BlizzCon: Gamers unite in Southern California
This year marked the arrival of BlizzCon, a celebration of video games developed by Blizzard Entertainment. While Blizzard is one of the premier game developers in the industry, it is one of the only companies with a fan base fanatical enough to support a convention considering its relatively small roster of games. Join TG Daily for a visit at BlizzCon.
People love to gather. There is an innate need in most of us to seek out others with similar interests and interact with them. This need is the driving force behind the phenomenon of the "Con"; short for convention. From Comic-Con to Gen Con, Quake Con to Dragon*Con, people with specific interests will travel far and wide to gather and interact sharing their unique fandom and the feeling that they belong with their people.
(Photo by Humphrey Cheung)
Blizzard is a company about franchises and all their games over the past ten years have been members of one of the big three; Warcraft, Starcraft (the space-age spiritual successor to Warcraft), and Diablo. With an extraordinarily successful Warcraft title currently being played by over four million people and a new Starcraft title (albeit long overdue) nearing release, BlizzCon 2005 focused directly on those two families. There was very little for the Diablo fan this year, although rumors were rampant that Blizzard would announce Diablo III. What Blizzard did reveal, however, was the World of Warcraft expansion titled The Burning Crusade.
Attendees get first look at expansion pack
It's safe to say that most of the attendees of BlizzCon were there as a result of playing World of Warcraft. While details of the WoW expansion have been circulating the internet for months (initial rumors started as soon as Blizzard put a copyright on the name "The Burning Crusade"), and details were leaked almost a week before the convention, the official announcement of The Burning Crusade was met with equal parts joyous excitement and fan boy rage. Promising two new races (one still shrouded in secrecy), new areas to explore, new trade skills, items, and monsters, and an increased level cap, the WoW expansion still left some players wanting.
(Blood Elf picture by Humphrey Cheung)
The new race that was revealed is the blood elves, which look remarkably similar to the night elves. The blood elves are allies of the Horde made up of the orcs, trolls, tauren, and undead. All the horde races share hunched, twisted appearances reflecting their villainous nature in the lore of the game. However, the blood elves are a svelte, fair-skinned race of elves having more in common with the Alliances races. Vocal players expressed their distaste for this on the official World of Warcraft message boards, but most players are just happy to see some new content coming down the pipeline.
In addition to the announcement of the expansion, BlizzCon featured many other attractions to delight the Blizzard fans. World of Warcraft Battlegrounds tournaments allowed players to match up and enjoy some PvP in person. There was an area set aside with scheduled realm meeting times so players could meet the other inhabitants of their specific server. Blizzard set up computers showcasing some features of the expansion and allowed players to line up and play for up to 30 minutes (although with limited freedom). Tournaments for both Warcraft and Starcraft took place, and attendees were able to watch as professional gamers battled it out complete with play-by-play commentary. The developers held panels where they spoke at length about such topics as cinematic design, art design, dungeon creation, and careers in gaming.
Costumes and Wares
Fans looking to purchase Blizzard wares were not disappointed either as the Blizzard store was open for business as well as an area where other companies could sell books, hardware, and games. Conventions are always an excellent opportunity to test the costuming skills and BlizzCon was no different. Many of the costumes were extremely elaborate and cumbersome, and Blizzard held a costume contest at night where the winners walked away with new Alienware computers. In addition to the costume contest, there was a sound-alike contest where contestants would attempt to mimic characters and monsters from Blizzard games. There was also a World of Warcraft movie contest made up of short films that employed the game engine for their storytelling.
(Photo by Humphrey Cheung)
All in all the first BlizzCon was very successful. There was a high fan turnout and Blizzard had the support of a lot of companies to offer attendees a large variety of things to see. There were some organizational stumbles and long lines, but that kind of thing is to be expected. I would suggest that if there are items that everyone is going to get (badges, goodie bags, etc) it might be better to have all of them in the same line instead of separate lines. It will be interesting to see how the Con evolves and how they focus on whatever the next release is. This year was very much the Warcraft Con, but if Diablo III is ever announced, I would expect a whole slew of new costumes and banners and trinkets to be made available.