This year's BlizzCon, Blizzard's annual announcement fiesta, comes at an interesting time for the company. It is the first BlizzCon since the approved merger of Activision Blizzard with Microsoft Gaming, and likely the last where Microsoft has no influence on the direction of the company. The company announced what they see as the direction of their products over the short and long term, seeing a plan for Microsoft to benefit from.
But, just because Microsoft had no influence over these announcements, that doesn't mean that they had no presence at the event. In fact, Microsoft's head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, was there for the keynote address. And while Spencer did not have any news for the audience, he did lay out some future directives for the combined company. He made a comment about Starcraft a title we have not heard about in years. He then suggested, though did not say outright or confirm, that Blizzard games are headed to Game Pass. Most importantly, though, he talked about how Blizzard and Microsoft will be working together closely to plan the future of the brand and its intellectual property in the future.
But, then the event got focused on what we all wanted to know - what is coming in the future for Blizzard and its game.
World of Warcraft has story again
In the universe of World of Warcraft, the biggest news came from and about a single person: Blizzard veteran Chris Metzen. Metzen announced the future of storytelling within the game, and it is clear that he is back in charge of the lore. Metzen has been responsible for some of the best lore in the history of Warcraft and it seems that he is going big once again.
The next content plan has been dubbed Worldsoul Saga and will cover several years worth of content. The first expansion is called The War Within and will take players underground into a subterranean kingdom. This will be followed by Midnight, which will take players back to Quel'Thalas, and then rounded out by The Last Titan, which will be set within Northrend.
The videos that came along with the announcement showed off just how detailed and deep the additional lore will be. It also showed off some new gameplay features, such as additional zones like Ringing Deeps and Hallowfall. The first expansion is planned for Fall 2024, though Blizzard has been having trouble hitting expected deadlines lately.
Overwatch 2 - new Heroes and plans
Aaron Keller and team got right down to business on stage by announcing the next Hero for the game. Mauga is a Samoan Tank class who carries a chain gun on each hand. Clearly, as a tank with chainsaw hands, Mauga is going to be a very close contact character. He will have an unstoppable charge called Overrun and Cage Fight, which gives his team unlimited ammo for a period. This was not exactly a surprise, as the character was introduced several years ago in a story. However, his addition is welcomed by players, and will join the fight in Season 8.
Season 10 will introduce another new character, Venture, while Season 12 will introduce Space Ranger, which is currently a code-name. Venture is set to be a Damage hero, the first in a while. Venture is set to be the first non-binary character in the game, which could cause some controversy among gamers. The character will wear a trench coat and have tattoos. The primary weapon will be a disc shooter that looks like a drill.
Diablo IV already has DLC coming
Diablo 4 is Blizzard's latest major title, and there is already new content coming to the game. The first expansion coming to the came, called Vessel of Hatred, will be coming in late 2024. It will include a new region into the game, as well as a reintroduction of a zone from Diablo 2. It also introduces a new class to the game and the franchise, though the company has not said what class that is. We'll have a lot more information about this expansion at BlizzCon 2024.
This year certainly represents a turning point for Blizzard. While the company will maintain independence, it will definitely be influenced by Microsoft. Microsoft is definitely going to want to expand Blizzard's reach and capabilities, and I expect to see some of the company's mothballed games see new life - like Starcraft. I also expect that we will see existing IP in new places, like a mobile expansion. But, only time will tell how Blizzard will evolve over the next few years.