advantage of the pre-established brand.
Releasing Warcraft 4 would be tricky from a lore perspective of course. World of Warcraft picked up where Warcraft III left off and the face of Azeroth has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Blizzard probably wouldn't want to split the story line between two different games, but it would be fun to see what they come up with.
If there's any justice in the world, all of this speculation will hopefully end November 7 at BlizzCon 2014.