The Journey Begins
Blizzard Entertainment, the developers behind such games as World of WarCraft, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Diablo, and others, is one half of Activision-Blizzard, with Activision being the entity behind Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Call of Duty, and more. With the video game industry being the largest driver of entertainment revenue in the world, and MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) and Esports being Blizzard’s absolute bread and butter, select members of the PMG Team took it upon themselves to embark on a noble quest to BlizzCon.
30 Years of Blizzard
2021 marks a huge milestone for Blizzard; not only are they celebrating 30 years of entertaining countless gamers, but it is also the very first year that BlizzCon has been entirely online. The annual gaming convention appropriately ebbed BlizzConline for 2021, took place on February 19th and 20th, and has allowed the Blizzard Team to have a platform to address all the innovative, upcoming additions to both new and existing games.
BlizzCon certainly is not the first convention to be held online during the pandemic, especially as content creators everywhere have had to adapt to new mediums to allow consumers to socially distance themselves whilst keeping business as usual. IGN’s Summer of Gaming, for example, streamed last June as a replacement for the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3); running over 11 days with a 13MM user average daily reach, 277.7MM video views, and 40MM engagements. Having BlizzCon online this year as a response to the COVID-19 Pandemic must have felt different for the Blizzard Community, as the event normally draws 40,000 people in-person on an average year. While the viewers were physically apart this year, Blizzard’s message was clear; Games Continue To Unite People. With Blizzard Employees working from home, the team thought that they would struggle to put out new content, but it turns out that being apart doesn’t stop them from moving forward. The team was excited to announce that Esports is still in full swing and they have several upcoming games and updates to share, many of which take the Blizzard Franchises back to their roots – an aspect that diehard fans seem excited about.
Blizzard’s Impact on Esports
At BlizzConline, the team was pleased to announce that the 2021 Overwatch League will be launching on April 16th, and that the Hearthstone Qualifiers are underway, as is the World of Warcraft Arena World Championship. This was a relief for many viewers because despite dealing with online games, Esports Tournaments are normally held in-person, so people were not sure if they would cease to exist during the pandemic; yet gamers found a way. With Overwatch, Starcraft, and Hearthstone being three of the biggest games in Esports, this was huge news for Blizzard; especially since Business Insider has previously claimed that “Esports Viewership is expected to grow at a 9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2019 and 2023”. It’s clear that the market for Esports games continues to expand worldwide and more viewers are streaming games now than ever before. Even IBM has a sponsorship deal with Overwatch League.
The Power of Nostalgia
Trying to capture a feeling of nostalgia can work in many instances, especially if something has had a major impact on popular culture. People want to relive the experiences that made them happy all those years ago, and studios such as Activision-Blizzard are capitalizing on that. Even Uber Eats has joined in on this trend with their Wayne’s World Inspired Superbowl Commercial. During BlizzCon, Blizzard announced the remastering of several of their games that were released over the past 30 years. It makes sense that Blizzard would want to pay homage to the games that got them to where they are now, and the Blizzard Arcade Collection appears to be their way of giving back to the gamers that have been with them since the beginning. The Blizzard Arcade Collection launched during Blizzcon, and revitalized three of Blizzard’s Original games from the 90s (The Lost Vikings®, Rock N Roll Racing®, and Blackthorne®) by porting them onto the Playstation, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PC, complete with new features, such as saving and loading. Reviews of the game are mixed: people who played the originals seem to be thrilled with the nostalgic feeling the game brought them and think the new features are great; however, people who are new to games do not seem as excited, likely because those games did not have as much of an impact on pop-culture as some of Blizzard’s other games.
Much to the delight of many viewers, Blizzard also announced the remastered versions of Diablo II and updates to World of Warcraft Classic which allows players to either upgrade to a new classic version of WoW (Burning Crusade Classic) or stay in the original classic mode forever. Because these franchises are more popular than the games within the Blizzard Arcade Collection, many Blizzard fans appear to be much more excited about these re-releases.
But this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of studios remastering classic games. Crash Bandicoot was remastered in 2017, and in 2020, Destroy All Humans, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, and Spongebob: Battle for Bikini Bottom were all remastered (just to name a few). So why does that matter? Gaming companies are seeing success on the nostalgia factor of popular games from their primary demo’s childhood. The best example of this would be when Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 was released in September 2020, it became the fastest-selling game in the series’ history, with one million copies sold within 10 days of its initial release. Advertisers might want to consider jumping on board the nostalgia train and take a stroll down memory lane the next time they recommend developing content since people typically look fondly at their past experiences.
The Future of Blizzard
Looking towards the future, Blizzard hyped up viewers by giving insight into upcoming updates to the latest versions of Hearthstone and World of Warcraft and also teasing Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV. Fans of the Diablo franchise had the first look into a familiar playable character class that is returning in Diablo IV, Rogue. The Rogue is a highly skilled archer and is significant because gamers have not been able to play as that class since Diablo II.
With new games, comes a new generation of gamers. This means new people can experience the great games that Blizzard has to offer, and more importantly, there is a new audience of consumers who have yet to experience the thrill of getting past a tough boss fight, exploring dark dungeons with their friends, or showing off new pieces of armor that took hours to acquire.
After finding success with BlizzConline, it was announced in March that the Activision-Blizzard team has made a business decision to continue to shift away from live events (including in-person ESports tournaments), in favor of more streamable content. A company spokesperson commented, “Players are increasingly choosing to connect with our games digitally and the e-sports team, much like traditional sports, entertainment, and broadcasting industries, has had to adapt its business due to the impact the pandemic has had on live events.” While this might upset hardcore fans who were expecting to return to in-person Tournaments, it further proves that Blizzard has the ability to adapt to new opportunities. This is significant for Activision-Blizzard, since they essentially hold a monopoly within the ESports world. Their game library contains most of the popular ESports related games, and the competition is fairly limited. Valve owns CS:GO and Dota 2, Riot Games is a major contender for League of Legends and Valorant, and Epic Games has Fortnite, however, those studios do not have nearly as many competitive game options, allowing Activision-Blizzard to dominate the field.
Other Gaming Events In 2021
Looking towards the remainder of 2021, there are plenty of opportunities for publishers to announce new games. With the recent launch of the new Playstation and Xbox Consoles, people are clamoring for a look at any upcoming releases (whether they are remastered versions or originals).
it appears that E3 might be returning after being canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. E3 is one of the biggest events in the video game world and allows publishers, manufacturers, and developers to come together and showcase their upcoming releases It is safe to assume that if the tradeshow does happen in 2021, viewers will attend digitally, rather than physically; however, exact details surrounding the event have not been officially released.
Valve just announced the dates for Steam Next Fest, previously known as Steam Game Festival. Steam Next Fest will run from June 16th through the 22nd and will showcase several live streams and demos for upcoming Steam games. Steam Game Festival already occurred once this year and must have been considered a success if another wave is in the works.
Summer Game Fest will also be returning to give gamers insights into upcoming releases all summer long. This festival will occur throughout the entire summer, broken up into intermittent periods (they compare it to attending a summer concert series). Publishers and Events are added on a rolling basis; in 2020 publishers included Activision, Bethesda, Blizzard Entertainment, Bungie, Ubisoft, Square Enix, and more.