blizzcon 2016

World of Warcraft kicks off Patch 7.3 prologue scenario, outlines content rollout

No, World of Warcraft’s highly anticipated Patch 7.3 hasn’t arrived quite yet, but the MMO has started moving things in that direction. A new prologue scenario, Whispers of a Frightened World, has gone live on the servers, giving players a taste of what is to come.

When Patch 7.3 goes live, we will know a rough schedule of how Blizzard is preparing to handle its multi-phase rollout. Right now, the studio is testing the three stages of the patch deployment, including when certain zones on Argus, invasion points, and instances will unlock. So as with several of the MMO’s previous patches, just don’t expect to get everything all on the release date.

Finally, sharp eyes have spotted Jaina representing World of Warcraft on this year’s BlizzCon key art. Does this herald expansion news or is it just a beloved figure getting her 15 minutes of fame? You decide.

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Analyst Michael Pachter’s Overwatch League skepticism and other business tidbits

Everyone’s favorite gaming industry analyst Michael Pachter announced that his firm Wedbush is “skeptical that the Overwatch League will achieve much success,” noting that Blizzard’s multiplayer online shooter is “difficult to watch,” too expensive to buy, and unapproachable compared to other games. It gets worse: He also argues that “investors are overly optimistic” given the huge expense for running teams in a league like this one, the fact that Amazon got to Twitch first, and the likelihood that Blizzard will eventually collide with antitrust law (and the lack of relevant international law).

“The major sports leagues in the US are allowed to ‘collude’ with one another to some extent in order to limit player salaries; it is not clear that OWL will be subject to such an exemption, suggesting to us that a determined owner with a large pocketbook may be able to capture the world’s best players by guaranteeing large salaries.”

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Blizzard is offering a third round of BlizzCon tickets, so don’t despair (yet)

Did you miss out on your last attempt at snagging BlizzCon 2017 tickets? Of course you did. Those things sell out faster than unicorn frappes (although not as fast as tickets to hunt Pokemon in a Chicago park, apparently). Anyway, the point is, you’re getting a third chance, coming at you on July 5th at 10 p.m. EDT.

“This third ticket sale will once again be hosted by Universe.com, and tickets are priced at $199 each (plus applicable taxes and fees),” says Blizz. “Until recently, we weren’t sure if the new hall at the Anaheim Convention Center would be ready in time for BlizzCon. Once we confirmed it would be, we worked quickly to determine how we’d use the space and how many more people we could accommodate while preserving the awesomeness of the BlizzCon experience.”

BlizzCon this year takes place on November 3rd and 4th.

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Diablo III’s Rise of the Necromancer launches June 27 for $14.99

Blizzard has just announced that the BlizzCon-announced Rise of the Necromancer pack is launching for Diablo III on all platforms next week on June 27th. It’ll run $14.99 on both PC and console, a bit cheaper than some folks were anticipating.

“From the crypts deep beneath Blizzard Entertainment today came a dark invocation proclaiming that the Rise of the Necromancer™ pack, which summons the much-anticipated necromancer class into Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, will be unleashed June 27 – available to those in the living realm digitally in-game on PC or through the online Blizzard Shop, PlayStation Store, and Xbox One Store.”

As previously leaked by the ESRB, the game package includes an in-game pet, cosmetic wings, two extra character slots, two new stash tabs on PC only, plus the Necro portrait, banner, sigil, and accent, and pennant.

And also as leaked by the ESRB, console players can grab a base-game-plus-expansion bundle Blizz is calling the Diablo III: Eternal Collection “at a special introductory price of $39.99.”

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Take a look at Diablo III’s Necromancer class cinematic intro video

Ever since last year’s BlizzCon when Blizzard announced the Rise of the Necromancer pack for Diablo III, we’ve known the classic class was coming to the game. In fact, we’ve been watching it through the beta all spring. We still don’t know when it’s launching or how much it’ll cost (although we do know the pack won’t be free — the vast majority our readers guess it’ll be in the $10-$20 range, but we’ll see).

But today, we do get a glimpse into the marketing side of things as Blizzard has released the cinematic intro video for the male Necro. Enjoy!

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World of Warcraft broadcasts arena cup e-sports tourney today, sells second batch of BlizzCon tix

At 2:00 p.m. EDT today, World of Warcraft players looking to test their mettle in PvP will be clashing in the game’s first arena cup of 2017. Yep, WoW e-sports. The cup will be broadcast live and involves eight teams duking it out for cash prizes and the ability to move forward in the tournament. The final arena cup will take place this November at BlizzCon. Watch below!

Speaking of BlizzCon, your second and final opportunity to nab tickets to the two-day convention takes place at 1:00 p.m. EDT, so don’t be tardy! Make sure to create a BlizzCon account ahead of time so that you can quickly enter your info to buy up to four of the $200 tickets the second they go on sale.

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Good luck getting your BlizzCon tickets today

Just a heads up if you were going to try your hand at snagging a ticket to this November’s BlizzCon, as your first of two chances will take place tonight. At 10:00 p.m. EDT, Blizzard is going to put the first batch of tickets on sale through the BlizzCon website, and if past years are any indication, you’ll have scant nanoseconds to grab yours before they’re all gone.

The tickets are $200 apiece and include admission, a goody bag, in-game items, and a virtual ticket (for a friend, we suppose?). If you’re going to make a play for up to four of these tickets, you’ll want to have your account set up and ready to make that lightning-fast entry into the web form.

The second and final round of tickets will go on sale this Saturday at 1:00 p.m. EDT in the same manner. Good luck!

Source: BlizzCon

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Analysts peg Overwatch League at a potential $100 million in its first year

One of the big announcements from last year’s BlizzCon was the addition of the new Overwatch League, a project Blizzard is using to help push competitive gaming and branding with a dedicated e-sports organization. It’s still a little early to say how successful it’s going to be, but analyst predictions have it pegged as a potential moneymaker of $100 million in its first year. That’s a lot of money for something where the game is already being made and balanced.

The prediction was made by investment management firm Morgan Stanley and outlines several potential futures, with the $100 million figure requiring about 72,000 regular viewers during the season. Morgan Stanley also predicts that much will depend on the future of e-sports as a viable market, depending on whether competitve gaming turns out to have a broad appeal or fails to connect with a larger paying audience.

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Blizzard is considering WoW competitive raiding e-sports again

If you were annoyed by the apparent subsumption of World of Warcraft art and lore panels by other games’ e-sports at last year’s BlizzCon, prepare to keep on being annoyed: A new interview on PCGamesN suggests that Blizzard is very much not giving up on e-sports for WoW.

In fact, Blizzard E-Sports Director Kim Phan told the publication that the studio sees “an opportunity” in renewed attention on the 2004 MMO and its competitive raiding scene, which as PCGamesN points out seems a belated reaction, given how many raiding guilds have already signed off from the current meta over the grind.

How might Blizz approach this? Says Phan,

“We’ve been doing the live raid races for a long time, just to see which team can do it better – that’s still competitive. It’s not your traditional eSports where it’s two teams head to head, the dungeon races is another one. Even though you’re not going head to head with another player, I think that’s exciting to see. […] We have experimented last year and we’re going to continue to experiment this year. Now, whether or not we make it a big program with prize money and all of that stuff – I don’t think that’s the only thing that defines eSports anymore. For me, eSports is just being able to watch to see who the best is at something.”

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The Elysium WoW emulator community is in total meltdown

The Elysium World of Warcraft private server community is in total meltdown, so popcorn at the ready.

Most MMORPG players would probably have never heard of Elysium but for Nostalrius, the WoW emulator that was C&D’d by Blizzard last year and then went on to agitate for official vanilla servers, blowing its momentum after BlizzCon by handing its source code and characters over to Elysium to run from the Ukraine, only to then change its mind last month and ask for the code back.

Elysium agreed to Nostalrius’ requests, but things have gone south for its own game this past week when an emu YouTuber and concomitant agitators accused the top echelons of the Elysium team of everything from manipulating loot tables and unbanning hackers for under-the-table cash to participating in Chinese gold selling and botting schemes and being shadow-run by (former) network partner Crestfall. They probably also did Watergate, I don’t know.

(Incidentally, Crestfall has already cut ties with Elysium as of this afternoon, citing “strong evidence of corruption in high-ranking members of [Elysium’s] staff.”)

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WoW emu Elysium suffers serious ‘database compromise’

One of the downsides of grey-market game emulators for the end-user is that security isn’t always a priority. Case in point? Elysium suffered a database compromise yesterday.

Elysium, you’ll recall, is one of many illegal overseas World of Warcraft emulators, this one in the news of late particularly because the infamous Nostalrius server code and characters were rehomed there following the Nostalrius meltdown after BlizzCon. More recently, Elysium agreed to remove all traces of Nostalrius following the latter group’s expressed desire to put its days of piracy behind it and embrace more legitimate legacy WoW community activism.

Elysium’s devs pulled the game and the official website last night, citing a gold hacking incicent on one of the PvP servers.

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Nostalrius has decided handing its WoW emu code to Elysium wasn’t such a good idea after all

So here’s a twist in the Nostalrius saga that we didn’t see coming: The group has changed its mind about supporting its code on the Elysium servers and in fact has asked Elysium to stop using it, which would effectively shut down the new legacy servers.

The group originally ran a large vanilla World of Warcraft emulator under the name Nostalrius, which shut down last year following a C&D letter from the IP owner, Blizzard. Its admins sought to turn the voluntary closure into a catalyst for eliciting official legacy servers from Blizzard itself, drafting a 276,000-signature petition and meeting with Blizzard’s top brass in an attempt to convince the studio to serve that fanbase.

But as BlizzCon drew near after the launch of Legion, the Nostalrius admins turned to threats. “If Blizzard doesn’t make an announcement to honour their own core values, be sure that we will,” they famously wrote. Blizzard didn’t talk legacy at BlizzCon, so Nostalrius announced it would release its code to the community and allow the (much more legally inaccessible) Ukraine-based Elysium group to restart a PvE and PvP Nostalrius emu under its banner, which is precisely what started up in December, with the most recent server launching this past week.

Now Nostalrius says that it believes its actions ran contrary to its goals.

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Diablo III’s Darkening of Tristram ‘retrovision’ anniversary event is live

Classic ARPG Diablo has made its presence known across Blizzard’s many franchises this week as it celebrates its 20th birthday, from a new cow level mini-event in World of Warcraft to Overwatch’s Diablo-themed sprays. But the biggest celebration is taking place inside Diablo III, where as originally promised at last fall’s BlizzCon, the Darkening of Tristram event is now live, complete with patch notes, and will dominate the game this January (and future Januaries).

“For the month of January, experience an homage to the original events of Diablo, brought to you in glorious RetroVision™ and filled to the brim with nostalgia-inducing features. An evocative audiovisual extravaganza awaits you, as everything from familiar enemies to iconic items have been brought to life in the Diablo III engine. Transmogrification rewards, achievements, and a handful of extra surprises lurk in the depths of this perilous, pixelated dungeon.”

The update — and the controversial “retrovision” event content — is free for Reaper of Souls owners. Expect the paid Necromancer update later this year.

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