Warcraft Returns: BlizzCon’s Potentially Big Surprise

What will be Blizzard's big surprise reveal this year? A new Warcraft could rock the convention. Here's why it's time.

Editor’s Note: For more on BlizzCon 2014, visit our coverage hub.

If you’ve read our everything you need to know guide to BlizzCon 2014 from earlier this week, you’ll remember we mentioned the possibility of a surprise announcement/reveal from Blizzard. Blizzard likes surprises, and with Warlords of Draenor building up serious steam in the WoW world, the timing seems ripe for a major BlizzCon reveal.

At this point in time, a surprise announcement seems more than a possibility, in fact—it seems extremely likely. There’s an obvious 2-hour gap on the main panel schedule on Friday, and there’s also a physical gap in the panel stations. Unless Blizzard uses that space for a whole bunch of Warcraft movie panels (which seems unlikely given the attention already being delivered to the movie as per the schedule), we’re likely looking at something big.

Also, as stated in this recent Twitter update, Blizzard has started hiring en masse for a new project. They’re hiring artists, designers, and engineers, which suggests the project is one beginning from the ground up and not merely an expansion.

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There are a couple likely suspects for this announcement, of course, and we briefly went over them earlier in the week. Now it’s time to dig into the details. Considering the options for a new, non-expansion project, we can narrow down the choices to a likely announcement regarding something 100% new genre-wise (such as Blizzard’s recently-trademarked “Overwatch” title that could be a new shooter in development) or something having to do with the original Warcraft RTS series.

Of both of those options, the latter seems to make most sense. Why? The timing is perfect. With attention on World of Warcraft’s new expansion and the Warcraft movie, the world that the original Warcraft franchise was based off will be directly in the center of media’s attention for a while. And as we all know, synergy is the name of the game for big IPs these days (see DC and Marvel everything).

Thanks to the movie, gamers who aren’t MMORPG/classic RTS fans will likely become interested in the Warcraft universe. Fantasy movie buffs who aren’t gamers will likely become interested in WoW yet may not feel comfortable diving into a game that’s as aged and as negatively portrayed as WoW often is. Let’s face it—there’s a reason why the creators of South Park made an episode about World of Warcraft. WoW nerds get a lot of flak.

What does all of this mean? That Blizzard would be extremely smart to announce a game that isn’t dated and isn’t WoW—but still focuses on the Warcraft universe. This game could build up hype right alongside the movie. The combination is perfect from a marketing standpoint.

There’s also the fact that the timing is excellent for an RTS revival. Many StarCraft fans are hoping for news on the next StarCraft expansion, and we may very well see news of that during this year’s BlizzCon, but not all RTS fans enjoy the sci-fi setting of StarCraft. Given what Blizzard was able to pull off with the original Warcraft series, there’s so much that could be done with the genre given today’s tech. Not only is it the perfect time for a new fantasy RTS based on an already-popular game and upcoming movie, but it’s also the perfect time for one that focuses on making the genre current.

Game genres tend to be cyclical when it comes to what’s popular. For a while, MMORPGs were the latest and greatest in PC gaming. Then folks kind of moved on to shooters. Currently, MOBAs are quite the force to be reckoned with, but there’s arguably plenty of room right now for another genre resurgence. It’s been a very long time since an RTS was popular. The timing, again, just seems right—and it definitely matches Blizzard’s vision of striving for innovation.

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So, considering all that, which game will we likely see an announcement about? Are we looking at Warcraft IV or simply an HD remake of Warcraft III? Both would gain a whole lot of ecstatic fans instantly. The lore could easily be reworked to make sense for both, especially given how far off-course WoW’s lore has veered of late. A remake of Warcraft III would be significantly easier for Blizzard to pull off lore-wise, however, and could be released a whole lot quicker.

With Blizzard’s list of games becoming increasingly large, a remake simply makes the most sense. It would need a smaller design team and would cost less money to develop than a new game in the franchise (and much less time/money than a new IP). It would also allow Blizzard to test the waters in order to figure out if their fans are 100% ready for a fantasy RTS revival.

Sometimes the combination of large gaps between franchise releases and the insertion of new, risky features causes folks to be unhappy (Diablo III’s original post-release period, anyone?). A Warcraft III remake would let Blizzard get specific feedback about which RTS features players want to see and how exactly they can approach developing further games in the series—or if they even should.

Now, everything written above is obviously a huge bundle of speculation. Just because the timing seems right for a Warcraft-inspired game announcement doesn’t mean we’ll see that reveal. The team has their own agenda, of course, and our tin foil hats could go flying off the second BlizzCon starts. But hey, where’s the fun in that?

What do you think? What are your predicts and expectations for this weekend’s BlizzCon?

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