The big event put on by Blizzard each year, Blizzcon, found an unfortunate cancellation in 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – but not to be held back, Blizzard announced that the huge event would be moving to an online platform during the start of 2021 with February announced as the date for the event, but what sort of news could be on the way, and is there any competition at all?
Overwatch 2 – Announced back in 2019 at a Blizzcon event, it has largely been radio silence for the successor to Overwatch – whilst both games will still be played hand in hand as players of the first will still be able to join players of the second, it’s a step forward for the esports title that hasn’t had the easiest of time finding the growth many believe it deserved. Any news could be good news too, as since the move to YouTube for streaming the Overwatch esports, numbers haven’t been great peaking at close to 400,000 for playoff games, numbers that some of the bigger titles can get throughout the group stages, and with a struggling esports betting scene within the game to boot because of this lack of interest, not much room to grow – will Overwatch 2 fix that? BlizzConline will tell.
Diablo 4 – The Diablo series has never been a big esports title, typically more of a brain-off and slice your way through hordes of monsters – but other titles in the genre like Path of Exile have really changed the ARPG genre by developing a legitimate esports area to the game. The sequel to the popular Diablo 3 title released all the way back in 2012 has been anticipated for a long time, and with very early footage of Diablo 4 showcased last year, fans do know it’s on the way – it may just be a question of how quickly it’ll arrive. Given the success of Path of Exile, it can be expected that perhaps Diablo 4 will go the same way in bolstering seasonal ladders and encouraging a more competitive esports title and create some competition in a market that’s largely a one-horse race at the moment.
World of Warcraft – The end of 2020 saw the release of the newest World of Warcraft expansion, Shadowlands. The ‘Race to World First ‘ – an event which sees the best guilds compete to clear the most difficult Player vs Environment content the fastest and has been growing in popularity over the past few years since it had been first introduced as a community run event. Blizzcon usually hosts the two supported esports titles for the game, however, in the Arena World Championship and Mythic Dungeon invitational – the competitive sides of both Player vs Player and Player vs Environment respectively. The AWC is currently taking place before the event ruling out any big changes to one of them, but the MDI is set to take place as BlizzConline comes to an end and seemingly being stepped up a little as a now $300,000 prize pool has been made available – whilst still very short of what some of the other biggest titles are offering, it’s a step in the right direction for a game that has traditionally not held a space in the esports market.
One thing that has become clear in recent years however is that Blizzard are definitely trying to make their way into the growing world of esports – and whilst some of their games are suited for the typical approach, they do seem to be gaining a bigger audience, and the Blizzcon events go a great length into helping that too.