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Blizzcon 2023 Biggest Disappointments and Wins

by - 7 months ago

Blizzcon 2023 felt like Blizzard supplicated itself before the audience.

Please. Come back.

The opening ceremonies radiated emotion and energy from every single speaker. Mike Ybarra was near tears and it’s hard not to relate to him.

Many of us have missed Blizzcon. We’ve missed Blizzard. It’s been quite the road since Blizzcon 2019. From COVID, to THE Blizzard Scandal, to Overwatch 2 being released and then cancelled while being live, to Diablo Immortal… and… I should stop… The point being that Blizzard needed a win. Well. They got one.

Not across the board, but in enough categories that mattered. They strove to create a place that was more like the Blizzard of old than the Blizzard of the ABK era.

Please. Come Back. I heard them say.

Well. Maybe I will.

But what were the biggest draws and biggest disappointments of Blizzcon 2023? Let’s go.

Winner: Hearthstone

I’ve seen folks say that Hearthstone was a disappointment. I think it only feels that way because the expansion was already revealed. As far as content goes? This was the most we’ve ever seen from a Hearthstone Blizzcon panel. A new game mode, and a new catch up mechanic we’ve never seen before. Compare that to every other Hearthstone panel of… a new set? This was quite a bit more.

Even the iconic 2019 where we got Battlegrounds… that was it? Don’t forget THERE IS AN EXPANSION LAUNCHING November 14th. As a Hearthstone content creator I couldn’t have been happier. Oh by the way you can also follow my live stream on November 9th from 3:00pm-9:00pm PST right here.

Hearthstone has long had a problem with regards to pricing structure to get newer players invested. One reason that Battlegrounds has exploded in popularity, and by all accounts is the most played game mode, is because… it’s free. You can absolutely buy the battle pass, but it isn’t an absolute requirement unless you’re at the highest tier of the game. Catch-up packs now allow for a casual or newer player to get in on the game whenever they want. 50 cards in a single pack? AMAZING!

Releasing it at the end of the year is brilliant. The last set before an expansion is the worst time to get back into the game because half of the cards will be useless in a few months. Now? It genuinely might be the best thing to happen to Hearthstone’s barrier to entry… ever?

Speaking of best things ever Battlegrounds Duo’s is the most fun I’ve had playing Hearthstone. Full stop. I only played the demo a handful of times and each time I played with a friend of mine who had played Battlegrounds a grand total of one time before Blizzcon. I was able to help her in the way I’ve always dreamed of helping people. It allowed me to actually explain a lot of key concepts and every now and then I could just pass them a much needed card and BOOM triple. I was told it was her favorite thing she played that weekend.

I can understand why people at home might get the impression that Battleground Duo’s is a bit… meh.. but across the board every single person I had talked to who had played it loved it. It reduces overall RNG, it increases skill, it increases community involvement, it increases competitive possibilities, and dang it all it’s just fun. Like. A LOT OF FUN. It needs some work on the UI quite badly and a tutorial to explain some of the concepts, but since it isn’t expected to ship out for a while I’m not too worried about it.

Disappointment: Diablo

What. Even. Happened here? There wasn’t a panel on Diablo until the second day. The “new” information included: A new event set to come out in a month, and the smallest trailer for an expansion I’ve ever seen with almost no details following. What’s more is that there wasn’t even any Diablo in the entire Diablo Hall. In comparison Overwatch at least had a demo for the live service game. If you weren’t one of the extremely few Diablo fans to get a Hell’s Ink Tattoo you were probably extremely disappointed. I for one. Don’t blame you.

Now they did acknowledge that season 1 did not hit the mark and they shared a number of details about season 2 that seems much improved. It wasn’t that Diablo shared bad things. It just wasn’t great. If one end of the measuring stick is “Do you have phones?” and the other is the breathtaking Diablo 4 announcement the following year this lands firmly in the middle.

Winner: Warcraft

Chris Metzen is back. They announced not one, but three new expansions on the horizon. They released the most touching cinematic in WoW’s history, and made classic… crazy cool and fun again?! They absolutely crushed it out of the park on this one.

This is the first time since Wrath of the Lich King that I have thought “Wow I am excited for where the story is going.” Don’t get me wrong I’ve loved story beats in every single expansion, but… it’s been a tough few years from an overall story telling perspective. THAT sword was stuck in the side of the world for two expansions without acknowledgement, fan favorite characters had become unrecognizable, and suddenly the world became about gods and forces beyond our control instead of the heroes of Azeroth.

But now? It seems like it’s all coming full circle. It not only makes me excited to come back, but also helps explain some of the previously baffling decisions (Oh boy two sword burns in a row?)

Not much is known about the latter two expansions, but the first expansion looks pretty amazing. We delve into the heart of Azeroth in order to explore a calling sent out to our greatest champions. My deepest hope is at the end of this three part series we finally get a full reboot of World of Warcraft. I watched the trailer for Classic Cataclysm and my only thought was “if the game looked like that… imagine how many more people would play.”

Warcraft Vanilla Classic has always been a tough spot for Blizzard because what people want and what they say they want are two different things. People claim they want a true classic experience… but that just literally isn’t possible. Things have become too streamlined. Too easy. Season of Discovery finally adds a twist that WoW classic really needs. A level 25 raid was such an absolute monstrosity of delight. Mage healing? Shaman and Warlock tanking? Incredible. I haven’t played much classic, but this gave me the itch real bad.

Disappointment: Blizzcon Attendees

I’ve been torn on including this as a true disappointment, because as someone who went I had the time of my life. I laughed. I cried. It was an all time great weekend. BUT. From a value perspective? It was unbelievably weak. Probably the worst it’s ever been.

Blizzard increased the cost of attendance quite dramatically this Blizzcon to over $300. What’s more they also DECREASED the amount of stuff you got with the ticket. Previous years have included a whole grab bag of small gifts… this year? A single backpack with nothing inside.

What’s more there weren’t any exclusive panels to Blizzcon attendees. You can’t go? That’s okay just watch from home. I love the sentiment a lot, but the execution feels weird. I think Blizzcon being available for the big announcements for free from home is the correct and good move, BUT if we’re talking about a pure value stand point it now means I gain nothing by going.

The demo stations were also a mess. Outside of the Warcraft area there was nothing that was actually exclusive to Blizzcon attendees. The Overwatch demo was just a live service game, and Diablo had literally nothing. Like. Nothing to play. Nothing to do. There were photos to be taken and the set up was gorgeous, but I’m there to play games and watch panels and cheer at esports. Diablo had… none of that.

Don’t even get me started on the joke that was the Portal Passes. Pay an obscene amount of money for the VIP treatment? What VIP treatment? Oh sorry there isn’t any. Thanks for the money!

Again I’m a bit of a cynic and arguing for someone else’s point of view. All of my favorite people and friends are at Blizzcon. It’s why I go. So for me it was still an incredible experience, but for those who came there just because they love Blizzcon I have to imagine they were let down.

Winner: Warcraft Rumble

This one shocked me a bit as Blizzcon didn’t really announce a whole lot on Rumble. They just needed to not fumble the bag. Just don’t screw up and you’re fine. You know what. They didn’t screw up.

The game is now available to play and truth be told it’s pretty dang fun. It needs a lot of work. Like. A lot. Especially on things like guild conversations, and bug fixes/crashing fixes, but there is a true Hearthstone-esque charm to rumble that is just a delight. Nothing truly shocking here, but the release seems to have gone relatively smoothly and the game is pretty great.

Biggest Disappointment: Overwatch

Overwatch announced a hero everyone expected and a new competitive game mode, which are both fine, but not astounding. What’s more we didn’t get to see or play any of that game mode at Blizzcon. Pretty disappointing. The hero is fun, but currently seems bad and needs to be tuned up. There was a lot of flash, but not a lot of substance. They didn’t address or announce a single story mission or anything PvE related. Supposedly these would come out in waves for multiple battle passes, but to not hear anything was… disappointing.

What made Overwatch truly the biggest loser out of all of this was because of the Overwatch World Cup.

This matters to no one else but I need to put it somewhere. The mild annoyance at the fact that they could say “Canada” and “The United States” but had to also say “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” (instead of just Saudi Arabia) and “The Team from China” which… when those two met in the finals it was an absolute nightmare of words to listen to. I don’t know how the casters kept up with it.

If you don’t follow Overwatch esports let me give you a brief recap of the drama leading up to this event. The heavy favorites to win were: China, Korea, and the United States. The United States lost in the group stages to the Kingdom from Saudi Arabia and it broke down that the three favorites were all in the same side of the bracket. Saudi Arabia went on to beat China in the finals to take home the gold.

The team from The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (it’s a mouthful each time) is a widely divisive team. Their fans will point to their mechanical skill and… Well I’m not sure what else.

Their critics (Hi! Hello! It’s me!) would point to one of their players being banned for calling a trans Overwatch caster a slur, for accusations of win trading, and for another one of their players for being banned for (allegedly) sharing explicit pictures of minors. Additionally in the Overwatch Competitive community it’s a well known secret that most players on the team (aside from SirMajed) have been accused of or outright admitted the following: Wintrading, Exploiting the duo ranked system, being generally toxic, and being extremely anti LGBTQ+.

In short. This team sucks.

And they just won the Overwatch World Cup.

A game that is all about inclusivity and diversity just crowned champions that are staunchly opposed to both of those ideas.

If this is the direction that competitive Overwatch is going… then perhaps it’s a good idea to let it die.

Biggest Winner: Blizzard

Blizzard should be ecstatic about how this weekend went. There were some missteps and some awkwardness, but by and large no massive scandals. It was just Blizzard doing Blizzard things. After a four year hiatus if they didn’t screw up it, was going to be a success.

The presenters showcased so much passion and energy and utter delight that it choked me up on multiple occasions. The crowd roared to life when called. It was a special moment. I could feel that every single developer up there really wanted to make great games.

Even the Xbox surprise guest of Phil Spencer was welcome. There were mentions of Starcraft and Heroes of the Storm… maybe there’s a hope that Microsoft actually does something there. It’s always seemed like such a shame to me that an IP as iconic as Starcraft appears to be as dead as Lost Vikings. Fingers crossed that next Blizzcon they might have something more to announce.

Was it the perfect Blizzcon? No. Absolutely not. But it was exactly what Blizzard needed.

Please. Come back.

We want to be the Blizzard you remember.

Only time will tell if they can make true on that goal.

Daniel Shelden

Stormraige has been playing Blizzard games since 1998 when his babysitter would play Starcraft in front of him. Now-a-days he mostly play Hearthstone and Battlegrounds, but dabbles in Overwatch, WoW, and Starcraft. He also hosts Blizzlet (sometimes Hearthstone most times not) and guests on Squelch: Another Hearthstone Podcast.

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