Blizzcon 2019: Diablo 4, Overwatch 2 and everything else that happened

From Warcraft to Overwatch, Blizzard games are among the most popular of all time and once a year, its fans gather by the tens of thousands at 'Blizzcon'.

The California-based event took place over the weekend and showcased both the long history of Blizzard games as well as providing a grand stage to unveil what's coming next. 

With major announcements across every franchise, it's hard to imagine any fan walked away unhappy. 

The Games:

 

  • Diablo 4:
    The show opened with a jaw-dropping, blood-curdling cinematic trailer for Diablo 4, a new entry in the long running gothic horror/action series. The game will take place years after the events of Diablo 3 and pits players against a character from Diablo lore never before seen in game - the demoness Lillith. Release date is under wraps, but don't expect it any time soon.
  • World of Warcraft:
    Blizzard's flagship online RPG is turning 15 this year but showing no signs of slowing down. The next expansion is 'Shadowlands' and will take players into the realm of the dead with a reworked levelling system, a brand new game mode inspired by the 'rogue-like' genre and a terrifying new big bad - the Jailer of the Dead. Release date is also unannounced, but if previous games are any indication, expect it around this time next year. 
  • Overwatch 2:
    The reigning king of character shooters, Overwatch, is getting a long-expected sequel. Overwatch 2 will sport revamped visuals, new characters and entirely new game modes. Also included will be a long-requested story mode, an interesting opportunity for Blizzard to tell Overwatch's narrative more traditionally as opposed to in animated shorts and out-of-game comics. Blizzard was tight-lipped as to when fans would get their hands on the sequel, however.
  • Hearthstone:
    Cardbattler Hearthstone's next expansion is 'Descent of Dragons', which will round out the story set up in the previous two content chapters. Fans also won't have long to wait with the expansion is due to launch December 10. However, the biggest news for Hearthstone fans was an entirely new game mode called 'Battlegrounds', based on the 'auto-chess' genre which has recently exploded onto the gaming scene. 
  • Heroes of the Storm:
    World of Warcraft mega-villain Deathwing the World Breaker is coming to multiplayer online battle arena, Heroes of the Storm. While it has never reached the commercial heights of its genre rivals, Dota 2 or League of Legends, Heroes has amassed a respectable fanbase, fueled by its diverse cast of heroes pulled from across every Blizzard game.  

Speaking to Newshub, Blizzard's vice-president of story and franchise development Jeff Chamberlain said a focus on well-developed characters is what unites the company's franchises across the board. 

"In the early days we focused heavily on plot but we've realised it's characters that draw people in," he said.

Blizzard has been making games for almost 30 years and Chamberlain said its focus has shifted to be more inclusive during that time.  

"Our games used to be very male-centric, because back in our early days the gaming audience was predominantly male. That's obviously not the case anymore."

Esports tournament at Blizzcon 2019.
Team USA were crowned world champions at the 2019 Overwatch World Cup. Photo credit: Newshub./Finn Hogan

The Esports:

 

With competitions across all major franchises running weekend long, the esports scene at Blizzcon 2019 was immense - but the main event was unquestionably the Overwatch World Cup. 

Overwatch Team NZ was tragically ejected in the prelims by Australia. But the Kiwi boys put up a solid fight, hanging in till the tie-breaker round, despite being considered underdogs heading into the match. 

Overall, it was a tournament of upsets, with three-time world champs South Korea settling for bronze medal finish after being taken down by team USA, who went on to beat team China for the grand title. 

The finals were electric, with passionate supporters from both teams shaking the arena with huge cheers at each shift on the virtual battlefield.  

If you're an esports sceptic, heading to a live event and feeling the crowd's energy should go a long way to changing your mind. 

Hong Kong protest flyer given out at Blizzcon 2019.
Hong Kong protest flyer given out at Blizzcon 2019. Photo credit: Newshub./Finn Hogan

The Protest:

 

The event didn't pass completely without controversy. There were a small but vocal group at the front gates protesting Blizzard's suspension of Hearthstone player 'Blitzchung' after he expressed support for the Hong Kong protesters during a post match interview. 

The move drew widespread backlash from fans, players and even Amercian lawmakers. Blizzard has since softened its stance, returning frozen prizemoney and halving the suspension period to six months.

Blizzard's president J Allen Brack faced the controversy head on as the ceremony opened.

"Blizzard had the opportunity to bring the world together in a tough Hearthstone esports moment about a month ago. We did not. We moved too quickly in our decision-making and then to make matters worse, we were too slow to talk to all of you," he said.

While striking a conciliatory tone throughout his address, Brack mentioned no specifics of the event, or any reversal of the suspension. 

The Blizzcon 'Family':

 

Many companies refer to their customers as 'family', but at Blizzcon it feels less like corporate nonsense speak.

Despite tens of thousands of fans facing intimidating queues for every attraction, I never saw anyone grow aggressive or even particularly impatient.

I asked a stranger where he had picked up a particularly poster, and he handed me his one, saying it would save me a trip and that he had spares. 

Cosplayers at Blizzcon 2019.
Cosplayers at Blizzcon 2019. Photo credit: Newshub./Finn Hogan

Despite its size, Blizzcon feels small in all the best way. Staff tell you 'welcome home',  strangers compliment each other on their cosplay and sudden friendships are frequently struckup based on a mutual love of a shared game universe.

Blizzard publishes relatively few games compared to its competitors and instead supports the ones it has for years, or even decades. This means some fans have played a particular franchise for almost their entire lives.

Executive vice-president of story and franchise development Lydia Bottegoni says it's this focus on community that helps sustain Blizzard's success. 

"A great game keeps people pulled in and people pulled in keeps the game great," she said.

But the moment that summed up Blizzcon's sense of community for me came on the first day, when a looming security guard pulled me aside and gave me a stern look. 

"Sir, I need you to do something before you enter the floor," he said.

I nodded, nervous and on the backfoot. 

"I need you to have a wonderful weekend and a happy Blizzcon." 

Emphatically, I did as I was told. 

Finn Hogan attended Blizzcon 2019 as a guest of Blizzard Entertainment.

Newshub.

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