Could 2014 Be The Year of Blizzard?
2014 is a big year for video games. After all, it’ll be be the first full year of the next generation. But for one company, it could be a massive year. Blizzard are seemingly ready to assault 2014 with expansions for two of their biggest franchises, as well as two new games that are already generating a huge buzz.
Blizzard’s biggest money spinner, World of Warcraft, is set for a new expansion in the shape of Warlords of Draenor. With subscription numbers dwindling, but still remaining more than respectable, it seems Blizzard are more than happy to breathe new life into their mammoth MMORPG.
The general consensus among the WoW player base is that Warlords of Draenor is more of a refinement–or refreshment–of the game as opposed to a major progression like past expansions. There’s a heavy focus on time travel, a theme that’s been present in part of WoW for sometime now, and quality of life additions, such as a one-time character boost to level 90 and guild garrisons. Oh, and new character models!
The one-time-only character boost to level ninety is something that’s raised a few eyebrows among the more hardcore players, mainly due to the belief that it’s too much of a short cut for new players. However, the boost has its propose as it offers a gateway for new players to get in on the action without grinding their way through a fair chunk of old content. The boost also offers current players the chance to try a new faction/race/class out without replaying quests and zones they’ve probably slogged through numerous times.
It remains to be seen if Warlord of Draenor will rejuvenate World of Warcraft, but it will most likely push the game’s subscription numbers up by a considerable number–at least for a period of time. World of Warcraft has become something of a video game institution, thus any expansions will always cause something of a ripple in certain gaming circles. While Blizzard maintain plans for further expansions, Warlord of Draenor could mark the end of the natural decline of World of Warcraft and its subscribers.
Elsewhere, in one of their other big franchies, Blizzard could enjoy big success with the upcoming expansion to Diablo 3, titled Reaper of Souls.
Veterans of the franchise found Diablo 3 rather limited, and games such as Path of Exile (then in Beta) and Torchlight 2 had taken Diablo‘s loot-em-up crown. Diablo 3 wasn’t necessarily a bad game, but it was a disappointment that never felt quite complete. The console version released in 2013 performed better in terms of critical success, with the various tweaks and adaptations to the console being widely praised. Though ultimately it came as no surprise when the expansion, Reaper of Souls, was announced earlier this year.
The biggest addition offered by Reaper of Souls is the new Crusader class. Those familiar with Diablo 2‘s Paladin may feel the Crusader is just a more aggressive Paladin–which is not exactly a bad thing. Some of the skills used by the Crusader look like they have been taken straight out of the WoW Paladin’s skill set, with shields being fired at enemies and AOE spells being popped.
There are various other additions you’d expect from a expansion as well, such as level cap increases, new items, and extra locations.
The likelihood is that Reaper of Souls will be Blizzard’s biggest seller due to its release on multiple formats and the momentum the franchise has gained after Diablo 3′s release on consoles. The new character class and story content will no doubt bring back past players, while the expansion seems to offer content for the hardcore item-farmers in the shape of bounties and nephalem rifts, so it’s a safe move from Blizzard.
Also, Hearthstone could be the surprise smash hit of 2014, assuming it’s out of beta and fully released. The card-combat game, based on the Warcraft universe, is one of the most enjoyable and easy-to-learn games in the genre. Its accessible nature will open up the game to a much wider market compared to more complicated card games such as Magic. And on top of that, Hearthstone doesn’t lack depth, partly due to the player’s ability to create a deck to suit their play style.o
Hearthstone could truly carve itself a huge community. The foundations are already set thanks to the power of the Warcraft brand and the niche market of card combat game players. Blizzard have already begun to embrace the competitive side of Hearthstone by hosting an invitational tournament at this year’s Blizzcon. The continuing popularity of Hearthstone on Twitch and Youtube is also a good early sign of how big the game could become once it’s fully released.
The MOBA market is also booming, perhaps even becoming a little saturated, but that hasn’t stopped Blizzard from setting up their entry. Heroes of the Storm puts all of Blizzard’s iconic characters, from across their three major franchises, into one MOBA-based game. The gameplay is described as being faster and more streamlined compared to other MOBAs, an there’s more of a focus on action rather than the standard meta game that most games in the genre subscribe to.
The chances are Heroes of the Storm wont release until late 2014 after a long beta period, but the concept alone is enough to grab the attention of the masses, even more so given the amount of iconic playable characters on offer.
2014 could be the year of Blizzard if all goes to plan. Hearthstone has the potential to be the next big thing, Warlord of Draenor could breathe new life into World of Warcraft, and Reaper of Souls could bring in the money while repairing Diablo‘s slightly tarnished image. With the potential for success there is always a chance of failure. It all remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, though: Blizzard fans are in for an interesting 2014.