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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    2012 Blizzcon is gone: Blizzard’s risky move shows savvy, foresight

    Blizzcon is one of the most popular gaming events of the year, arguably second only to the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Last Wednesday, however, Blizzard Entertainment announced that it is canceling its yearly showcase of up-and-coming games and new content for 2012. Now it’s time to riot, right? Wrong, actually — this was about as savvy as a move that Blizzard could have made.

    It’s odd to admit, but the decision to cancel was genius. Just look at what projects the company has been working on and how hugely important they are: “Diablo III,” “StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm” and the newest “World of Warcraft” expansion, “Mists of Pandaria.” Those are three critical games all set to come out reasonably soon, or at least soon enough that they warrant special attention. Plus, with Blizzard’s tendency to take forever to release games, it’s nice to see it focus on what’s important: development.

    After all, fans of the “Diablo” franchise expect the next installment to be good, and Blizzard needs it to be good to give the game staying power. From what has been released about it so far, it doesn’t look anything like a flop, but Blizzard has to ensure that’s not the case.

    Then take a look at “Heart of the Swarm” — it’s a similar situation. The time between “Starcraft: Brood War” and “Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty” was just as long as the time between “Diablo II” and the soon to be released “Diablo III.” Plain and simple, it’s not smart to make gamers wait that long anymore, and Blizzard knows it. Blizzard understands that today’s gamers are a fickle bunch compared to their 20th-century equivalents. What’s more, Blizzard set the bar pretty high with “Wings of Liberty.” In order to release a quality game on time, it needed to take a break from Blizzcon.

    To up the stakes even more, the game deals primarily with one of the favorite races in the StarCraft universe, the monstrous, alien, all-consuming Zerg. If Blizzard doesn’t come out with exciting and balanced new units along with a compelling story, it’ll have a very disappointed fan base. Again, doesn’t look like a problem, but Blizzard isn’t taking any chances.

    Now it’s time for the awkward elephant in the room — “Mists of Pandaria.” The tricky thing about this particular expansion is that, aside from one thing, it looks to be a hands-down fantastic addition to the “World of Warcraft” universe. Not much is known about it now, but one exciting bit of released news is the addition of a new class: the monk, which will use “chi” based abilities to either tank, deal high amounts of damage per second or heal. This is going to be a blast. The jury is still out on the focal point of the expansion: the introduction of Pandaren as a playable race.

    As their name might suggest, they’re basically giant pandas. They originally started off as an April Fool’s joke by Blizzard artist Samwise Didier. Surprisingly, they got a response from gamers and Pandaren ended up being included in “Warcraft III’s” expansion, “The Frozen Throne.” Their limited role seemed to be fine, but now gamers seem concerned or upset over their addition to the massively multiplayer online role playing game that is “WoW.”

    As a final note, Blizzard actually looks to be doing a great job with them — namely in the fact that Pandaren choose their faction (the “good” Alliance or the “evil” Horde) at level 10, something that is exclusive to them. Not only is that cool from a gameplay perspective, but it’s brilliant from a story standpoint. Now, hopefully, players will pay far greater attention to the story their character follows instead of just skipping over their occasionally long and dry quest descriptions.

    That kind of story-based innovation is needed now more than ever thanks to the wide appeal and general success of BioWare’s “Star Wars: The Old Republic” and its fully voiced, interactive quests.

    More than anything, despite all the good this choice will do for these three games, it’s just nice to see Blizzard take a step back and say, “Showing off isn’t as important as the games themselves.”

    So many games look great when advertised but are horrible when released. In today’s age, developers have grown to enjoy showboating more than crafting games worthy of said antics. If the developer had spent less money advertising and more on the game, it probably would have sold better. Merit wins out over a high volume of advertisement any day.

    — Jason Krell is the assistant copy chief. He can be reached at arts@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatArts.

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