Last year, we did not get a BlizzCon at all. This year, however, we go back to normal... sort of. This year's BlizzCon will be an online-only 2-day event and, unlike in previous years, it will be completely free-to-watch for everyone. Because of this, it is very likely to break all previous BlizzCons' view records and set a new standard for all future events held by Activision Blizzard. The hosts realize that they will get a massive audience and they have definitely prepared something special for this one. The recently-published official schedule has shone some new light on the event's possible big announcements and we are now ready to make our educated guesses.
BlizzCon 2021 (or the "BlizzConline", which is how it was dubbed) is approaching with big steps, and the full schedule of this online-only event is already available. It has shed a lot of light on what Blizzard has in store for us this year, here's a brief rundown of the most important panels:
Note: We use CET (EST + 6) for this one.
Friday, 19th February
The whole event will start with the Opening Ceremony, held from 11:00 PM - 12:10 AM CET (5:00 PM - 6:10 PM EST) which will be broadcasted across all 6 BlizzCon channels.
Saturday, 20th February
Saturday, 20th February
Sunday, 21st February
Note: If you are looking for the full schedule, you can find it on the official Blizzcon website, HERE.
What news do we expect for each major Blizzard title?
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands
Shadowlands expansion has launched on November 23rd, 2020, which is almost three months ago at this point. While we do not expect Blizzard to mention (or even hint) anything about their next planned WoW expansion, we should definitely get an announcement of the first major content patch for Shadowlands. It is about time, as there were no official* signs of any new content yet.
*WoW vendor has received a new patch (9.0.5) recently. Previous patches, such as this one, were often followed by new PTR builds which indicates that the new content for Shadowlands is ready for testing. We fully expect the PTR to open during the event, almost immediately after the announcement.
They will most likely share the details of what's coming to the game next, but withhold some information about the further content patches (to keep the audience interested and intrigued by the expansion's storyline). As with other large mid-expansion content patches, we expect new raids, loot changes, new zones, and some balance changes. Some news on Flying is also certain as the community just doesn't stop asking about it and it is confirmed that flying in Shadowlands will become possible in patch 9.1.
The biggest balance changes might be directed at the covenant system, as Blizzard wants the choice of the covenant to be difficult. We expect some nerfs that will make players consider their options more carefully and not just auto-pick "the best" one. Loot changes are likely to affect Mythic+ and regular Raid drops. We expect to see some stat buffs which would make catching up, for players who have dropped the game because of content drought or simple lack of interest, easier. When it comes to Flying, we expect Blizzard to announce a system similar to the ones featured in the previous expansions - to fly, players will have to explore all Shadowlands Zones, complete all questlines, and most likely grind a high enough Covenant Renown.
Last but not least, we should see a new Shadowlands Cinematic that will give us some new information and developments on the expansion's lore. Anduin's conflict with Sylvanas and the Jailer will certainly remain in the center point of Shadowlands, but we might see new big players enter the game... there was some foreshadowing about Artas during the expansion, it's about time he returns. Blizzard knows what its audience wants, so we fully expect them to bring Him back in Shadowlands. A good redemption story would be in order here, as He is one of the most tragic characters in World of Warcraft's history (Illidan has received one, so why the Prince of Lordaeron wouldn't?). This turn of events is more than likely, as Artas has some connotations with the Jailer and he definitely does not like Sylvanas (and vice versa)... A new chapter on their conflict would certainly satisfy the World of Warcraft community and raise A LOT of questions about the expansion's conclusion (and these kinds of questions are good as they increase hype for the game).
There are three subtopics to discuss here, as we might (and in one case definitely will...) receive some news about Diablo 4, Diablo 2 Remastered, and the dreaded Diablo Immortal this year.
The most anticipated title in the franchise and the one that will (most likely) receive the least attention during this year's BlizzConline. Diablo 4 was revealed at BlizzCon 2019 but is still far from ready and we are not likely to receive even an approximate release date (we might get a confirmation on the release year, though).
What we will get is a deep-dive that will share some new details about the game's development. Blizzard might provide some interesting info on the new features they are planning for the game, and they are certainly planning something "innovative" as staying true to the old Diablo formula will not be enough to beat the competition (unlike previous iterations, Diablo 4 starts as an underdog in the cRPG market - a controversial opinion, we know, but numbers prove it).
They are also likely to show us some pre-alpha gameplay footage or even a live gameplay demonstration (which is likely to be scripted in some way to hide imperfections associated with pre-alpha builds). If they do show the footage, they will also, most likely, hint about the start of alpha tests - maybe even scheduled for this year (If you expect these tests to provide more information, hold your horses - they will likely be under an NDA).
All in all, we expect that this year's coverage of Diablo 4 will consist mainly of new concept art reveals, discussions with creative directors, sharing the "ideas" with the community (which more or less means "we might do this and this, but don't quote us on that" and the general talk about the game's goals. If you expect details, you might be disappointed.
Diablo 2 Remastered
After the news about the dismantlement of Blizzard's "Classic Games Division", the future of Diablo 2 Remastered was uncertain... for a rather short time, as Bloomberg has revealed in his report that Vicarious Visions (a subsidiary studio of Activision that was merged with Blizzard Entertainment) is working on the title. This means that we know that Diablo 2 Remastered is coming, but.. it was not officially announced yet.
We expect that Diablo 2 Remastered will receive an official announcement during this year's BlizzConline. We might also see some gameplay footage with updated graphics or a comparison between the "old" and the "remastered" version - in other words, something that will build up the hype and make the community forget about the less-than-ideal Warcraft 3: Reforged. Such an announcement is very likely for a few reasons: the above-mentioned report, the fact that Diablo 4 is still far from ready and the audience wants something "new" to make the wait more bearable - there's money there and Blizzard will definitely capitalize, and the fact that Blizzard will want to give Diablo fans something more than just vague information on Diablo 4 and an update on Diablo Immortal as it would be received by the community rather badly.
After the worse-than-expected (by Blizzard) reception of the Diablo Immortal announcement at BlizzCon 2018, Blizzard will definitely try to convince the community that a "mobile Diablo" is a great idea... don't you guys have phones?
Blizzard's Fourth-Quarter 2020 Financial Results Conference Call has already revealed that Diablo Immortal is due to launch in 2021, which means that we will definitely get an exact release date for it at the BlizzConline 2021. Because of this, Diablo Immortal will get a lot of coverage during panels dedicated to the franchise; we are very likely to receive detailed information about the game's features and its business model* (it's going to be free-to-play with microtransactions, as is the standard for mobile games).
*The developers have stated, on 17th of December 2020, that "they will be releasing free content, including gear, functionalities, classes, questlines, and zones" and that "they want the players to feel like the game's business model is fair". We should receive more information on this topic at this year's BlizzConline.
Blizzard's 2020 Fourth-Quarter earnings call was the source of not only information about the supposed release of Diablo Immortal but also about the development state of Overwatch 2. In the second case, however, the news was not so great - Overwatch 2 is not expected to be ready for release before, at the very least, 2022. Because of this, we do not expect anything major to be announced for Overwatch.
What we expect is a new character back story cinematic, as Blizzard has a habit of releasing these at BlizzCon. We will also get some development updates on the sequel of Overwatch, nothing concrete though. The above-mentioned cinematic is also likely to allude to the sequel's storyline and it might tease some new characters that will appear in the game. Other than that, a minor patch for the current version of the game might be announced, and with it a new hero, new game mode, or a new map (the latter two are quite unlikely).
The biggest highlight, for Overwatch, of this year's BlizzConline will most likely be the show match between the two-time Overwatch League champion, San Francisco Shock, and a "dream team" of community figures, streamers, and professional players.
Unlike other major Blizzard Titles, Hearthstone is always on a thigh schedule. There are always 3 expansions a year, which all belong to a single season, called "the year of...". The last season, named the Year of the Phoenix, was announced on March the 17th 2020 which means that this year's BlizzCon would be a perfect time to announce the new one, as it's been almost exactly eleven months since March.
As per usual with Hearthstone, the new season means about 360-410 new cards divided into three separate expansions (an expansion usually features 120-130 new cards, but there are often PvE adventures, tight to each of them, that award some more, thus the broader estimation). Last year's season has brought the 10th Class to the game - the Demon Hunter. Because of this, we are unlikely to see a new one announced this year; we would be happy to see it, though (just not the Monk, please... we all want the Death Knight, don't we?). Other than that, new development updates on the very successful "Hearthstone Battlegrounds" are very probable; these might feature a bunch of new heroes and card tribes that would shake up the meta a bit. Knowing Blizzard, there will also be some "advertising" of the Tavern Pass, as its initial reception was not as positive as the developers have hoped for.
Heroes of the Storm
Heroes of the Storm was sidetracked by Blizzard quite a while ago and there are no signs that would suggest the game will regain its original backing. On the contrary, HotS hangs just above the "maintenance mode" (which is a gaming equivalent of a bare-bones life support system) and receives only minor updates, aimed at keeping those who still play it around for just a little bit longer.
We expect to see a new champion or two announced at this year's BlizzConline, but nothing more than that. If we were to guess, we would say that these couple of new champions will be related to World of Warcraft Shadowlands in some way, shape, or form. That way, Blizzard would capitalize on the Shadowlands' success and, if lucky, bring some players back to Heroes of the Storm, for cheap, and capitalize on their recent WoW's expansion success a bit more.
We wouldn't be surprised if Heroes of the Storm got sidetracked or even almost completely skipped, during this year's event, either; with maybe a short cutscene/teaser of a new minor patch scheduled for release later this year. After all, Blizzard has only two days and quite a lot of more popular titles and things to cover.
Because of the low popularity of RTS games in general, StarCraft II might get even less attention than Heroes of the Storm this year. It, most likely, will not be skipped completely but we don't expect it to take the spotlight for longer than a couple of minutes - on the main channel, at least.
As it stands, one of 6 BlizConline channels will be fully-dedicated to Blizzard's Strategy games. This means that StarcCaft II will have to share its time with Warcraft 3: Reforged and StarCraft: Remastered. It will get the most attention out of the three, but we do not expect any major announcements.
The main StarCraft-related event will be the "StarCraft Legends" match in which the best StarCraft and StarCraft 2 professional players will face off. This suggests that the only StarCraft-related news and announcements we'll get will be associated with eSports in some way.
And the biggest announcement of 2021 will be...
If you thought we've forgotten, you were mistaken. We just thought that the biggest announcement of BlizzConline 2021 deserves its own chapter in this article.
The Burning Crusade Classic
It is safe to say that WoW Classic was a great success and that Blizzard will do everything they can to repeat it by re-releasing the expansions as well. The first in line is TBC Classic and it will be announced at this year's BlizzCon for sure; after all, the Shadow of the Necropolis patch (or Patch 1.13.6 as this was its number in Classic) is already a few months after its release and players already want and hope (and need) more to keep their interest up. In fact, they not only want and hope for more, they KNOW that they will get more and they know exactly what it will be because the original TBC was already released once, in January 2007.
There are some things we don't already know, however, and they will be, most likely, announced this year. The first question that will get answered is - how will be the character progression handled? Will Blizzard decide to make separate TBC Classic servers? If yes, will Blizzard and allow players to transfer their WoW Classic characters to the new servers? The second important question is - Will there be a gold-squish, aimed at saving the heavily-inflated economy if Blizzard decides to convert all Classic servers to TBC? The third, but not less important one would be - Do they intend to stick with the "no changes" policy or are they willing to make some exceptions like they are making just now (the spell-batching patch)? And the last, least pleasant, one might be - How Blizzard plans to solve the botting plague that has taken over WoW Classic? These, and a lot more, questions will get the answers on this year's BlizzConline; it's not even speculation, it's almost a certainty.
Now that we have our speculations over, let us take a closer look at what we know we will get in the TBC Classic:
We fully expect TBC Classic to be the main highlight of this year's BlizzCon. It will get comprehensive coverage for sure, and it might even steal some spotlights from the very successful Shadowlands.
This year's BlizzCon might be different from any of the previous ones, but Blizzard will certainly deliver. They always do, even if sometimes the announcements they make are not what their fans would have expected them to be.
We hope that you have found this guide useful and informative. If you liked it and want us to add more guides such as this one, please let us know! Also, we will be happy to receive constructive criticism that will help us improve our future work so leave your suggestions in the comments section below.