Now that Warlords of Draenor is out, Blizzcon feels like ages ago, especially since any WoW-related news was drowned out by the super-exciting announcement of Overwatch. While a new game (let alone IP) from Blizzard is an event worth celebrating, adding a fourth franchise to Blizzard’s portfolio is going to change how the company handles their business and also how fans and media relate to the company.
This column is called WoW! Thoughts!, and ostensibly, it is about World of Warcraft. For the most part, I try to keep my focus on World of Warcraft, but often, news about other Blizzard games creeps in. Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm have direct relations to Warcraft lore by borrowing characters and settings. I’ve talked about Diablo in relation to WoW as far as their systems mirrored each other in the past. And I’ve even discussed Starcraft when a WoW reference appeared in a movie. That said, World of Warcraft is a major contributor to Activision-Blizzard’s bottom line, and any major news that happens that affects Blizzard has ramifications for World of Warcraft. Covering the company that supports the game in question is logical.
The problem arises when the focus shifts to other games. I try not to talk about Hearthstone (or if I do, I try to connect the topic back to WoW). Generally, I won’t post a WoW! Thoughts! if the topic or news does not relate to WoW somehow. That said, with only three different franchises, it’s easy to consider how anything that happens regarding Diablo or Starcraft may impact WoW. And I am not alone. Many WoW sites have taken to covering the other Blizzard games as well. The shared Blizzard DNA of Warcraft and Starcraft as RTS’s, or WoW and Diablo’s common RPG heritage, leads to players (and reporters/bloggers) being fans of multiple games. Furthermore, Blizzard has made their claim on polished, accessible games (Warlords launch aside). Anyone who is just a fan of good games would be hard-pressed to only like one Blizzard franchise.
The introduction of Overwatch marks the moment when Blizzard may be too big for WoW-centric news outlets and blogs to cover as a whole. For the last seventeen years, Starcraft and Diablo were synonymous with Warcraft as the three pillars of Blizzard. Even if readers disagreed with a site covering the happenings in another game, it was at least understandable. Overwatch does not have that history. When asked about adding Overwatch characters to Heroes of the Storm, Game Director & Vice-President Jeff Kaplan commented that he hoped the game would earn that right. Even Blizzard does not consider Overwatch a fourth pillar yet – although Tracer replacing Chen on the Blizzcon 2014 logo indicates that is Blizzard’s intent.
Furthermore, while Overwatch may have been developed by some of the engineers and programmers who worked on World of Warcraft at inception, with what we know about Overwatch now, it appears to share little DNA with WoW. It may have originated with some assets and ideas that were salvaged from cancelled project Titan, which itself was supposed to be Blizzard’s MMO follow-up to WoW, but the hero-centric team-based shooter play bears little resemblance to an MMORPG. If anything, the closest analogue currently in Blizzard’s library is Heroes of the Storm, simply for its team-based gameplay. The only way anyone could relate WoW to Overwatch would be to argue that Tornbjorn is a dwarf, which is to say there is no connection.
This presents a problem for WoW-centric media. Despite having an expansion releasing the following week, this Blizzcon was extremely light on World of Warcraft information. There was a celebration of the 10th anniversary that happened Friday night, and there was a Voices of Draenor panel that failed to be broadcast on the live stream, but there were only two panels that focused on the game and both were lackluster in terms of providing information to the community and hyping the release of Warlords.
The World of Warcraft – Items, Class Changes, and More panel spent half the time reviewing changes that were announced last year and already live in game with patch 6.0.2, before opening up the floor for a Q&A to which most answers were either “we’re monitoring that and will nerf/buff as needed” or “its working as intended. Live with it.” This was followed on Saturday by the Warcraft Q&A panel, which featured several developers from WoW but lacked Chris Metzen, who has been a fixture at this panel for several years. For many of the questions, especially the lore questions, the developers seemed stumped, and I would not be comfortable accepting any answers given as canon. Oddly enough, class-specific questions were banned from being asked, even though it was said at the prior panel for anyone who had questions that they did not get to ask that they should show up for the Q&A panel. For a franchise with a major release less than a week away, Blizzard seemed to feel that the game did not need any additional hype at the convention. (And given the 3.3 million launch day sales for Warlords of Draenor, they were apparently justified in thinking that.)
Chris Metzen’s absence from the Q&A at Blizzcon makes sense. He was already involved in promoting Overwatch. But if Blizzard cannot even find a way to properly balance their executives’ time at various panels, then how is the media supposed to adjust its focus? The introduction of Overwatch marks a good time for everyone covering WoW and Blizzard to step back and determine what they really should be covering. Some Blizzard news affects all their franchises, and some does not. If Blizzard can implement a change after seventeen years and introduce a new IP, then any sites that really want to focus on Blizzard games as a whole should be able to at least change their names.
As it is, this is and will always be WoW! Thoughts!
Due to the problems with logging in during the Warlords launch, Blizzard is giving everyone five free days of game-time. Maybe now would be a good time to ask them for a pony… Or a moose… http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/15269759060
Part of the problem with Warlord‘s launch is that they sold 3.3 million copies of Warlords of Draenor in the 24 hours after it went live, and the subscriber base is back up over 10 million. HOORAY!!! WoW IS POPULAR AGAIN!!!! http://blizzard.gamespress.com/WORLD-OF-WARCRAFT-SURPASSES-10-MILLION-SUBSCRIBERS-AS-WARLORDS-OF-DRAE
New Blood Elf models revealed. That butt was worth the wait. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/16940815/
Speaking of character models, Blizzard released a documentary showing how they made the new character models. Life is pretty crazy for gnomes. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/16802651/warlords-of-draenor-how-new-character-models-get-made-11-19-2014
Blizzard changed the default loot rules for dungeons to be Need-Before-Greed for not even a day before player outcry forced them to change it back. Dungeon loot should just be ‘give everyone everything to shut everyone up.’ http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/15355105387
Blizzard clarified how Garrison Invasions work. Apparently the bug where people were phasing into the same garrison was NOT an invasion. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/15270579566
The WoW 10th Anniversary is live in game. Happy Birthday, World of Warcraft! Thanks for reminding everyone how much of a pain 40-man raiding was back in the day! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/16889478/world-of-warcraft-10-year-anniversary-celebration-begins-11-20-2014