This might be the most pivotal BlizzCon in Blizzard's history. After a lackluster BlizzCon 2018, followed by a year of clumsily hopping from one controversy to the next, including banning a player for supporting the Hong Kong protests during an interview, this is Blizzard's chance to finally get fans excited about something that isn't just a mobile port. Given the stakes, and rumors of pro-Hong Kong protests potentially disrupting the event, we're expecting some big things. We spent the afternoon shaking a magic eight ball to conjure up this list of sure-fire BlizzCon 2019 predictions.
Diablo 4 will return to the freaky-deaky look of Diablo 2
Because if it doesn't, I'm out. Diablo 3 was hell by way of Disneyland—only without all the singing. The more distance I get from it, the more retroactively disappointed I am. I want Diablo 4, which I'm fully expecting to be announced at BlizzCon, to look like isometric puke and guts and blood, a nasty glass compression of dark, chunky fluids and damage numbers. Blizzard won't go that far, no doubt, but I hope we'll inch closer to something fun to look at again. Diablo 3 was Sunday school fanfic slathered in petroleum jelly and lit by a fun uncle's industrial maglite while he goes "oooh" and "lights off at eight, everyone." We need to go back. — James Davenport
A little update here on the day before BlizzCon: This prediction is supported by Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad, who said that a thin bit of speculation on Reddit "lines up" with what he's heard about Diablo 4. It "takes what people loved about D2 style, improves on D3 combat," he said. —Tyler Wilde
World of Warcraft's next expansion will be...
The Dragon Isles. Or the Shadowlands. Or both. For the hardcore Warcraft players, this prediction won't be that startling considering the direction Battle for Azeroth is headed with N'Zoth now free and dragons like Wrathion becoming a central focus in the next patch.
For the uninitiated, the Dragon Isles were rumored to house temples to the Old Gods (like N'Zoth) and were originally supposed to be included in The Burning Crusade as a possible raid. They were cut and never spoken of canonically until Battle for Azeroth, with Wrathion, the Black Dragon prince, on the hunt for their whereabouts. Considering that WoW's main continents have been thoroughly mapped, forcing recent expansions to all take place on lost islands that were conveniently found, the Dragon Isles is mighty plausible.
But then there are also those supposed leaks that led players to think the Shadowlands might also be the setting for the newest expansion. This alternate plane of existence is the realm of death and decay, and a supposed leak from this summer said the Shadowlands will be the frontier of a new war between the old gods and the remnants of the Alliance and Horde who have all been killed in an apocalyptic battle. Either way, I'm one thousand percent on board for an entire WoW expansion devoted to dragons and dead stuff. — Steven Messner
Hong Kong will hang over BlizzCon, but new games will still get massive cheers
Controversy around Hong Kong's protests, and Blizzard's recent suspension of a player who promoted them, isn't going away. Even Congress has criticized Blizzard for its decision. The anger from fans, frustration of Blizzard developers, and weight of this political issue will absolutely permeate BlizzCon this year, but I don't think it will actually amount to much. There will be some protesters with signs; Blizzard's press interviews will be more guarded than usual and shut down any real discussion on the topic. Twitch chat will have some strict filters in place. And on stage, a Blizzard executive will give an emotional and heavily PR-groomed speech pulling out all the old chestnuts to apologize:
"The fans mean everything to us."
"Because here at Blizzard, we're gamers too."
"Games have the power to bring people together."
Those words won't change minds, but they'll placate plenty of people. Ultimately, the majority of fans will decide they can live with Blizzard's decision on Hong Kong when they see the trailer for Diablo 4 or Overwatch 2. Even if the shine has come off Blizzard as a company, the new game hype will always win out. — Wes Fenlon
Overwatch 2 will have a proper story campaign
Earlier this year, a Kotaku report claimed that Blizzard had cancelled a Starcraft first-person shooter and shifted those development teams to focus on Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2, the latter of which would have a "large PvE element." Blizzard of course never confirmed any of these details, but did allude to a development shift indeed happening.
We don't have any new information since that report, but the next Overwatch being a story-driven game seems like a logical move. The Overwatch world is ripe with colorful characters and an engaging world, but the game itself has barely engaged with that world at all. Most of the story has come in the form of external blog posts, comics, and animated shorts, alongside the occasional PvE Archives seasonal events. Players have long been hungry for a proper story-driven experience, and the current multiplayer game is in stable (if a bit stale) condition, so a major overhaul doesn't really seem necessary on that front.
As a lapsed Overwatch player, a story-driven campaign is exactly the sort of thing that would get me interested in playing the game again. I love the characters and world of Overwatch, but don't really have a ton of interest in diving back into its competitive scene. A campaign, however, would absolutely draw me back in. — Bo Moore
Blizzard will finally announce a freaking game about snow!
The storm is coming, baby. I'm thinking snowflakes, high winds, a guy named Mike Hecka or something telling me to bundle up and get the shovel out of the shed, it's gonna be a big one, etc. If there's no snow, it's no go for me. — James Davenport
Diablo Immortal will be carefully hidden behind bigger announcements
Blizzard obviously didn't expect the backlash over last year's Diablo Immortal announcement, but their mistake in ending the entire show with its reveal was immediately obvious. I don't expect Blizzard will make the same mistake twice. Now that a year has passed, Diablo Immortal is surely entering the homestretch of development, but I'm predicting that Blizzard is going to be extremely careful about how and when it reveals more. If anything, Diablo Immortal will probably feel like a bit of an afterthought rather than receiving the same kind of lip service and fanfare that Blizzard's PC games will get. — Steven Messner
Heroes of the Storm will get more original characters
BlizzCon 2018 was the first time the Heroes of the Storm team debuted an original character from the Nexus itself, Orphea, who now has her own comic books. In July 2019, the company announced a new original character, a melee assassin named Qhira. Anduin and Imperius were also added in the last year, and Blizzard recently announced that Warcraft's Deathwing is joining all the Heroes in the Nexus too.
Considering the game is still receiving patches, balance updates, and extra flair like mastery rings that you can purchase with gold after reaching level 15, it seems like there's still lots of stuff cooking for Heroes of the Storm. I bet Blizzard will revel at least one new original Nexus character at BlizzCon.
Seeing your favorite characters hop from different Blizzard games into Heroes of the Storm is always fun, but Orphea is who brought me back to the game for a bit, and then Qhira brought me back again. Having original characters strengthen HotS and the lore that ties all the game worlds together, too. — Joanna Nelius
Battle.net will get a big push
Making Destiny 2 a Battle.net exclusive should have been a major step toward establishing it as a digital storefront of note for third-party games. But then Destiny 2 kind of sucked (sorry, Tim) and all progress in that direction seemed to grind to a very sudden and ugly halt. BlizzCon 2019 would be a good time to get it moving again: Destiny 2 is gone but Modern Warfare is there, and that's a powerful hook. Add in the possibility of other big new Blizzard games in the offing, like Diablo 4, Warcraft 3: Reforged, maybe the Overwatch campaign—not to mention all the existing Blizzard games that already live there—and Battle.net is basically an essential platform anyway.
"Everybody's doing it" is what I used to tell my mom, and it was bullshit then but it's true now: Electronic Arts and Ubisoft have both found success with their own digital storefronts, Bethesda and Rockstar are dabbling, and Epic's hard push has Steam looking vulnerable in ways that were unimaginable just a couple of years ago. Epic is also taking the heat for making it happen, which is a nice side bonus, especially for a publisher that's already got a riled-up crowd on its hands. Now is the time. Mark my words. — Andy Chalk
The Hearthstone expansion will feel weird
Next Friday will see an update on what’s next for Hearthstone happening on the Epic Stage at 8pm EDT. Based on previous form, we’ll get a trailer followed by some details as part of the opening ceremony, followed by more card reveals and a deeper dive in that later session. What we likely won’t get is any sort of interactive Q&A element, given the ongoing hyper-sensitivity surrounding the Blitzchung debacle. Speaking of which, with the Global Finals also playing out across Friday and Saturday, if there is to be any sort of protest, my guess would be that it will be focused either around the opening ceremony or this panel.
As for what actually gets announced, all we really know is that this set will wrap up the narrative around the League of E.V.I.L., which has been running throughout 2019. I’m still not entirely certain card games need thematic throughlines, but it hasn’t hurt either. I’m going to take a punt and say next expansion sees a new version of Sylvanas created, given how big a part she’s played in WoW's ongoing story. (Honestly, this is just me drawing in my wishbook at this point. Ooh, here she comes on a black unicorn mount.) — Tim Clark