BlizzCon 2019 begins in a few hours and is slated to be the most important one in Blizzard’s recent history — and maybe ever. The once universally beloved game developer is coming into their annual event with a lot to answer to: from a disappointing BlizzCon 2018, to announcements of massive layoffs, to the recent controversy surrounding the ban of Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung from the Hearthstone circuit.
In the eyes of many fans, Blizzard have no more room for failure, having gone through their worst year in terms of PR. At present, the company feels disconnected even from its most fanatical fanbase, let alone the regular fans who grew up with Blizzard games.
But for all their shortcomings, Blizzard are not clueless, and they know — or at least hope — that a significant enough BlizzCon, enough to overshadow the embarrassing 2018 edition, could put them back in the good graces of the community. And judging by the many, many leaks, BlizzCon 2019 will indeed be a massive one. Here’s what to expect.
This is pretty much confirmed, given the many sources who’ve talked about a Diablo IV announcement at BlizzCon 2019. From leaks in German-edition artbooks, to early reports from Kotaku’s Jason Schreier confirming the game’s development, to recent Reddit leaks, to these two signs in front of the Anaheim convention center:
By the looks of it, Lilith, Mephisto’s daughter and the mother of the Nephalem, will be the main protagonist in Diablo IV. According to recent leaks, the game will go back to the dark, gritty roots of Diablo I and II, taking a step away from the widely-criticized visuals of Diablo III. The game is rumored to have a playable demo at BlizzCon and that PVP is very likely — something that was planned, but later scrapped for Diablo III.
Diablo IV will be Blizzard’s chance to win back the Diablo community, which hasn’t received a new product in years. Diablo III is in maintenance mode, only changing season themes, but the game has remained unchanged pretty much since the release of Reaper of Souls. The Necromancer pack introduced a new character, but that was two and a half years ago. Since then, fans have hoped for another new character — perhaps the good old favorite in the Druid — but to no avail.
The big question is when is the Diablo IV release date. Since there is no announcement (yet), it’s hard to talk about a release date, but if Blizzard follow the template of Overwatch, which entered closed beta one year after its announcements, we could be looking at late 2020 for some form of Diablo IV content. With Blizzard’s change of strategy, which now focuses on more often game releases, it feels unlikely that we’ll wait too long time for Diablo IV, especially when there are fans to earn back.
Overwatch 2 is also very much confirmed, first reported by Kotaku and recently by ESPN. Both reports speak of the same main feature: a PvE mode, inspired by the popularity of Overwatch 1’s occasional PvE events. According to ESPN, the PvE mode will have hero talents and in-game items, making for a more in-depth experience. A new playable character, Echo, is also expected to be announced.
All in all, Overwatch 2 doesn’t feel like a brand new game, but more like an expansion, like what Reaper of Souls and The Frozen Throne were for Diablo III and Warcraft III, respectively. It’s unlikely the game will have a new engine — as it doesn’t need one — and will have the gameplay feel of the original Overwatch, which is all good news.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands
There was always going to be a new expansion announce for World of Warcraft. The only question was how it was going to be called. Leaks and hints about the Shadowlands name started dropping some weeks ago, and now it seems all but confirmed that this will be the title of the new expansion. According to leaked images, the main villain of the set will be Bolvar Fordragon, who sat on the Lich King’s throne upon the defeat of Arthas.
New Hearthstone, dragon-themed expansion
Judging by the latest teaser-trailer, Hearthstone is getting a new expansion soon, and tradition has it that those are often announced at Blizzcon. In the trailer, Madame Lazul’s crystal ball shows the Wyrmrest Temple in Northrend — an ancient place which once was the meeting ground for the Dragon Aspects of Azeroth.
Now, all of the five aspects are already cards in the game (Alexstrasza, Malygos, Nozdormu, Deathwing, and Ysera), and we had a dragon expansion with Blackrock Mountain back in 2015. But that was long ago and Blizzard have shown they are willing to revisit old themes, like Goblins & Gnomes and Doomsday Project.
Of course, it’s possible that Wyrmrest Temple is just a location in a new PvE content, but that would be disappointing. Another Dragon-themed expansion does sound awesome.
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BlizzCon begins tonight and will take place November 1-2, starting at 11:00 PDT / 19:00 CET. The opening ceremony and the following mythic stage panels will be free to watch. For the others, you’ll need a BlizzCon virtual ticket.