The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on just about every in-person gaming event this year, including BlizzCon (opens in new tab), the annual weekend-long celebration of all things Blizzard. The studio said when it pulled the plug that it was trying to pull together an online replacement, and in September it confirmed that the awkwardly-named BlizzConline (opens in new tab) will run February 19-20, 2021.
In previous years, BlizzCon has been a pay-to-play event: The opening ceremonies are free to watch, but full online access to panels, esports events, and the like requires a "virtual ticket" that have previously sold for $40 each. But 2020 has been a different sort of year, and so this BlizzCon event (which is happening in 2021, but replacing the 2020 show) will be different too.
"While we won't have a physical show this year, we're very much looking forward to BlizzConline early next," Blizzard president J. Allen Brack said in today's fireside chat video (opens in new tab). "We want it to be a big virtual celebration, so BlizzConline will be free to watch and engage in."
Despite the challenges of the pandemic—Brack said that more than 95 percent of Blizzard's global workforce is now working from home—BlizzConline promises to be a pretty big deal, with events including a cosplay exhibition and competition, art and storytelling contests, a "talent spotlight," and the March of the Murlocs (opens in new tab), a parade of Murloc-inspired looks ranging from simple facepaint to full-on cosplay.
Blizzard confirmed via email that the event will fully free: "Blizzard will not charge viewers to watch and engage in BlizzConline," a rep said.
Hopefully we'll also get a fresh look at some of the new things Blizzard is working on, including Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2, but we'll have to wait awhile yet to see how that goes. To find out more about BlizzConline or sign up for any of its events, head around to blizzcon.com (opens in new tab).