Blizzcon Skipping 2024 Could Be Fine, Could Be A Bad Omen

Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Image: Blizzard Entertainment

One year after it came back, Blizzcon, Blizzard’s once-annual dedicated event, isn’t returning for 2024. While the Overwatch and Warcraft developer plans to show off more of its games at different events throughout the year, Blizzcon has been a center point for the studio’s community since it began in 2005. Blizzcon has taken a few years off here and there (including a three-year stretch from 2020 to 2022), but the 2024 cancelation comes at such a troubling time for the company that it does merit examining. It can be read as a pretty normal occurrence considering what Blizzard’s planned release schedule looks like, but given the results of the company’s acquisition by Microsoft, some fans are understandably concerned.

Maybe we don’t need a Blizzcon in 2024

Blizzcon has been a gathering ground for Blizzard fans annually for most of the last several Octobers or Novembers, but the company is changing up its approach this year with “multiple, global, in-person events” to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Warcraft. This covers one of the company’s pillar franchises in a big year, as this is an expansion year for World of Warcraft. The War Within expansion is set to launch sometime in 2024, with some speculating it will launch around August. Diablo IV, meanwhile, also has an expansion arriving this year, with Vessel of Hatred set for sometime in “late 2024.” That could mean a lot of things, but given that it’s not “holiday 2024,” it could certainly be out before a 2024 Blizzcon would have taken place. That leaves Overwatch 2, which is in the weirdest spot of all Blizzard’s games right now. While it’s still rolling out heroes, modes, and patches at a regular cadence, there are reports that Blizzard has canceled the game’s planned story campaign. The company hasn’t officially stated as much, but there’s presumably bad news waiting in the wings. Without that part of the game to tout, Blizzard has already talked about most of what’s coming for Overwatch 2 this year at Blizzcon 2023.

If Blizzard wants to give World of Warcraft and Diablo IV room to breathe after two major expansions, Hearthstone and Overwatch 2 cannot carry a show by themselves, especially with how Blizzard has gutted the latter. So if most of what Blizzard was working on at last Blizzcon is going to be out by the time Blizzcon 2024 would have happened, maybe it’s not the time to have a big blow-out show and make big promises about stuff that’s not going to be out any time soon?

Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Image: Blizzard Entertainment

A Blizzcon cancelation is still more bad news

That’s the charitable read on a Blizzcon no-show in 2024. But even if all of those things coalesced to make the event unnecessary from a marketing perspective, there are a lot of other circumstances surrounding Blizzard that make the decision worth raising an eyebrow at. This is the first year that Blizzcon would have happened since the company was acquired by Microsoft. While the acquisition has only been in place for a few months, Microsoft came in and laid off swaths of Blizzard’s workforce, including much of the narrative and events staff on the Overwatch team. If the Xbox company is coming in looking to cut costs, there’s a legitimate fear about whether Blizzcon is going to come back even when the company’s pipeline is primed for a big showcase.

Activision Blizzard as a company has been in desperate need of a clean house following controversies surrounding its workplace culture and a harassment lawsuit. But the optics of laying off staff, reportedly canceling the major pillar of a game that fans have been excited for, and now canceling a big fan event, all in the span of one quarter immediately following the acquisition, aren’t pretty for Blizzard or Xbox. It’s weird being a fan of Blizzard’s work when the company is so megalithic that it’s never without controversy. Even the slightest shift in its business plans has ripple effects that affect multiple communities and never feel like they’re isolated incidents.

Blizzcon skipping 2024 could easily be nothing, and maybe it will come back in 2025, though the announcement doesn’t commit to even that, instead saying it hopes to bring it back in “future years.” But it’s the latest in a string of bad news from a company that has been letting people down while dealing with a neverending internal fight to do right by its workers and its fans. I’ve been watching this company flounder for so long that even something as reasonable as taking a year off from a fan event can be seen as a bad omen. I have a charitable read, but after watching Activision Blizzard tear down its staff and gut its games, it’s getting harder to read anything it does in good faith. After all the strife and broken promises, I hope Blizzcon can reemerge in a year or two as a beacon for how far the company has come, rather than as a soulless cash grab banking on years of squandered goodwill. That is, if it comes back at all.

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