BlizzCon 2010: Little Ado About Nothing

From an outsider’s perspective, I have to concur with the crowd — BlizzCon this year was a non-event.  It isn’t just that Blizzard lacked anything huge to announce (although, I’m sorry, they really should’ve since they set a precedent at previous BlizzCons for doing so), but that the company didn’t even seem to really want to be there.  This lack of enthusiasm, the much-fluff-but-no-substance of the panels, and the void of anything new for fans to really rally around kept this from being a special time for people who shelled out a lot of money to travel there, and the company who should be enjoying an entire convention in their honor instead of acting like they really need to get back to work since the expansion’s coming in a couple weeks.

Many of my fellow bloggers seem to agree, even the die-hard fans of WoW: Larisa, Tobold, Boathammer, Procrastination Amplification, Player vs. Developer, and Spinks.

But hey, they didn’t really have anything new to announce, and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they did this convention more for fans and fan expectations than for self-promotion.

It’s just that Blizzcon is a big example of what I’ve come to really dislike about Blizzard’s attitude and philosophy:

  • Devs that see themselves enthroned on high, only bothering to address the peasants’ queries when it suits their whims
  • One of the slowest paths to game development in the world, to the point where even the “polish” and “we’ll release it when it’s ready” mantras are being overshadowed by the pokey pace
  • Secrets and tenuous information
  • Adamant stances about game design in which they get uppity with players who oppose this, and yet they can change it completely and not be called to task for the hypocrisy

And more than anything else, Blizzard has set itself apart from the rest of its MMO brethren.  I hate this.  It’s like if there’s a huge family with lots of kids, and one becomes super-successful and stops talking to the rest of the family altogether, because who needs them?  BlizzCon is symbolic of how Blizzard is flipping the bird to other conventions and the rest of the MMO industry, because who needs them?  They’re totally cool with every other MMO mentioning WoW in interviews, but when’s the last time you heard a Blizzard dev reference a game other than their own?

It’s why I’m glad to be outside of WoW’s orbit now, because it’s become something larger than a game — a culture.  It demands your all: your time, your money, your interest, your devotion.

From looking at BlizzCon and then remembering my experiences at PAX, I have to say I’d go with PAX ten times out of ten.  I love being part of a wider community of games and designers and fans than a limited — if popular — selection.

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16 thoughts on “BlizzCon 2010: Little Ado About Nothing

  1. There was some interesting news for Diablo 3 fans, such as the final class and more info about the various systems. But I agree; no point in paying attention if all you care about is WoW.

  2. “And more than anything else, Blizzard has set itself apart from the rest of its MMO brethren.”

    “when’s the last time you heard a Blizzard dev reference a game other than their own?”

    Chris Metzen, up front in the opening ceremony with his “Geek is…” presentation calling out EverQuest, with a big screen shot, and declaring that without EQ, WoW would not have been possible.

    A total violation or Marketing 101, that declaration. When you are #1, you never mention the competition. But there, he did it.

    And how would you compare BlizzCon to, say, SOE Fan Faire? Or CCPs EVE…um… thing? (Forget the name at the moment.) Is it a bad thing to have an event that focuses on your games and your players?

    Yeah, there wasn’t much going on at BlizzCon. The second day seemed to be mostly Q&A, at least on the DirecTV stream. But are you seem to be a little bitter about being on the outside looking in.

  3. I have to agree. I see a lot of SOE in how EQ started to change for the worse in what Blizzard is doing.
    I think the best of the best has gotten too big for it’s own shoes, and would rather see a multitude of MMO’s that are good pop up rather than have that 1 game everyone thinks you must play.
    What is the old saying? Variety is the spice of life ( in this case gaming)

  4. TAGN beat me to it, but the opening section contained an homage to EQ. I don’t think there was much exciting stuff announced, either, but they’re not the only company with an event (which TAGN also addressed).

    You really are coming across as quite bitter about WoW lately, Syp, between this and the tweet about ability queues. It’s not generally in your nature to be so negative, is it?

  5. If what you wanted out of BlizzCon was WoW information…yeah, rather lacking.

    I had a great time in the D3 panels and the SC2 map editor panel. I got a real kick out of the current version of D3 and some of the new maps for SC2 they had there for people to play.

    On a purely WoW level…I guess I’m glad I was there to join in the massive booing when they blew people off about more character slots.

    It’s important to provide feedback.

  6. Pingback: All Hail Our Blizzard Overlords? | Multiplaying

  7. Yeah it was very lacking in WoW info, which was dissapointing, though hardly suprising given the point in the developement cycle. They gave some info on the raids/features coming in 4.1, which is really all that could have been reasonably expected.

    Diablo on the other hand had lots of goodies, which made me very happy.

    As for your points against blizzard, most don’t even really seem like negatives to be honest. It takes them forever to develope games, t’is true, but I dunno if I can actually complain about that. It sucks that I don’t have D3 right now, but it’s not like they’re oblidged to make sure I do. Once the game does release, they support it very well, for an extremely long time, and I think that’s far more important.

    I think a lot of the cause behind that and other differences is just how succesful they are. WoW is an unbelievable cash cow; every expansion sells like gangbusters and sets records, and more importantly gives them a very steady stream of income. When you have that much spare money, then you can afford the spend as long as you want to make a game. I think if other studios had that kind of huge, reliable income, they’d take forever too. And vice versa as well; I think if WoW hadn’t been such a sucess, then we would have gotten SC2 sometime around 2007-2008, they just could not have afforded the wait.

    Do they put themselves up on a pedestal? Probably to some degree; it would be hard not to be over-proud when you achieve the kind of sucess they have. But even if they were as humble as can be, they’d still be up there on that pedestal, because they are that much more succesful than everyone else. They’re up above everyone else because their games are just that much better (at least in sales numbers.) Other devs mention WoW because it’s a big deal for them; either they’re trying to beat it or trying to find a niche in its shadow. They mention WoW because it affects them in a huge way, while the last mmo to affect WoW in that way was Everquest. (not saying they don’t steal ideas from other mmos of course :P)

  8. And just another friendly prod, a Blizz PR person… not even a dev… arguing about which was the best version of Final Fantasy:

    http://kotaku.com/5672775/heroes-hiro-knows-his-final-fantasy

    Pardo gave an interview during BlizzCon about how Blizz was a total gamer culture and played about everything. If their PR people are into it, he might not have been totally blowing smoke.

    That Blizz doesn’t publish a press release titled “What We’re Playing” probably shouldn’t be held against them.

  9. I missed the EQ nod, so good for them! (although, the true cynic would note that it was key EQ figures who came over to help start up WoW.)

    And yeah, I try not to be negative, but sometimes it’s just how I feel. I guess it’s that love/hate thing that I mentioned a few days ago — I’ll always admire and dislike, probably in equal proportions, WoW for the rest of my life.

  10. Thanks for the link love :)
    I suppose BlizzCon would be fine as a fan convention and a possibility to interact with your favourite game developer if it wasn’t for the precedent you mentioned. I’m disappointed about BlizzCon because I didn’t get what I expected, not because it was a bad convention.

  11. Wilhelm, comparing the information released at SOE’s “fan faire” which has always been billed as a fan congregation, to the information released by Blizzcon, which has always been billed as a Blizzard games informational extravaganza is not terribly fair.

    A large number of people go to Blizzcon expecting to find out exciting news about Blizzard games — that’s what the con is marketed towards! Instead, this year Blizz fans got Blizzard Fan Faire instead of Blizzcon. I think a little unhappiness is reasonable.

    Especially considering the amount of money Blizz must make off Blizzcon. You can’t help but feel there was a little “well, maybe we shouldn’t have Blizzcon this year because we have nothing to say but . . . buckets of money, oooh!” I doubt that was an actual factor, but Blizzard’s behavior gives the impression that it was . . .

    Anyway, I wasn’t expecting much about WoW, but I expected a LOT more about Starcraft 2’s future, and more about Diablo 3. For a game that’s been in development forever they sure don’t have much to say about it.

  12. @PeterD – I get what you’re saying, but if I read the BlizzCon promo materials, I don’t see anything in there about “Come and see big announcements about our products live and in person.” We’re editing that in ourselves based on past experience.

    They’ve tried to have big stuff as part of the opening ceremony (which SOE does as well, along with dev panels, game previews, and the like) but given how fast tickets sell out, I think it has become more of an event in and of itself regardless of the expectation that we’ll hear some big news.

    On the money front, I think it costs a lot more than you imagine, especially if you account for how much dev time away from the office it entails. Time value of money and all that. They certainly aren’t losing money on BlizzCon, but as a revenue center I’d guess that Diablo II sales brought in more net profit this year.

  13. @PeterD

    I don’t know how it’s useful to create this artificial standard of how much new information should be released, and then to apply it selectively. BlizzCon is a cool event for a lot of reasons, and the new information is just one of those reasons.

    Much like in 2008, we didn’t get a ton of new information this time. That’s certainly somewhat disappointing, but it really shouldn’t be surprising.

    By the way, all the marketing aside, they actually do lose money on BlizzCon: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/94802-Blizzards-AGDC-Keynote-We-Lose-Money-on-BlizzCon

    Bitterness tends to be a narrow lens. /fortune cookie

  14. Having previously worked in convention planning and coordination, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Blizzard loses money on Blizzcon. Conventions are more expensive than you could imagine, especially with the amount of lighting and tech that Blizzard uses. That easily runs millions of dollars. And $150 a head + souvenirs is nowhere near enough to recoup that money.

    But they can consider it a marketing expense, since ultimately it promotes their products and goodwill among fans and fansites. Whether they are making big announcements or not, it’s still marketing.

    I got the impression that they held it this year because of expectations from the fans who wanted to go, and that they considered it to basically be two days for Blizzard fans (and Blizzard-promoting fansites like WoW Insider, The Instance, etc) to meet, party, get face time with developers, play games, etc.

    Plus they have to hold the tournaments somewhere, and the tournaments are obviously a VERY big deal to their Korean market.

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