Blizzcon is Upon Us: WoW Legion’s Launch Date, Predictions, et al

Blizzcon’s opening ceremony kicks off in exactly 4 hours from now, and I’m going to squeeze in here and drop a few predictions as well as what I hope to see announced.

World of Warcraft: Legion

First, I have to address the gorilla in the room: Legion’s launch date. Check out the marketing collateral below and pay attention to the fine print at the bottom (click to enlarge):

[su_lightbox type=”image” src=”https://www.keenandgraev.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/wow-legion-perks.jpg” class=”pointer”]wow-legion-perks[/su_lightbox]

Legion will release on or before September 21, 2016. There are a few ways to interpret this information.

  1. The people convinced this is the release date and are cancelling their subscriptions because they won’t do HFC for 10 more months.
  2. The “I knew there was a reason to hide subscription numbers!” group (who likely do not play)
  3. People who look at WoD coming out a month before its drop dead date who now think August is the date.
  4. The people who think this really doesn’t mean a whole lot / will happily play WoD / don’t care.

I personally think this is their drop dead date and that they will release sooner. I’m also pretty sure they’re going to giving Overwatch a very nice window. I’m predicting April 2016. I think that’s a nice 5-6 month window for them to hold a beta and finish up. I’m on the bleeding edge of extremes here, I know. The likely release date probably IS September 2016.

Overwatch

We’ll get a release date. They’ll talk about the cost of the game, some business model plans, etc. Lots, and lots, and lots of hype. The more I think about how badly they want to hype Overwatch, the more I think we’ll see Overwatch in April, and Legion in August-September.

Starcraft

I’m not expecting any announcements for Starcraft’s current projects. I think Legacy of the Void coming out is a big enough deal that they won’t overshadow it with anything else in the SC2 universe. However, I want to see announcements regarding a modernized version of the original Starcraft and Broodwar being brought to the SC2 engine — with multiplayer — by 2017.

Diablo

I’m actually expecting nothing for Diablo except for a similar announcement about Diablo and Diablo 2 (plus expansions, minus Hellfire) being modernized to the D3 engine and coming out as full games — with multiplayer — by 2017 as well.

Classic Games

I’ll continue in the same vein and say that I hope a nice part of the opening ceremony will hype their revival of the ‘classics’ and for them to official come out and state that they are working on these revitalization projects. The job listings are there for these projects already, it’s just time to make it official. I truly hope to see Warcrafts 1-3 being a big part of this project.

Hearthstone

Cards? (And probably a huge emphasis since this game prints money)

Heroes of the Storm

More heroes and stuff. I will be shocked if HotS gets much if any time in the opening ceremony.

Warcraft 4’s Announcement

Yes, I look forward to Warcraft 4’s announcement every single year. I hold my breath, I get disappointed, and I come back next year to do it all again. I really do think they could build off the hype of Legion and a Warcraft 3 revival to announce Warcraft 4 coming in 2018 or something.

Console and Tablet Announcements

We know that Overwatch is coming to consoles. I think this is a big market for them. Now, as far as tablets go, I think we won’t hear a thing. They kept Hearthstone — their juggernaut F2P — completely nonchalant when it came to iOS releases. I doubt we see much pomp and circumstance over tablets.

A Big Year for Blizzard

Blizzard can go big this year in ways they haven’t been able or willing to in the past few years. With Overwatch, classic revivals, and a strong expansion on their list it’s entirely their game to lose right now. This Blizzcon can set the pace for the next three years without even breaking a sweat. Let’s see what happens!

  • I’ve seen people putting a lot of stock in the fact that the marketing material says “on or before” September 21, 2016. And it is true that WoD initially said, “on or before” December 20, then came out in mid-November. But coming out a few weeks before September 21 put them in August, a traditional dead month for releases.

    I have seen people pitching a launch coincident with the Warcraft movie in June. On the surface that seems like a good idea, but if think about it for a bit, you have to ask yourself if Blizz wants the big screen ad for its game to come out just when the servers are jammed and people can’t get on because of the new expansion.

    Honestly, if it weren’t for the whole “half our subscribers left” problem, September would seem like a reasonable time to launch. I expect some other mitigating factor to come in to keep the remaining subscribers invested, something beyond the early access to demon hunters, which will likely only show up when WoW 7.0 drops ~4 weeks before the expansion hits.

    We’ll see. Project timelines often hinge on unlikely things.

  • Great point about the movie. I think they’ll use it to their advantage. It’ll either be before, or a ways after. I do not see it happening when the servers are jammed and people can barely log in to play.

    As for August being a dead month, I don’t know if there could ever be such a thing as ‘dead’ months for a WoW launch. And maybe an August launch makes sense then if they can get Overwatch out early 2016.

    We’ll see what happens. If they don’t go big right now and help their current subs, people will simply quit until Legion. If you believe in the gospel I’ve been pushing, Blizzard kinda doesn’t care. They don’t mind if people take a break from WoW… as long as they go play Hearthstone, HotS, or Overwatch. That’s why I see Overwatch in April, Legion in September, and a lot more revenue per player getting those WoW subs to invest in some cards or guns or whatever Overwatch monetizes.

  • Well preorders for Overwatch and Legion are live

    I wonder how many people are on the Hearthstone team. Every time they announce a new thing it comes out like the next week.

  • So, nothing for D3. I’m a sad panda, not even a mention. I guess they just want to keep that cash on the table for some time when they run out of other areas to milk. This is 2 years without any real D3 news at Blizzcon. Hearthstone is an easy money maker to develop for of course that got a new release this year. Overwatch next year spring, expected, considering closed beta started. HotS will continue this development/release cycle consistantly for years to come just like Hearthstone.

    Legion will “flash” in the pan during a dead summer and will rule the web for a few months until a new game comes out.

    There is supposed to be a dev session on D3 later today, we’ll see how that goes. My guess is season 5 will be a light update compared to 4 but season 6 will have some cool new features. I would hate to have to answer the open mic questions about the lag/botters/flavor of the month though.

  • @Yotor

    If memory serves correctly Mike alluded to a “big” patch for D3. What that entails I have no idea. It’s not surprising that D3 was not going to get anything this Con as they only had the one panel compared to the other games.

  • I thought I had seen something already where a CM or Dev clarified that the updates for Diablo 1 and 2 was simply proper handling of higher resolutions.

  • @Whorhay: The job description states these responsibilities:

    RESPONSIBILITIES
    Make gameplay first again on modern operating systems.
    Create conditions for experiences that look as good as they play.
    Own implementation and curation of features new and old.
    Combat hacking to improve multiplayer.
    Diagnose and fix all the things: crashes, deadlocks, overflows, heap corruptions, etc.

    Seems a little bit more than higher resolutions.

    @Krig: It’s a priority. No question about that. Revenue per player. That’s their model right now.

  • Overhype is the unofficial name for it. If you get into the beta, it’s a very average experience that’s definitely lacking the ‘blizzard touch’ as some call it. Some of that is due to a new IP, but it feels like they’re working with the goal of ‘hey, we’re better than an 8 year old team-shooter!’ instead of ‘we’re going to be the best team shooter’.

    How many will shell out $40-60 to play it? A lot, it is a blizzard game after all.

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