Blizzard's annual BlizzCon convention, for many, is the pinnacle of PC gaming.
Three gaming franchises alone - StarCraft, WarCraft and Diablo, will be enough to pack out the Anaheim Convention Centre in Los Angeles for two days of gaming insanity next week. The tickets sold out in minutes. They're getting Ozzy Osbourne to perform at the closing ceremony. It doesn't get much better than that!
So, what words of wisdom can we expect from Blizzard this year? Well, we've already heard that StarCraft II has been delayed until 2010 at the earliest, so there's every possibility Blizzard may use this opportunity to announce the launch of the beta, or perhaps give us some indication as to when it will occur. If this does happen, and the beta follows Blizzard expectations of a 5-6 month duration, then we could see some strong evidence for StarCraft II releasing around February or March 2010. This all depends on the Battle.Net revamp, of course.
At the recent Activision Blizzard earnings press event, Blizzard's CEO Mike Morhaime said that it would be "correct to conclude" that Blizzard may be looking at two releases in 2010. Morhaime has always stated that Blizzard purposely avoid releasing two titles in the same calendar year, but releasing them in the same financial year seems risky, especially given the current environment. Blizzard could be pushing to release at least one in the 2009 financial year which ends March 31 2010, and logically, only StarCraft II can fulfil that criteria.
But what will the other title be? Well, it seems that only another World of Warcraft expansion or Diablo III can be contenders here, and to be honest, we just can't see it being Diablo III. We had a good look at the code presented at BlizzCon '08 and our impressions were that it's still a long way from being released. The Class Panels showed direction, but lacked the kind of specific details you'd expect from a complex Blizzard title less than two years out from a beta. We could be wrong, but our money is on the yet-to-be-announced Cataclysm expansion for World of Warcraft.
So what will Diablo fans have to write home about? Almost certainly either one or two more character classes will be revealed. We should see some more progress on spells and talents, and quite possibly more information about zones. No doubt they'll touch on the art direction after the absurd "fan" reaction last year, and with any luck they'll expand on the story. It's long been noted that out of Blizzard's Big Three, Diablo has the weakest story component, so it'll be interesting to see if Blizzard announce anything in that respect.
Then there's the unannounced MMO we know they're working on. What shape or form this will take is anyone's guess, so even a hint at what they're planning will be gratefully devoured by hordes of Blizzard devotees worldwide.
We'll be flying out next Thursday to bring you reports live from the event as they happen. We have a bunch of interviews lined up, as well as hands-on time, but in order to get the information that you really want, we need your suggestions. Let us know in the comments section below what you want to know about anything Blizzard related and we'll do our best to get the information for you.
Remember to stay tuned to Gameplanet for coverage of BlizzCon '09 starting the morning of next Saturday 22nd August, and continuing all through the weekend!