Blizzard Entertainment — creator of “Overwatch,” “World of Warcraft” and the “Diablo” franchise — held its annual Blizzcon this past weekend in Anaheim, California. Due to the major influence Blizzard holds in the global gaming community, the convention attracts international attention each year. Fans come to witness Blizzard update its community on the company's future plans.
Normally, Blizzcon includes new games, panels hosted by its game developers, esport tournaments and contests such as the competition for the year’s best cosplayer. It’s an event that’s meant to bring Blizzard fans from across the globe together and, normally, it does. Though with last year’s Blizzcon falling short of fan’s expectations, Blizzard’s pressure to deliver in this year’s event was palpable.
Blizzard president J. Allen Brack started this year's Blizzcon off with an apology about the “Hearthstone” controversy and stated, “We moved too quickly in our decision-making, and then, to make matters worse, we were too slow to talk with all of you.”
This apology came weeks after Blizzard banned Blitzchung — a professional “Hearthstone” player — for openly supporting the riots in Hong Kong on a Hearthstone live interview.
Blizzard announced that it’d ban Blitzchung for a year and withhold his prize money for winning the Hearthstone tournament, Blizzard’s highly popular mobile card game. This resulted in a hailstorm of negative feedback and gained the attention of a few American politicians. Blizzard ultimately decided to give Blitz his prize money and lower his ban to six months. While the new apology seemed to be taken well by some fans in the arena, Blizzard made sure to get back to the games as quickly as it could.
Weeks before the convention, rumors and leaks started swirling around regarding the announcement of “Diablo 4” and “Overwatch 2.” Those leaks proved to be true, as both games received a cinematic and gameplay trailer.
“Diablo 4,” a sequel to “Diablo 3,” is an action role-playing game set to release on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. The gameplay trailer revealed three playable classes: the Barbarian, the Sorceress and the beloved Druid. It gave fans the first look at the famous hack-and-slash combat the “Diablo” franchise is known for but mentioned no release date for the upcoming game.
Jeff Kaplan, game director of “Overwatch,” took to the stage as Blizzard released a new cinematic trailer announcing “Overwatch 2,” followed up with a gameplay trailer. This trailer showed off the new art style for the sequel, as well as a new online mode called “Push” and two new characters coming to the “Overwatch” roster. These new characters were Echo — who some fans will recognize from a previous “Overwatch” animated cinematic — and Sojourn, a never seen before “Overwatch” hero.
Kaplan reassured fans that this sequel was being made to expand upon the “Overwatch” lore that hardcore fans have been requesting. “Overwatch 2” will include story missions, player versus environment modes and, of course, its famous competitive multiplayer. Kaplan also made sure to let fans know that Blizzard isn’t abandoning the original “Overwatch.” He described both games as a “shared multiplayer environment,” and reassured fans that its progress from the first game would cross over to the next. The release date for “Overwatch 2” wasn’t confirmed in the conference.
Blizzard also announced a new expansion coming to “Hearthstone.” The “Descent of Dragons” expansion will introduce new cards and a new 8-player “Battleground” mode to the game. The open beta starts Nov. 12 and the official release date is Dec. 10.
Outside of the game announcements, Blizzcon also held esport tournaments such as the “Overwatch” World Cup. 28 teams were included in the preliminaries, but only China and the U.S. made it to the finals. The U.S. pulled off a 3-0 victory, giving the country its first “Overwatch” World Cup gold medal and providing an exhilarating ending to a conference that desperately needed it.
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