Given the absence of Diablo 4 at the show last year, and the shadow of how fans will respond this year, not to mention all the recent controversy, anticipation is high for Blizzcon 2019. So naturally, word about Diablo 4 and an Overwatch sequel is starting to do the rounds.
Both games have been anticipated for a while, Diablo 4 in particular following Jason's deep-dive reporting on the status of the project. Normally now we'd have more of an official indication from the official Blizzcon schedule, but two weeks from the opening of Blizzcon the official schedule is still greyed out on the Blizzcon site.
But that hasn't stopped the internet from giving everyone a giant hint on what to expect. There's a new book showcasing the art of the Diablo franchise, which doesn't officially launch until November 3. A reference to the book in the German magazine Gamestar has added a little reference to Diablo 4, but the note about Diablo 4 doesn't appear on the Amazon listing, or the official description on Booktopia.
The timing lines up, though. Post-Blizzcon 2018, an official community manager made a point of saying that multiple Diablo projects would be revealed over the course of the next 12 months. "We have many plans for Diablo across multiple projects which we’ll be revealing over the course of the coming year," the manager wrote.
Blizzard already confirmed the cancellation of another Starcraft first-person shooter — a game described as Battlefield in the Starcraft universe by one source — to focus more on the future of Overwatch and Diablo.
At the time, the expectation among those sources was that Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2 would be the marquee reveals for Blizzcon 2019. More info has started to seep out online that fits into that realm, with the same poster revealing Ashe before her announcement on the Overwatch stage last year discussing Overwatch 2, its focus on PvE and PvP, and how it'll be shown at Blizzcon.
For example, there will be an upgrade/change to tracers pulsebomb that makes it so if you stick an opponent, all units close to the target that got stuck will also be stuck with a pulsebomb.
— Metro (@Metro_OW) October 18, 2019
A couple of internal Blizzard sources have compared Overwatch 2's PvE element to Left 4 Dead when discussing it with Kotaku, and it makes sense that players would unlock abilities in PvE for certain heroes that wouldn't carry over to normal multiplayer. Similar systems have been used in Blizzard games before, like the ranking system for Heroes of the Storm or the leveling up mechanic for heroes and commanders in Starcraft 2's co-op mode.
There's also the fact that the investor world is happily talking about Overwatch and Diablo sequels, with the caveat that neither of them are expected to launch anytime soon. "The company also has sequels planned for its other blockbuster franchises — Overwatch and Diablo — in the coming years," trader publication Barron's wrote in a feature on Activision-Blizzard as a stock.
Activision has also been pretty forward with investors about growing its franchises on future platforms, and in a question to an analyst, Blizzard president and CEO J. Allen Brack noted that the company has "a couple of mobile initiatives":
I said consistently that the Blizzard pipeline is larger and richer than ever before. It includes PC and console releases. It includes ongoing content for World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Hearthstone and a couple of mobile initiatives. It's critical that all these products meet the Blizzard that we're known for. We want to give the teams the space to really create excellence and release games at a better and more consistent kids.
We already know about Diablo Immortal, and having already been playable briefly last year and generally taking less time to develop than a full AAA PC or console release, there should be a solid chunk of gameplay available this year. But another mobile project that might get revealed is that Warcraft spin on Pokemon Go that's been in development.
More important than that, however, is Blizzard's need for redemption. The company is staring down the barrel of having protests at its own fan convention. Fans booed their heroes on the main stage last year. Especially after Riot's massive string of announcements across card games, MOBAs, fighting games and even an FPS that looks eerily like Overwatch meets CS:GO, Blizzard more than ever needs a big win. The developer has been famously gun-shy about talking about projects in development after what happened with Project Titan, but following the criticism it copped last year, and growing pressure elsewhere, now more than ever the time is the time to open the floodgates.
As an added note, some of last year's announcements that were supposed to be released are still on the shelf. Warcraft 3: Reforged, a game that looked fantastic when I played it last year, still has no release date.
It's likely that we'll get a release date for that at Blizzcon, considering the remaster was pretty far along at Blizzcon 2018, and beta footage is now floating around YouTube. Activision-Blizzard's chief operating officer Coddy Johnson told investors in May that Reforged was "due this year", and that date was confirmed in the second quarter earnings call in August.
One way or another, Blizzcon's gonna be interesting this year.