Blizzard announced that Blizzcon for 2012 has been cancelled. They are citing the reason behind the decision as being determined to focus on their game development. I hear that reason and appreciate the concern for their development process, but Blizzard is not exactly known for being a stickler for timelines. I believe there is more to this announcement and I think it might be complex, but good news.
While Blizzcon doesn’t require the devs and programmers are responsible for the bulk of the work being done on the games to be present at Blizzcon, it does chew up resources over the year developing demos and other assets to show off. Blizzcon is a marketing venue for Blizzard products as much as it a gathering for the fans. It is where big reveals are done in serious Blizzard style. If there are no big reveals in that time frame, it just becomes a Blizzard fan event and a rehash of products already out there. A giant booth at another trade show can meet that goal.
The most likely product that should have been announced this year would be the third StarCraft 2 box. We all already know it is coming, and at this point they are over a half year late with the second one. I appreciated StarCraft 2 and played some of the single player, but for me it really was a disappointment and I am not sure this tiered release for the game is going to pay off the way Blizzard anticipated. Many of my hardcore StarCraft 1 friends did not stick with StarCraft 2.
The next World of Warcraft Expansion was already announced at the last Blizzcon in October 2011. The upcoming holiday season would be the most likely release date for that expansion so Blizzard will hopefully be in a pseudo crunch mode wrapping that up. If not the last expansion, I suspect it may be close to it. Blizzard has addressed most of the lore questions surrounding this time period and have fleshed out almost the whole map. Obviously Everquest is still running and getting expansions but Blizzard has at least two other MMO’s currently in development and they are very particular about their stories and lore so I think WoW may have a more finite lifespan than some other MMO’s. The money machine is also slowing down, as ever so slowly, the active accounts for WoW are beginning to shrink. Certainly nothing to look down upon with 8 years of service under it’s belt and still around 10 million subscribers.
Looking towards Diablo III is where I think things start to get interesting. We know it has been recently announced that some core systems in the game are being revamped. While it seems late in the game to be doing that, Blizzard managed to make sweeping changes on a similar scale while WoW was already in place. And often those announcements come after the changes have already been implemented and verified to be successful. Assuming that Diablo III hits this spring or very early summer, supporting the new real money marketplace model and traffic increase on Battle.net that they anticipate for Diablo III could really consume a large amount of resources. Where there is a new Blizzard product, an expansion announcement is not too far behind. With E3, the Tokyo Game Show and two PAX conventions each year, again the opportunities are there without the expense of their own show dedicated to a singular announcement.
Lastly we have the recent job posting for someone with experience implementing Ad content into what appears to be an MMO. Blizzards most likely next mmo, codenamed “Titan”, is scheduled to launch in 2013 per a leaked roadmap. I suspect that with so many games going to Free to Play with Microtransactions or subscriptions for premium content that Blizzard may be heading in that direction with Titan. the success of the vanity items in WoW from mounts to pets, suggests to me that we could be soon sinking our teeth our into some casual MMO hybrid in the next 18 months. that leave Blizzcon 2013 for the first Diablo III Expansion, the Titan first public hands on, and the reveal of the next WoW expansion. Am I crazy?