Three games this year? BlizzCon's 2012 is no more, but people shouldn't panic over the loss of the most enthusiastic fan event in gaming’s calendar, says Johnny Cullen.
If Diablo III ships in the first quarter and Heart of the Swarm mirrors Wings of Liberty’s summer release, then Mists of Pandaria could be clear for a winter ship. Blizzard is not used to releasing three games in a year.
If there's one event in the gaming calendar that shows more fanboy passion than any other, it's BlizzCon. Even if you've never been and have only watched the streams, the enthusiasm Blizzard fans have for the company’s products is immediately apparent. BlizzCon is a celebration of that enthusiasm.
"This is crap. I was planning on going this year with my best friend and boyfriend. But no. What the !@#$ Blizz. Just feels like a big %^-* you to all of us who love these games so much," said one fan.
Another added: "No Blizzcon? Awful, awful idea."
Blizzard justified the cancellation with the following statement: "We’re excited to be showcasing Blizzard eSports on a truly global stage this year. We're also heavily focused on getting Diablo III, Mists of Pandaria, and Heart of the Swarm into players’ hands as soon as possible. In light of our jam-packed schedule, we’ve decided to hold the next BlizzCon in 2013."
The cancellation itself doesn't seem to be specifically caused by an overload in development. After all, it's had at least three of its products shown and playable to the public and press at every BlizzCon since 2008.
It’s more likely Blizzard is aiming to release three products in 2012, a unique situation for the company. It’s been said countless times on financial calls that Blizzard is expecting to release two products this calendar year.
Diablo III will launch at some point this year, most likely in February or March.
It’s not clear which other game Blizzard is officially aiming to have out before the end of 2012. The possibilities are World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Pandaria and the second part of the StarCraft II trilogy, Heart of the Swarm.
This isn’t the first time in recent years Blizzard’s achieved more than one release in a 12-month period. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm both shipped in 2010, a year which saw a BlizzCon hosted in California.
This year, though, could be different. If Diablo III ships in the first quarter and Heart of the Swarm mirrors Wings of Liberty’s summer release, then Mists of Pandaria could
be clear for a winter ship. Blizzard is not used to releasing three games in a year.
Aside from that, the expected announcement of Titan, the company's next-gen MMO, may well have been the straw that broke BlizzCon 2012’s back. Blizzard VP Rob Pardo said at BlizzCon two years ago that a reveal couldn’t happen before 2012.
The cancellation of BlizzCon this year is indicative of a company that has too much to do, and may show that focus within Activision Blizzard is shifting towards Blizzard as Call of Duty inevitably peaks. Don’t worry. It’ll be back next year.
It may well be that the prospect of releasing three games and announcing a major project in a single year was too much for Blizzard. Something had to give; the something was BlizzCon.
Keep calm and carry on
The one shiftable element of the four Blizzard potentially intended to tackle this year is the Titan reveal. It’s likely the cancellation of BlizzCon indicates we won’t see the game until 2013.
Blizzard did hold Worldwide Invitationals in Seoul and Paris to announce StarCraft II and Diablo III in the past five years, but it’s unlikely Morhaime and friends wouldn’t want to first show what is essentially World of Warcraft’s follow-up anywhere else but California.
And even if Blizzard do “only” release two games this year and don’t announce Titan, there's no reason to panic over the lack of a BlizzCon in 2012. This has happened before. There was no BlizzCon in 2006 as, following the inaugural show, Blizzard didn't intend to keep it "as an annual event."
It came back the following year and repeated for the next five.
The cancellation of BlizzCon this year is indicative of a company that has too much to do, and may show that focus within Activision Blizzard is shifting towards Blizzard as Call of Duty inevitably peaks.
Don’t worry. It’ll be back next year.