I was fortunate enough to attend BlizzCon 2016 this past weekend as I did before a few years back thanks to a virtual ticket our friends from Blizzard sent over. As with the previous one I was able to check out, I had a blast watching the events, eSports battles, contests and more unfold live from the Anaheim Convention Center. Despite not having much to cover or talk about this year, the event was still fun and interesting to watch, especially with Weird Al Yankovic closing out the show, what’s not to love?
Let’s get on the news now, shall we? The opening ceremony with Blizz CEO Mike Morhaime was great and showcased a nice opening film celebrating Blizzard’s 25th anniversary and ten years of BlizzCon. They also talked about their various eSports tournaments and future plans to expand it even more going forward.
Also for those who love collecting pets on World of Warcraft, you’ll be happy to know there’s a new one you’ll be able to buy that will go towards raising money for the Make-A-Wish foundation named Mischief the Fel Kitty. This dark and deceptively cute kitten will be for sale on December 1, and until the end of the year, all proceeds from your purchase will go to Make-A-Wish. Who says you can’t have fun while helping others?
In StarCraft II news, Blizz announced the third and final Nova Mission Pack will release on November 22 with everyone’s favorite infested commander, Alexei Stukov joining the co-op missions as a new leader. The biggest and possibly weirdest news though was the announcement of a collaboration with the team behind Google’s DeepMind A.I. projects to team with Blizzard and make complex A.I. challenges for StarCraft II sometime soon in the future.
With Overwatch being one of the company’s biggest things going on right now, it only made sense to announce a new character to play as named Sombra. She’s as crafty as they come thanks to her hacker skills she’ll be putting to good use on the battlefield, as she can hack opponents and stun them, cloak for stealth attacks, and more. There isn’t an exact date on when she will be available, but I’m sure it’ll be before the year is out.
Apparently heroes don’t die, they just go to another game franchise. As is the case for World of Warcraft legend, King Varian Wrynn who after biting the bullet in Legion is making his way as a hero in Heroes of the Storm. He won’t be alone though, as another WoW legend is joining him, Firelord and all-around menace Ragnaros. Varian will be the first multi-class Hero in the series as he can serve as a tank-like character by using a shield to taunt enemies and soak up damage, or go on the offensive with his legendary swords to mow down enemies. Besides the trippy but exciting news about Ragnaros, fans will be more excited to learn he can be used normally or take over a fort whether it’s standing or not, and grow to boss-like size to bring havoc and chaos to your opponents.
There’s also a new Brawl called Blackheart’s Revenge that’s an asymmetrical battleground where the attacking team will have to gather cannonballs and open fire on Blackheart’s ship while the defending team will need to take out enemy heroes until Blackheart can destroy the attackers’ core for the win. For limited time. there’s also a sweet Nexus Challenge where you can team up with your friends and earn all sorts of rewards for both Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm, such as mounts and free heroes to unlock and use.
Moving on to Hearthstone, its fourth expansion, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan comes with some new factions to take on and a slew of new cards to use. You’ll get to take your deck and play against three crime families: the weapon-smuggling Grimy Goons, the assassins of the Jade Lotus, and the mana-hungry Kabal as you hit the streets and show them what you and your card deck are made of.
One of my all-time favorite games, Diablo 3 had some great news as Blizzard’s Frank Pierce talked about the first Diablo game coming back via through Diablo 3 for its 20th anniversary in a mode where you’ll be able to play the title that started it all, complete with retro graphics and movement. There also will be two new stages in Adventure Mode for players to experience. But the biggest news of them all was the announcement of the long awaited and demanded Necromancer returning to the franchise via a paid expansion coming in 2017 appropriately titled Rise of the Necromancer. I can’t wait and hope it will be well worth it when it arrives.
There was plenty of other things going on at the con as well, such as eSports matches for all of Blizzard’s titles, victories and championships won, as well as costume and artwork contests where some of the most devoted fans gave their all with their creativity and won some sweet prizes for doing so. Then to top it all off, Weird Al Yankovic was there to close out the show with an accordion bang that was a perfect end to a fun show. Also with the virtual ticket, you receive some awesome virtual goodies to use in Blizzard’s latest games. The ones I loved the most are the two murloc pets, Knight-Captain Murky for the Alliance side and Legionnaire Murky for the Horde. Nothing makes me smile more than seeing them trying to keep up with my characters as I play, and of course clicking on them and listening to their cute and funny baby murloc sounds.
It would’ve been nice had their been more breaking news and announcements at this year’s BlizzCon, but despite this, it turned out to be a fun experience to watch via the virtual ticket. Perhaps next year I will push to attend the show live for the first time, but even if I don’t or can’t make it, it’s good to know the virtual ticket has me and all other fans covered.