Seeing as LG provided me with the BlizzCon pass, I got to the event early, and started by checking out the company’s new 3D monitors. First impressions: The LG booth was very well lit with white carpet and walls which make it stand out against the starkness of the convention hall. There were banks of computers showing Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm as well as some large 47 inch televisions and a huge cinema wall. All of the displays used the same light weight, movie theater-style 3D glasses, which are comfortable and don’t provide any distracting flicker. The Starcraft cinematics were a treat and the game looked good in 3D.
An hour after the doors opened, the Opening Ceremony started. The broadcast was put up on every screen in the convention center, bringing everything to a standstill. Blizzard teased the crowd by revealing just the box art for Diablo III as the big announcement for the series. Next they revealed the Diablo III Collector’s Edition, which looks very similar to the Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty Collector’s Edition in terms of content.
But then, President Mike Morhaime dropped the big news: A digital Standard Edition of Diablo III will be given free to all World of Warcraft players who subscribe to the WoW Annual Pass. By agreeing to subscribe to WoW for a year (but still billed monthly) players get a digital copy of Diablo III, guaranteed access to the beta for the next WoW expansion (more about that later), and an exclusive WoW mount. To avoid the “free” copy of D3 being given to people without a WoW account, the game will be automatically added to your account rather than simply being a redeemable code which you could then hand on to a friend.
Overall, this is an amazing business decision that should help user retention – and a huge incentive to keep people playing WoW instead of drifting off to one of the many new MMOs that are coming out. The entire convention hall was buzzing about this news.
The other big reveal was the next Warcraft expansion: World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria was officially unveiled by Chris Metzen.
Some of the new features they teased: A new race, the Pandaren; A new class, the Monk; Level cap raised to 90; A new Pet Battle system (which turns out to be like Pokémon with your non-combat pets); and a completely redone talent system. Blizzard had been very tight lipped about the expansion after the massive leak before the Cataclysm announcement and it paid off. The Pandaren starting zone, the Monk class and the new leveling system were all playable at the show.
There were many other panels, but one of the new additions to BlizzCon was the Ask Blizzard table. It provides some one-on-one Q&A time with one of the developers. They were very friendly and would chat with you about whatever you wanted. I was able to find out a little more information about the WoW Annual Pass. Put simply, the Pass will add 12 months to your subscription, but is billed in monthly installments. While originally we’d been told that you could not use game time codes to pay for those installments, we soon found out that you can, which makes the whole thing super-convenient!
Even more awesome news – if you have the Annual Pass and then buy the Collector’s Edition of Diablo III, you’ll snag four months of WoW for free! (Why four months? Simple math: At $15/month, that works out to the $60 cost of the standard edition of D3 that you won’t be using.)
Not only did Blizzard improve how they handled Q&A’s, but they also improved how they handled queues! BlizzCon is known for its exceptionally long lines. The lines in the Blizzard-run booths, however, moved rapidly. Sure, you still had to walk the width of the convention (twice) while queuing for the BlizzCon store, but you didn’t stop for more than a minute while doing it. Staff even handed out surveys with free loot while you waited!
There is a lot of excitement on the show floor and there does appear to be something for everyone this year. A huge Starcraft II tournament, more time with the tantalizingly close Diablo III, and a beautiful new zone for World of Warcraft. I haven’t run into anybody who’s been disappointed yet.