BlizzCon finally came back as an online-only event today, with Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack opening the two-day celebration in an opening ceremony.
He thanked fans for continuing to play Blizzard games during the pandemic and to employees for working remotely from home.
“That’s the awesome thing about video games,” he said. “They give us experiences that are relevant to the times in our lives, and experiences that we carry forward with us. Games are here for us during good times. Here for us, even when we feel alone or maybe uncertain. And while many of us spent most of 2020 in our actual real-life homes, games became even more of a place to get away. Be free from outside concerns. Even if just for a little while.”
The event comes on Blizzard’s 30th anniversary.
“So this is pretty weird,” Brack said. “Usually, when we start BlizzCon, the opening call is my favorite Warcraft faction. The Alliance. I’d be speaking to 40,000 of you at the Anaheim Convention Center and millions of you throughout the world.”
He noted he wasn’t sure how the thousands of Blizzard employees could work together while confined to remote work. He said the team held together. He said World of Warcraft teams will show what’s next for both Shadowlands and Classic. Hearthstone will have news, as will Diablo.
“There is already so much to look forward to,” he said.
The Overwatch League will come back in the spring. World of Warcraft esports will come back in arena form in Shadowlands. StarCraft II esports will continue, and qualifiers are under way for Hearthstone esports. He revealed a retro collection of classic Blizzard games like The Lost Vikings, Rock ‘n Roll Racing, and Blackthorne in the Blizzard Arcade Collection.
Blizzard showed a lot of scenes from Diablo IV, and teased a bit more for later about learnings from the Diablo Immortal mobile game. It also announced the Diablo II: Resurrected remake coming. The company will also release a Burning Crusade Classic version. Yet despite all the remakes, Brack said far more developers are working on future games beyond the remakes.
Last May, Blizzard canceled the 2020 BlizzCon event because of the pandemic. But then it scheduled the online-only BlizzCon as a two-day event starting today and running through the end of Saturday.
Fans haven’t had a real update on Blizzard since then-new then-new company president Brack opened the BlizzCon 2019 fan fest. At that event, he had to make an apology about failing to take the right stand when a Hearthstone player protested China’s crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong a few weeks ago.
“We did not live up to the high standards that we setup for ourselves,” Brack said. “I am sorry and accept accountability.”
That was after Blizzard stepped right into the middle of a fundamental clash of cultures between freedom of speech in the U.S. and censorship in China. It started when Blitzchung, a pro player of Blizzard’s Hearthstone, supported the Hong Kong protests against the Chinese government in a post-win interview on Sunday. Blizzard responded with a harsh punishment for the code of conduct violation, but fans objected to Blizzard abiding by China’s censorship rules.
Today, Brack said that Blizzard continues to fight toxicity and support diversity, and to support causes that do good in the world. He said it was an honor to be the caretakers for the roles that players undertake.
“No matter who you are, or where you’re from, there are spaces where you can create your own experiences,” he said.
He ended by saying, “Be good to one another.” And then Metallica played a song to close it out.
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