Just weeks after Microsoft closed its $68 billion deal to acquire Activision Blizzard, the game developer brought back its fan event, BlizzCon, in person for the first time since 2019.
“We love sharing what we’re working on all the time, but to share it in-person with all of you… it cannot be matched,” said Mike Ybarra, president of Blizzard Entertainment, in his opening remarks.
At the event, which was also streamed on Youtube and Twitch, attendees got updates on Blizzard’s most popular franchises including World of Warcraft, Warcraft Rumble, Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV.
“The idea of us interacting with the community is central to the whole thing,” Todd Harvey, head of marketing at Blizzard Entertainment, told Adweek. The experiential event, held Nov. 3-4 at California’s Anaheim Convention Center, saw a variety brand activations to elevate the fan experience.
BlizzCon partners included HP, Intel and Mountain Dew, giving those brands insight and access into some of the most die-hard fans in the $347 billion global gaming market.
Xbox, which is now a corporate sibling, was also a presenting sponsor.
“Our commitment at Xbox is to bring more great games to more great players in more places,” said Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming, in his remarks on stage.
“We will nurture the essence of what makes Blizzard unique,” he added, making a point to acknowledge that many in the crowd were curious to see how this new acquisition would affect Activision Blizzard franchises moving forward.
“Xbox has done an incredible job being player-focused, and it really aligns with what we think about,” Andrew Reynolds, vp of global communications at Blizzard Entertainment, told Adweek.
Harvey said Anaheim’s proximity to Activision Blizzard headquarters is the reason why the event takes place here. “It’s our opportunity to be with the community, spend time with them, answer their questions and show our appreciation,” said Harvey.
Attendees got up close and personal with many of the developers who work on their favorite games, as well as meeting up with fellow players from around the world.
Throughout the convention center, each hall was dedicated to the worlds of Warcraft, Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV.
“You want something to play, you want gathering spaces,” said Harvey, adding, “We just made sure that each franchise fulfilled all of those things we wanted to make sure that everyone was able to experience.”
Other activations included a tavern in the Warcraft hall, spaces with giant bean bags from LoveSac, and tattoo stations in the Diablo IV hall.
“I think it is emblematic of just the way live events have changed and what people expect. … People want to be immersed in these worlds,” Reynolds said.
Major announcements included previews of the next three expansions in the almost 30-year-old Warcraft franchise. World of Warcraft: The War Within will be the first installment of The Worldsoul Saga, an ambitious creative endeavor for the Warcraft universe, coming in 2024. It will introduce the new continent of Khaz Algar, with the action taking place underground.
For the Overwatch franchise, Mauga was announced as the newest hero coming to Overwatch 2. Players were able to experience the new hero during the weekend ahead of Mauga’s debut in Season 8. The Overwatch team also teased new changes including a Clash PvP game mode, where players will visit the new Hanaoka map, inspired by an original fan favorite Hanamura.
It’s too early to tell how BlizzCon 2024 will look with Microsoft fully in the picture, but seeing the live reaction from attendees and hearing what Spencer had to say gives these hardcore gamers hope.
“I think there’s a general sense from the community that they’re going to be a very supportive partner as we move forward,” said Harvey.