Vague Patch Notes: BlizzCon’s cancellation might just be for the best

    
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Vague Patch Notes: BlizzCon’s cancellation might just be for the best

After a lot of time spent expecting this particular announcement, yesterday it was finally confirmed that there will be no BlizzCon 2020. This is a bummer to me, sort of. I mean, I really enjoy doing liveblogs of these things every year, I like to think our readers enjoy them too, and that’s always fun. It’s enough fun that it doesn’t exactly bother me how many parts of every convention land like a wet rag in the middle of an empty room.

That’s still disappointing, sure, but it’s a bit less so.

Of course, the reason cited for this cancellation was the fact that the ongoing pandemic makes conventions a dicey proposition, especially in California. But I think there are definitely… well, let’s say advantages to what wound up happening here and how this has influenced the convention schedule for the developers. Really, I don’t think this was ever going to be a good BlizzCon anyhow, and you can look at the history of the convention to see why.

So we all know that BlizzCon 2019 was an absolute mess and a half because… well, Hong Kong. It was always going to be a mess. But if you look at it from a content standpoint, it definitely did well. You had a new expansion for World of Warcraft, you had two new games (Diablo IV and Overwatch 2), you had whatever usually happens for Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, and everyone pretended StarCraft 2 never existed. Good times, great oldies.

It didn’t really make up for what the company had done like a month beforehand, but if you could overlook that part, it might have even been remembered warmly! Which was a sharp contrast to… the year before.

BlizzCon 2018 was the year of the still-infamous “you guys have phones, right?” in the wake of Diablo Immortal. That was the big centerpiece announcement of BlizzCon that year: a game no one present had wanted or was excited about. And it kind of serves as a reminder that having BlizzCon every year has long been sort of ridiculous.

The fact of the matter is that while Blizzard is not a small studio by any stretch of the imagination, it is also not a studio with something new to announce every single year. Sure, there are usually updates and new things coming out every year, but there’s a difference between a new game or expansion and a new update. If all you have is the latter, you’re going to be losing out to the former every time.

Collaborate and listen.

This doesn’t square well with having an annual convention that is very much set up as “where we announce new things.” It works well when the convention is about a specific game and a regular update cadence, it works well when the convention is held only on specific years, but when you have one every year whether or not you have new products? BlizzCon has been doing this for years, and it has frequently suffered for it.

So let’s think for a moment about this particular convention. HotS, Hearthstone, and SC2 are all pretty much going to have the same situation this year as they did last year because that’s how things always go. (I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to hear yet again about AI tech being used in some vague way in relation to SC2.) Shadowlands will have either just recently launched or still be a bit away from launching, and either way it’s probably going to be too early to hear even about the first major patch for the title.

What else is there? Well, the odds of getting a launch window for Overwatch 2 seem astronomically low; the thing isn’t even in early testing, and getting to testing after just one BlizzCon appearance alone would feel particularly fast. Diablo IV was supposedly further out than even that, and that surely isn’t getting more than maybe a playable demo. What else was going to be on the show floor, anyhow?

The answer, I suspect, is “not much.” (Aside from The Burning Crusade servers for Classic, that I’d believe.) We know how the cadence of these events goes, and there wasn’t much reason to expect any huge reveals here. But because this convention happens every year, the show must go on, and you almost wind up at a point where saying that you can’t do it on this particular year is something of a blessing in disguise.

Considering that the announcement also includes a note that maybe there will be a digital event in the beginning of 2021, that in and of itself implies to me that there’s not a whole lot urgent to be shared. That there are panels, of a sort, but a delay is actually a benefit rather than a drawback for the studio as a whole.

Again, this is not a shock. We know the cadence on these conventions, we can make a reasonable estimate about how much would be on display. And it kind of highlights the main problem that BlizzCon has in that it’s not really scheduled around anything beyond giving the converted a chance to be marketed to for another year.

This isn’t coinciding with the announcement of a new expansion, or a new game, or anything else. It’s not at a larger show that makes all these announcements stand out. Instead, it’s just a convention hyping up the fact that Blizzard has its own convention. This is one of the main reasons I asked if the con even has a future in its present form; it seems kind of debatable, now as much as then.

Another one of these, but the art is more boring.

Really, I’m far more heartbroken about the people who use these gatherings as, well, gatherings. Speaking for myself, the conventions I go to usually have their worth determined in no small part by the people I get to see there, people who I often only get to see in these contexts. For a lot of people, I imagine the primary benefit of BlizzCon is less about new things being sold and more about a place where you know all of your friends will be.

But that doesn’t mean the annual convention is a good idea from any sort of corporate standpoint; it just means that there is a notable drawback for people that has nothing to do with the content of the convention. It was likely to be thin at best, and filled with people annoyed at delays, lack of communication, poor balance issues, and basically anything related to Warcraft III: Reforged.

Looking at it from that perspective, I don’t know that this was so much a decision to cancel the convention as seeing a convenient reason not to have it in the first place.

Does this mean that there’s going to be a change in BlizzCon moving forward? I’d like to imagine so, but Blizzard does seem to have a long habit of avoiding learning lessons or changing its behavior, so that’s a dubious claim at best. For that matter, these are extraordinary circumstances, and there’s reasons to treat 2020’s schedule as something of a blip amidst everything else taking a mulligan for the year.

Yet I do think there’s a chance, at least, to re-examine whether or not the format of the convention is actually working all that well at this point. And while I’m not surprised to see the con skip a year… well, let’s hope that if it comes back next year, it does so with a fuller rack of reveals, so to speak.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.

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Sargonnax

I think secretly someone at Blizzard is probably happy they wont be having the convention and wishes this had happened in 2018 when they had that trash fire of a con where they had little to say besides Diablo Immortal.

The problem these days is Blizzard cant develop content and keep all their titles popular enough to warrant a convention. Last year most of what they did at the convention could have been done online.

Starcraft and Heroes of the Storm are basically in maintenance mode.
Hearthstone will get another expansion that less and less people care about.
We already know Overwatch 2 is coming. Whatever they need to say about it can be done online.
Diablo has been in limbo besides the announcement for Diablo Immortal that most people don’t want and Diablo 4 that will come out in 2026.
We already know Shadowlands is coming for WoW. Whatever they need to say about it can be done online.

The only thing new that would be announced if the rumor is true is Diablo 2 Remastered if there are no other surprises.

Blizzard doesn’t release content or games fast enough to warrant a yearly convention when a couple of those titles are basically in maintenance mode.

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jealouspirate

“So we all know that BlizzCon 2019 was an absolute mess and a half because… well, Hong Kong.”

…was it? A short statement from the president, about 30 protesters outside compared to thousands of attendees, a couple people trolling during the Q&A sessions. I watched most of the convention through the virtual ticket and 99% felt like any other BlizzCon.

I think a lot of angry people on the internet wanted it to be a disaster because of Hong Kong and Blizzard hate in general, but it really wasn’t.

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Utakata

…you assume those thousands of attendees agreed with Blizz’s line on that because they weren’t vocal about it? That’s a little presumptuous to put it mildly, without any proper survey of the attendance.

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jealouspirate

No, I’m not presuming to know what any of them think. What I am saying is that thousands of visibly cheering fans inside and a couple dozen protesters outside doesn’t constitute “an absolute mess and a half”. You don’t need to be a mind reader to see that.

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Bruno Brito

A CEO having to apologize publicly ( even half-hearted as Brack was ), and to go back in his decision to unban the player IS an absolute mess and a half, specially since Blizzard saw a stock drop because of that debacle.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

Adding to this, we covered BlizzCon pretty extensively and deemed it a mess in its day, and not just because of the Hong Kong debacle (although that had a lot to do with the tone). Eliot himself did a really nice write-up about how exactly that BlizzCon was a disappointment all on its own. The comments on the pieces around that time – including the liveblogs – add color too so we’re not stuck just relying on memory.

I’m particularly intrigued at the idea the event should be characterized as full of cheering crowds because the subdued live crowds and even dead silence during some of the WoW reveals were noted repeatedly during the coverage. That stood out to me even more than the sad nonpology. When the nicest thing you can say is, well, at least they didn’t get booed as in 2018…

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Utakata

But they where all shiny happy people laughing you know according to the internets below. /sigh

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Utakata

Celebrating Blizzcom doesn’t equate that everyone doing so there agrees with everything Blizz says or does. So it’s clear you are making that assumption that they do. And one which I do not need to be mind reader either to conclude that, lol.

@ Bruno

…I don’t think that really matters. It’s the assertion with dubious evidence that everyone who participates in Blizz activities agrees with everything about them. Which is unlikely even remotely true.

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jealouspirate

“So it’s clear you are making that assumption that they do”

I’m really not, and you’re completely missing the point. The point is whether or not BlizzCon was an absolute mess. What attendees were thinking is irrelevant.

The onus lies on the person making a claim to provide evidence. If someone says BlizzCon was “an absolute mess and a half”, it’s their responsibility to back it up. Nothing I saw watching BlizzCon 2019 myself suggested it was a disaster, and that’s all I’m saying.

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Utakata

Strawman. I never made that claim it was a disaster. (I am not sure everyone was happy with it wither, which is the point.)

…and I am not the one making the assertion that everything is honky dory with Blizz attendees as you seem to be implying. So the onus is on you to prove they are all personally fine with Blizz or walk it back.

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jealouspirate

lol, you created the Strawman in the first place by talking about what BlizzCon attendees were thinking, which was never point. Anyway, I’m done for today arguing on the internet with strangers who aren’t acting in good faith. Cheers.

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Utakata

Where you typing all that while staring at yourself in the mirror? The dishonest one here is the person who hasn’t given account for their claims when they where called out for it.

…anyways, don’t let that internet door hit you on the ass on the way out then. Thnks for your time though.

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Mr.McSleaz

I was quite looking forward to seeing how Blizzard was going to shoot themselves in the foot again :(

Mewmew
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Mewmew

“Diablo Immortal. That was the big centerpiece announcement of BlizzCon that year: a game no one present had wanted or was excited about”

I would have to disagree. I’m sure there were plenty of people there who very much did want it and were excited about it. They just didn’t want to stand up to the booing angry nerds and go against the mob mentality.

I also think the anger for most people was more about the fact that people were expecting to hear about Diablo IV than the fact that a mobile title was being made. If they announced the mobile title any other time of the year, it would have been taken differently.

It’s like your parents throwing you a huge party and making this great big deal over this special present you’re going to get, and then it ends up being a package of socks. You may enjoy getting socks any other time of the year.

You don’t hate socks. Don’t you guys have feet? But to see it was socks this time when you were expecting something different, some special prize you’d been waiting for, that’s why it hurts and is a disappointment. It doesn’t mean nobody wants socks and nobody is happy about getting them. Why, I could for for some new socks right now!

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Danny Smith

The famous ghost town demo booths would beg to differ that there was some silent majority deal going on.

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Dakota Royal

okay as much as i agree with the whole ordeal of how bad DI is. this picture is quite inaccurate and im only saying this because I was there. judging by this pic this was either as the event was closeing after night 1 or near closeing events going into night 2. the line for diablo immortal was quit long often times. also the convention center was so back to back with people you could barely get around which judgeing by the back of this pic this was not durring the peak hours of the convention. was it the least popular thing at blizzcon last year? yes but it also had lines just like everything else durring the day and peak hours of the convention. This is a false accusation picture if I ever saw one.

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Carebear

Ion is that you? (sorry just couldnt resist :P )

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Bruno Brito

“Might”

lol

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Totes McGoats

Did Diablo Immortal come out? It came out in 2019 I think – but I can’t find it on the iTunes app store. Did I miss it?

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Emiliano Lozada

Don’t think so, no. I actually believe it was blocked by China for a while.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

No. It’s supposed to go into “limited testing” this summer. :D

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Totes McGoats

That’s helpful – but why did they announce it in 2018 if it wasn’t close to ready? Mobile games can usually have a reasonably quick turnaround. Their strategy here makes no sense to me, but I’m not a marketing genius.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

That’s a good question to which I don’t have a hard answer. Based on Netease’s posturing, though – they said their part was done in February 2019 (!) – I suspect there was some sort of conflict between Netease and Blizzard that sent parts of the mostly done game back to the drawing board (possibly revolving around those leaks that said the game was being developed for China and then would be polished for the rest of us later). The summer 2020 testing news has been mentioned in Blizzard’s last two investor calls, so it sounds on track now.

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Ironwu

You’re going to need more lipstick, Eliot. ;)