BlizzCon 2014 predictions: A somewhat educated guess

So, BlizzCon is almost here, with all the goodies that it entails.  It’s interesting seeing how it’s grown since I first started watching in 2010 (never while actually at the convention, though; I’m just too poor and also a college student), from covering three game series up to five (possibly more!) this year.  And with another year comes another wave of announcements of future titles, expansions, and other such things.

Just for fun, I’m going to make some guesses as to what we’ll see this Friday and Saturday, and then we’ll see how right I was afterwards.  This is all speculation, but I’d say it’s educated speculation, taken from knowledge of Blizzard’s past releases, the BlizzCon schedule, and good ol’ gut intuition.

What awaits us this year?

World of Warcraft

It’s pretty likely that without WoW, there really wouldn’t be a BlizzCon.  The first was held in 2005, less than a year after the game’s launch, and it’s been a staple of every BlizzCon since.  Expansions have always been announced at BlizzCon, and there’s always lots of info on the game thanks to numerous developer panels.  Here’s what I think we’ll see.

A new expansion announcement:  ~35% chance

This would be the biggest thing that could be announced WoW-related, but there’s a big maybe here, hence why I think it has only slight odds.  The general pattern of BlizzCons past was to announce an expansion every two cons, with the con right before the expansion launched used to detail further things related to the upcoming expansion.  As an example, Cataclysm was announced in 2009’s BlizzCon, while 2010 was used to elaborate on future plans for Cata; in 2011, we got Mists announced, while 2012 (if it had had a con) would have gone over the later expansion material, leading up to 2013’s announcement of Warlords.

So judging from that pattern, it wouldn’t make sense to announce an expansion this year, right?  Talk about what’s coming up in Warlords, sure, but leave the next expansion announcement for 2015.  The thing is, Blizzard has said time and again that they’d like to release expansions more quickly; supposedly, this has been a desire from the get-go, but it’s come up more frequently in recent months.  There’s also the notion that Warlords might only have two raid tiers, as opposed to the three or more that other expansions have contained, which might point to their hope to get the next expansion out in a year and a half or sooner.  If they’re really shooting for a release sooner than fall of 2016 for expansion 6, and they don’t want to buck the trend of announcing expansions exclusively at BlizzCon, it’ll have to be this year; next year would be far too close to the release.

There’s also the recently-filed trademark for “Eye of Azshara.”  I know this is bringing back memories of The Dark Below, but I would be remiss in not mentioning it here.  Obviously, Azshara is one of the last big bads that we have yet to deal with, and people have been wondering if we might get a South Seas expansion sometime soon.  Cata opened up a lot of plotlines regarding the naga, Neptulon, the Old Gods, the Zandalari, and the Twilight’s Hammer; many of these forces are still at large, their stories unresolved.  The only clue we have to whether this is legitimate is developer comments that the story of Warlords would lead directly into the next expansion.  Some have suggested that this means a Legion expansion is around the corner, while others have pointed out that if Azeroth’s most powerful heroes are stuck on Draenor for a while, Azshara could make a move against those who remain behind.  It’s up in the air!

The problem is, a new expansion announcement just days before the next expansion drops could deflate the hype for Warlords.  Why get excited about stopping the Iron Horde when there’s another big bad to beat up in the future?  And it’s not like Blizzard necessarily has a problem with announcing things at other events; Hearthstone was announced at a panel at PAX, and the Warlords cinematic and release date were revealed at a special event.  Adding to this, the area allotted for WoW to be played on the convention floor is pretty small; it’s only about the size of the Hearthstone area, and about half as big as the Heroes of the Storm area.  Still, it would be weird to have an expansion announced somewhere that’s not BlizzCon.  Thus, I think there’s a small chance that it will be announced this year; if Warlords is going to last longer than they’re thinking, they’ll save it for next year.

Future Warlords plans:  100% chance

I mean, this is a no-brainer.  We’ll likely get a look at what they have planned for the next (final?) raid tier, as well as what to expect from future patch content, Tanaan especially.  What I’m most curious about is if Farahlon will make an appearance; it was obviously in development earlier in the beta cycle (visible on the datamined minimap images), but it’s been conspicuously absent from the world map.  Apparently it was always meant to be patch content, but the devs have been cagey as to whether it will actually show up in this expansion or another future Draenor expansion.  I really hope it makes it in, as I think it would be a nice place to check out.

I’d also expect to see new dungeons announced to allay fears that we’re only getting eight and that’s it.  With scenarios gone as a max-level small-group activity, dungeons are our only content in that regard; I hope they’ve taken feedback to heart that we want more of ’em.  Everything else is up in the air, I think!

Substantial Warcraft movie info:  85% chance

Just like last year, there’s gonna be another panel on the (at last) upcoming Warcraft movie.  This time, though, I’m fairly sure there’ll be a lot more info on the film, scheduled to be released March 11, 2016.  Filming finished in May, and there’s a lot of post-production work before release (it’s a big Hollywood fantasy movie, of course there is).  Here’s hoping we can get a sneak peek at some of the footage, though I’m not holding my breath.  Still, the description does say it’ll be “packed with surprises,” so who knows?  I think a trailer is pretty likely, though we may still be stuck with the teaser variety.  At the very least, Duncan Jones will be back to talk more about the film, which I have pretty good hopes for; I loved his past movies, Moon especially (Source Code was alright but the ending felt like a suit said it needed to end happy), and he’s admitted to being a Warcraft fan for years.  Fingers crossed!

Warcraft 4 announcement:  ~5% chance

I mean, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t bring it up, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.  WoW just makes the existence of an RTS with a parallel story difficult.  I wouldn’t say never per se, but it’s pretty unlikely right now.

Starcraft 2

Since Warcraft is unlikely to make an RTS return anytime soon, that leaves Starcraft 2 as Blizzard’s only RTS series.  I still remember getting excited about its announcement way back when, and I do still put in some time with it for shits and gigs (the ladder scares me though).  What’s new this year?

Legacy of the Void announcement:  100% chance

I’m confident enough in this one to wager on its certainty.  Heart of the Swarm came out in early 2013, just under three years after Wings of Liberty; it was announced at BlizzCon 2011, splitting the difference between the last title’s release and the next one’s.  Considering it’s been a year and a half (plus change) since HotS came out, we’re due for the announcement of Legacy of the Void (granted, we’ve known what it’s gonna be called for years now, so it’s not really an announcement so much as it is a confirmation that it’s almost here).  Adding to this, we also have a large area dedicated to trying out Starcraft 2 (again, larger than the WoW area), and the SC2 BlizzCon reward decals include a decal of Artanis (fitting for a Protoss-themed expansion) and a mystery decal; while the mystery decal could be anything, it’s probably related to LotV. a decal of a new Protoss character called Matriarch Vorazun.  That about guarantees LotV announcement.

We’re likely gonna get some info on the story of the campaign, a look at some new units, and maybe other interesting features.  As the final planned expansion to SC2, this will likely end up being the most-played variant of its rules in the years to come, so there’s definitely impetus to get it right!  I’ll be looking forward to it.

Other than that, there’s the world finals of the tournament, but there’s nothing really to predict there.  A Korean will win, there, there’s your prediction.

Starcraft: Ghost:  0% chance

Sorry.

Diablo 3

The third entry in the dungeon-crawling series has certainly had its share of controversies, mostly tied to the real-money auction house.  The game’s first expansion, Reaper of Souls, was released earlier this year, and was received fairly positively, making the game a bit more fun by removing the considerations that had been put in thanks to the auction houses (which were also removed).  What’s next in Sanctuary?

Another expansion announcement:  ~10% chance

Considering we didn’t hear about RoS until Gamescom in August of 2013, only seven months before its release, I have doubts we’re gonna see another expansion announced this year.  It’s just too soon to unveil what they have planned next (or if there even is another expansion; then again, Blizzard has been liking to do everything in threes, so who knows).

Instead, expect new game systems and such, new ways to play the game.  Kind of boring, but hey, they’ve only got two panels scheduled!  What else are they gonna talk about?

Hearthstone

Still something of an oddity from Blizzard, as the company known for giant, bombastic games unveiled that their next game was…a card game.  That game has proven tremendously popular in the months and years that followed, with millions of players throwing down TAZ’DINGOs and such.  The game launched its first solo Adventure earlier this year, and they’re definitely not finished with adding more stuff yet.  So what’s on the Innkeeper’s table this year?

First major expansion announcement:  95% chance

Another one that’s close to certain considering recent events.  Developers have gone on record about the next expansion, in that it will have roughly 100 cards from its own booster pack.  Several community members received promotional blueprints mentioning plans for BlizzCon, hinting that it will have an engineering theme.  This month’s ranked play card back is goblin-themed as well.

There’s also that “Eye of Azshara” trademark.  As I mentioned, this could easily point to a WoW expansion, but others have noted that the WoW zone Azshara is the home to the Bilgewater goblins, who created an entire city right in the middle of the bay.  Considering the presence of naga, night elf ruins, and other shenanigans, there’s a lot of possibilities for cards from that idea!  We’ll see on Friday, but expect an announcement nonetheless.

Announcement of another Adventure:  ~50% chance

Curse of Naxxramas was definitely a success, giving players a fun (and sometimes frustrating) challenge to work through in search of new cards.  Might we see another announced at BlizzCon?  I think there’s a fair chance of it, but I’m hedging my bets here; the expansion announcement might take up a lot of time.

New game modes:  ~30% chance

I would personally really like to see some sort of cooperative mode, in which you team up with a few friends and tackle a raid of AI bosses together.  It could make for an interesting challenge, but I imagine there’d be a good deal of design work to pull something like that off.  We’ll see!

Another class:  ~10% chance

While DKs and monks could feasibly be added, I don’t think the team is working on them yet.  Better to save that for later.  I do hope they add in more choices for heroes; at the very least, an Alliance counterpart for Horde heroes and vice versa.

Android/phone release dates:  ~25% chance

They’ve mentioned wanting to get the Android tablet version out by the end of this year, and Android phone/iPhone versions out early next year.  We might get something specific on that front, we might not!

Heroes of the Storm

Blizzard’s answer to the dota genre was long in development, and it underwent a couple name revisions (Blizzard DOTA, Blizzard All-Stars) before they settled on Heroes of the Storm, which unfortunately had the same acronym as Heart of the Swarm.  Nevertheless, the game, currently in alpha testing, has made some interesting changeups to the traditional formula, creating (in my opinion) a more fun game than its predecessors.  It’s the most recent game of the bunch to have a BlizzCon presence, as well as having one early in its development.  What should we expect?

New heroes/maps:  95% chance

While they announce heroes whenever, I feel like some particularly noteworthy ones will probably get announced here.  I’d also expect to see new arenas, and possibly some new gametypes as well.  It could still be a bit early in its development, but hey, you never know.  As to other things, I honestly couldn’t say!  I don’t really know what else could get announced.

A release date:  ~5% chance

C’mon, it’s Blizzard.  It’ll be done Soon™.

Other stuff

Here’s where things get interesting.  If you look on the schedule, there are noticeable gaps in the programming; both stages have nothing scheduled right after the opening ceremony on Friday, and there’s gaps on the main stage on Saturday morning and early evening (EDIT:  The evening gap on Saturday has been filled by the premiere of a documentary covering WoW’s decade of existence.).  Couple that with a trademark filing from earlier this year (and an updated one from just this past week), and it’s pretty obvious what’s going there.

ROCK ‘N ROLL RACING SEQUEL.

Okay, no, seriously.

Overwatch announcement:  90% chance

Blizzard’s had openings for an “unannounced title” on their jobs page for a while now, and they’ve been filing trademarks for Overwatch this year.  Stands to reason that that’s what it’s going to be used on, but we know little about the title.  They’re really quite good at keeping secrets!  Still, it sounds like a sci-fi game, almost certainly unrelated to their existing IPs.  I have a pretty good feeling we’ll see it announced this year, bringing us up to six games to talk about at BlizzCon.  They’re gonna need to start expanding to three days!

Titan announcement:  0% chance

As much as we were all really looking forward to this for like five or six years now, I’m completely positive that their announcement that development was canned was legitimate.  It’s a shame, the game did sound somewhat cool, if the rumors about its content were to be believed.  Although Titan might be dead, it would be neat if they could share some of the things that came about from its development; I’m sure there’s some nice concept art that got produced.

A completely out-of-nowhere announcement:  ~5% chance

I don’t THINK there’s anything else that’s getting announced, but you never know.  Always good to put a tiny bit of hope in!


So there you have it, my predictions for what we’ll see this year.  How many will I get right?  I guess just hang on until Sunday, where I’ll try and summarize the biggest things, and go over my list to figure out what I got right and wrong.

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