Blizzard Entertainment looks both back and to the future with ‘BlizzConline’

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I started my Saturday pretty annoyed with Blizzard Entertainment. I logged onto Hearthstone, the company’s digital card game, to find that it was no longer selling the latest set of cards with in-game currency. While I’m still upset that I spent weeks grinding and now have nothing to show for it, I’m excited to see the announcements Blizzard made at BlizzConline develop over the next year.

BlizzConline — a portmanteau of Blizzard, convention and online — was a stand-in for the company’s annual two-day convention, which is normally held the first weekend of November. It’s a time for the company to announce new content for all of its titles, some of which mean a lot to me. StarCraft II got me hooked on competitive gaming at the age of 11; I dabbled in Heroes of the Storm and I try to play both Overwatch and Hearthstone every day to collect as much unlockable content as possible.

Despite my devotion to the games, I’ve never attended in person, so I can’t talk about adapting the convention to an online format. While a lot of BlizzConline’s announcements focused on Diablo and World of Warcraft, I want to focus on the announcements about the games I play.

I’m most excited about Overwatch 2, the sequel to Blizzard’s hit in the first-person shooter (FPS) genre. The game will add expansive single-player and co-op modes that will present interesting challenges to players and build on the stories of Overwatch’s characters from all over the world. Overwatch 2 will also feature new heroes, game modes and my personal favorite — a map set in a futuristic New York City. 

I share a similar but more tempered excitement toward Hearthstone. Blizzard announced it will dramatically shift the cards available for its standard format, which is used for competitive play. A lot of my hesitation comes from what cards will be removed from this standard pool, and what cards will be added, because I don’t want to spend another several weeks collecting the cards I need to build a good deck. Developers are also adding two new formats: one that allows players to play the version of the game that was released in 2014 (I’m super excited for this), and another called “Mercenaries,” which offers more single-player content. 

However, I am disappointed with the treatment of StarCraft II and Heroes of the Storm, though I know these games are on Blizzard’s back burner. In October, the company announced it would no longer make content for StarCraft II, but the esports scene is still going strong. Similarly, Heroes of the Storm is enjoying a small resurgence, but neither title got anything out of Blizzcon outside of some show matches, and a spotlight on community-made maps — no new heroes, maps or skins.

It hurts to see games you really care for ignored by the developers, but it seems like the commitment to storytelling and gameplay Blizzard put toward StarCraft II in the early 2010s is now being committed to develop Overwatch 2. The company hasn’t announced a release date yet, so it might take until the next BlizzCon — which hopefully won’t be online — to find out if the game lives up to the hype.

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Michael Espinosa '22 is majoring in international relations. He's the head of The Daily's social media team, and editor for the University beat and also occasionally writes for sports, arts, and The Grind. He's the biggest Taylor Swift fan at Stanford and the proudest New Yorker you will ever meet. Contact him at mespinosa 'at' stanforddaily.com.