BlizzCon 2021 took place this past week, without any new game reveals and only relying on remasters and expansions for existing titles. The thread-bear content announcements during the keynote of the event have led some to criticize BlizzCon 2021 or, in the case of Kotaku, suggest that BlizzCon 2021 shouldn’t have happened at all.
There have been years when Blizzard didn’t host BlizzCon so it wouldn’t be out of the question for the company to cancel the event. However, considering BlizzCon is the only event Blizzard has to announce new titles and energize their community, it was better for Blizzard to host the event — even without a big game announcement to carry the weekend.
BlizzCon is Blizzard’s only established platform for announcements
Let’s say you don’t care about all the community events and deep-dive panels — you are just here for the announcements. Even if that is the case, hosting a full BlizzCon opening ceremony was still Blizzard’s best choice.
While Blizzard didn’t feature a huge keynote announcement to kick off BlizzCon 2021, as they have in the past, they did still announce a number of relevant remasters and expansions set to release this year. Most notably, they announced a long-awaited remaster of Diablo 2 and huge expansions for Hearthstone and World of Warcraft Classic. With all of this content releasing later in 2021, Blizzard needed to put these announcements out somehow.
BlizzCon has been Blizzard’s primary way of announcing games and new content since 2005. They don’t have a “Blizzard Direct” format or other established, in-house event to announce new titles with. Without BlizzCon, gone is Blizzard’s prime communication channel with their fans.
BlizzCon — even in online format — is the best way for Blizzard to spread the stories, and no press release will ever match it. It allows for journalists and fans to dive deeper into the upcoming products, ask questions, connect with the new worlds, and spark authentic discussions with the developers and artists.
The new content announcements for 2021 are also the reason why Blizzcon needed to happen in February instead of November, when they traditionally host the event. With the cancellation of Blizzcon 2020, Blizzard missed their chance to announce new content coming in 2021 and a February date not only coincided with the company’s 30th anniversary, but made for plenty of buffer hype window.
BlizzCon is about community, not just announcements
Considering this important 30-year milestone, we can hardly blame Blizzard for wanting to host an online convention this year.
To celebrate the anniversary, Blizzard kicked BlizzCon off with the release of the Blizzard Arcade Collection. The collection features remasters of their first two original games, The Lost Vikings and Rock n’ Roll Racing, as well as another early Blizzard title called Blackthorne.
By doing so, Blizzard set a nostalgic, heart-felt tone. This year’s convention was not just about announcing 2021 and beyond. It was about celebrating Blizzard’s storied history and the community that lived with it. Diablo 2 Resurrected and World of Warcraft Burning Crusade Classic expansion, both of which are remasters of some of Blizzard’s most popular games, further enhanced the tune.
Since this year’s BlizzCon was more celebratory in nature, Blizzard chose to host a full virtual conference, instead of — as Kotaku put it — “putting it in an email.”
Many have suggested that Blizzard should have forgone a full blow virtual event in lieu of a Nintendo Direct-style announcement video. However, calls for the full convention to be curtailed completely miss a key aspect of BlizzCon: the convention aspect.
Conventions are more than keynote addresses. Conventions are places for like-minded people to meet together and celebrate the things they love. Conventions are about community and BlizzConline set out to capture a more traditional gaming convention feel by scheduling various online panels, Q&As, gaming events, and various other community events in addition to their keynote address.
While some may not think these panels or events are important, they are essential to many of the folks who love conventions and haven’t been able to attend any for the past year due to the pandemic. Blizzard’s attempts to bring a sense of normalcy to their fanbase by providing traditional convention fare — like costume contests, artist showcases, and developer panels — was an essential piece to this year’s BlizzCon, especially given the celebratory focus of the event.
This wasn’t only a celebration of Blizzard, but of its fans and the community their games have created.
BlizzCon 2021’s game announcements were worthy of a keynote. Diablo 2 Resurrected was a huge announcement for fans of classic Diablo. Hearthstone had a great outing at Blizzcon 2021, announcing a new expansion called Hearthstone: Forged in the Barrens, and more importantly announced a new roguelike mode called Mercenaries coming later this year. Finally, Blizzard announced the World of Warcraft Burning Crusade expansion for World of Warcraft Classic. All of these reveals were huge for fans of these properties, and more than justified the keynote.
Blizzard made the right call by hosting a full virtual conference instead of a stripped-down presentation. BlizzCon 2021 allowed Blizzard to announce a significant amount of solid content releasing later this year, celebrate their 30th anniversary with unique online community events, and even provide a semi-normal convention experience to Blizzard fans during a pandemic. I think that was worth doing for Blizzard, and worth experiencing as a fan.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.