BlizzCon 2018: When it starts, and what announcements we expect

2018 will mark the 12th year of BlizzCon, the only annual event at which you’re likely to find murloc cosplayers cheering on Hearthstone matches just a few feet away from an elite World of Warcraft raid guild sitting in rapt attention to a panel about how all of their classes are going to be taken apart and put back together in the next expansion. To put that in perspective, at the very first BlizzCon in 2005, Diablo 3 and StarCraft 2 were just distant dreams. Overwatch, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm did not exist. And we were just being teased about WoW’s first expansion, The Burning Crusade.

This is expected to be the largest BlizzCon ever, topping last year’s number of over 35,000 in-person attendees. Again, for the sake of comparison, the town where I currently live in Colorado has a total population of fewer than 15,000. With all that going on, we’ve put together this article to collect everything we know about the show so far. If you’re just in it for announcement rumors and speculation, you can find those right on down at the bottom.

When is BlizzCon 2018?

That’s become a trickier question nowadays, as Blizzard sees this time a year as an entire “BlizzCon season” leading up to the show. And the festivities have already begun, with BlizzCon All-Access online coverage having launched on September 12. This programming will run for Virtual Ticket holders all the way from now to the start of the show proper, and includes some Blizzard-produced original series focused on the community and Blizzard history.

Esports kickoff week, beginning on October 25, is the next big milestone. Running until the 29th, these five days will feature the initial rounds of competition for StarCraft 2, Heroes of the Storm, and World of Warcraft. As usual, esports streams will be free.

Finally, the show itself takes place on November 2 and 3 at the Anaheim Convention Center, which is when we’ll see the announcements and get to check out panels, watch the main events of the esports competitions, and see cool community stuff like the cosplay contest.

How can I attend BlizzCon 2018? 

In terms of tickets to the venue, those sold out weeks ago, unfortunately. So unless you’re a ninja or a Chris Metzen doppelganger, you’re probably not getting in there. However, the BlizzCon Virtual Ticket is available for $50 in unlimited quantities. This will give you access to livestreams and VODs for pretty much everything of note at the show, as well as the original All Access programming mentioned earlier in the weeks leading up.

Virtual Ticket holders will also be receiving the same exclusive, in-game items for World of Warcraft, StarCraft 2, Diablo 3, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, and Hearthstone as in-person attendees. The first of these, which was just announced, is the legendary Demon Hunter skin for Overwatch’s Sombra.

What’s new at Blizzcon 2018?

Blizzard is looking to add some more value and interactivity for Virtual Ticket holders, which will include being able to vote on what to include in a video about the most epic BlizzCon moments of the last 13 years. They’ll also be collecting votes for a new “Build-A-Panel” feature in which we’ll get to decide who to put on a stage and what they’ll be talking about. 

The original programming dropping between now and the show is also a pretty big deal, featuring professionally-produced series about cosplay, creating art for video games, and a look inside Blizzard’s “Vault” that holds some relics of their past too irreplaceable to be shown off on the show floor.

This year’s BlizzCon will also be broadcast in two new languages, International Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, joining the existing list of English, German, Korean, French, Russian, and simplified Chinese.

We’re also going to see a new format for the community/contest night, including deeper dives with some of the top cosplayers about their work.

What can esports fans expect at BlizzCon 2018?

BlizzCon will play host to a little bit of everything this year, including the StarCraft 2 WCS Global Finals, the World of Warcraft Arena World Championship Global Finals, the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship Finals, the Overwatch World Cup Finals, and the Hearthstone Global Games Finals.

WoW fans will also be able to check out the Mythic Dungeon Invitational All-Stars, in which some of the best PvE players in Azeroth will go up against highly challenging dungeon runs to prove their mettle. 

What's being announced at BlizzCon 2018? 

Blizzard has been very tight-lipped about special guests and game-related announcements, but let’s go into data analysis and speculation mode here to figure out what we might see at the show.

Will they finally announce Warcraft 4?

The Warcraft RTS series has gone the longest of any of Blizzard’s franchises without a refresh. The last release, The Frozen Throne, predates the very concept of BlizzCon and my own ability to legally drive a car by years. While I cross my fingers for this announcement every BlizzCon, the continued success of World of Warcraft and Battle for Azeroth’s attempts to inject some RTS-lite mechanics with the new Warfronts system lead me to give this one low probability.

Will they announce StarCraft 3? 

We’re three years out from the release of Legacy of the Void, the final expansion for StarCraft 2, and more than eight years out from the release of the base game. There was about a 9-year gap between the release of Brood War for the original StarCraft and the announcement of StarCraft 2 in 2007. If we were to assume that cycle repeats (just for the heck of it), you could presume we’ll see the words “StarCraft 3” on a big ol’ screen sometime in the 2023 to 2025 timeframe, counting from the release of Legacy of the Void. We also live in an age now in which it’s much less common to announce a big game three years ahead of release, which could push the announcement out further.

There are some other factors to consider here, though. For one, the original StarCraft and its expansion were released within a year of one another. StarCraft 2’s five-year expansion cycle doesn’t necessarily mean Blizzard wasn’t even thinking about StarCraft 3 at all during that time. If we assume the amount of time between StarCraft’s release and the announcement of StarCraft 2 will be the same as the time between the base game StarCraft 2 and the announcement of StarCraft 3, expansions be damned, we might expect to see it as soon as this year. StarCraft has also lost the top spot in esports viewership since its release, which might be incentive to get a new game out sooner.

Still, overall, I’m giving a StarCraft 3 announcement low probability. Especially considering they’d probably want to announce it in Korea, like they did with StarCraft 2, not LA.

What’s going on with Diablo? 

We have confirmation that Blizzard is working on multiple unannounced Diablo projects, one of which which sounds a little more like a new game than an expansion or a remaster of Diablo 2. Community manager for Diablo Brandy "Nevalistis" Camel even said in a video last month that they “might have something to show” later this year.

So real talk, I’m giving some kind of Diablo announcement at the show this year a rating of sure thing. More than one, maybe. There are four different things this could be, and each has its own factors for and against: Diablo 4, a new expansion for Diablo 3, Diablo 2 Remastered, or something else entirely.

A second Diablo 3 expansion to follow Reaper of Souls has been rumored since a leaked product slate from 2010 included a “Diablo3 X1” to be released in early 2013 and a “Diablo 3 X2” to be released in late 2015. X1 turned out to be the Reaper of Souls expansion, which released along with the Crusader class in 2014. It seems a little late at this point for a followup, and I think we might have already, in a way, gotten our hands on Diablo 3’s second expansion. While the Crusader was the focus of Reaper of Souls, I highly suspect that the Necromancer was meant to be the focus of expansion two. The class was instead released as a standalone DLC in 2017, which fits very well with the slightly delayed timeline from that 2010 slate. And I also suspect Blizzard would prefer another fresh crack at Diablo after all of the drama and controversy surrounding Diablo 3’s release. I’m going to give the idea of another big expansion for Diablo 3 low probability.

Diablo 2 Remastered has been described by its original designer David Brevik as a tricky proposition. "If they do a Diablo 2 Remaster, it’s going to be difficult to make it feel exactly like the same game," he said. "They could do it but they will have to go out of their way to ensure that they are simulating the way that the game works in 2D instead of making it 3D, if that makes sense." That’s not an insurmountable problem. There are ways to lay 3D art on top of what is essentially a 2D game these days, and Tyrael knows Blizzard has the resources. I’m going to call this one at medium probability.

Diablo 4 would be the pièce de résistance, particularly if a commitment is made to learning from some of the mistakes that turned people away from Diablo 3 in its early days. There were seven years between the release of Diablo 2’s Lord of Destruction expansion and the announcement of Diablo 3, so we’re not “due” for any news judging by Blizzard’s typical iteration pace until maybe 2023 or 2024. But like I mentioned with StarCraft, post-launch content windows were much shorter back then. If we count from the release of Diablo 3 and assume the same amount of time as between Diablo 2 and the announcement of Diablo 3, we could be due for a trailer this very year. Let’s say medium probability.

What about something totally new and Diablo-related? What about Diablo Battle Royale? What about a Prime Evils dating sim? It could really be anything, and for that reason alone I’m going to call this a Medium probability.

Will they announce a new WoW expansion?

Ever since Wrath of the Lich King, every WoW expansion has been announced in an odd-numbered year and released the following, even-numbered year. Blizzard has expressed a desire to release them faster—even yearly. But so far, that has not materialized. And since we’re barely a month out from Battle for Azeroth’s launch, this seems way too early. I’d expect to hear about where our adventures in Azeroth will take us next in 2019. Low probability.

What else might be announced at Blizzcon 2018?

A new Overwatch hero: We got three new heroes last year, which was the first full year of post-launch content, and have had only two this year so far. At last year’s BlizzCon, Moira was announced at the show with the bombshell that she would be playable on public test servers immediately, and that seemed to go over well. I give it a high probability that we’ll see the same tactic repeated again this year.

A new Hearthstone set: Hearthstone has kept pretty religiously to a schedule of releasing a new set in April, one in August, and one in November/December since 2015. I’d be willing to call it a sure thing that we will hear news about the follow-up to last month’s Boomsday Project at the show.

A new Heroes of the Storm hero: Like with Overwatch, I’d consider this a sure thing. New heroes tend to be released every month or every other month. We got 15 new heroes total in 2017 and have only seven so far in 2018, so we’ve gotta be due for at least a couple more.

Will Blizzard announce a brand new game?

Recent Blizzard job postings do suggest that something new is in the works. They seem to be hiring for an “action-packed game” with a “robust first-person engine,” “unique visual direction,” and a “beautiful, visceral combat experience”. Most interesting of all, the applicant is supposed to have a passion for co-op games, RPGs, and of all things, board games.

My gut tells me this is a new franchise, but it could be related to one of the unannounced Diablo projects. But if Blizzard is just now hiring for these jobs, which are pretty foundational, I think it’s basically impossible that we’ll hear anything concrete about the project at this year’s convention. Very low probability.