Updated Tue, Jun 14, 2011 by Saia
When it comes to North American events in the games industry, E3 is it. Well, okay, it was it and now it’s trying to make a return to those bygone glory days, thankfully getting much closer each year. The point is that the Electronic Entertainment Expo is the place to announce or showcase those must-play Game of the Year candidates (such as Assassin’s Creed: Revelations) and new consoles like the Playstation Vita and Wii U. Except at this year’s event, which took place this past week in LA, there was one notable exception in the form of Blizzard Entertainment. Again. Where was the presence of World of Warcraft, Heart of the Swarm, or even Diablo III at one the industry’s biggest events?
Of course, this isn’t the first year that Blizzard hasn’t had a booth and it certainly won’t be the last. So what makes Blizzard Entertainment so special that they don’t need to join the E3 scrum? What sets this company apart from all the others? Well, for starters, it’s common sense.
MMOs are niche products; granted that niche is getting larger by the year but its still a niche, much as gaming was two decades ago. Other games companies, like BioWare, were showing off their wares at the event but most other publishers have many IPs on both consoles and PC. Blizzard has just three - four, if you count the unannounced Titan - and all of them focused on computers, not consoles. Granted, much like BioWare which showcased its upcoming titles in the EA booth, so too could Blizzard have staked a claim in with Activision, but that's beside the point.
SWTOR was one of many MMOs being shown at E3. WoW was not among them.
E3 is a hive of activity and announcements. It’s one of those rare times when it’s actually possible to get overload so Blizzard is actually doing a sensible thing by keeping the announcements to it’s own community event (that’s BlizzCon, baby!). Of course other publishers and developers like Sony and NCsoft (also a no-show at this year's E3) hold community events but, partly due to the sheer size of WoW’s playerbase, nothing really matches BlizzCon.
So why shun E3 but have a booth at other events, like GamesCom? GamesCom, held each year in Cologne, Germany, is fast becoming the European E3 and was dominated last year by the major MMO publishers and devs, including Blizzard. It's quickly becoming the European event for any publisher of MMO titles, dominated by them in fact, even though major console publishers also attend.
Now, Blizzard hasn’t yet announced whether it will be attending this year’s GamesCom but I suspect it’s highly likely. Last year Blizzard’s booth was dominated by Worgen and Goblins and stood out amongst the others, even if there were no major announcements to be had. Those came later, as suspected, at BlizzCon.
Skipping E3 allows Blizzard to control their announcements and drum ip interest in BlizzCon.
BlizzCon itself has always been the focal point for Blizzard’s announcements. They have an audience of 10 millionish players waiting on baited breath for whatever Mike Morhaime and co. might deign to announce, whether it’s a new expansion for WoW, the official reveal of Titan or something completely different.
We already know from years of NDAs and Cease and Desists, that Blizzard loves control. All those epic American corporations do, it’s engrained deeper than the desire to make money. The tradition of making these announcements at BlizzCon allows Blizzard to maintain that control of these all-important announcements (Cataclysm expansion leaks aside). Choosing to reveal them at their own event lets them keep all the glory at a time when the industry is not besieged by that new console, this new game and all the thousands of press releases which flow into inboxes over the course of E3 and GamesCom.
Blizzard are actually being very smart, why announce a title at the biggest event of the year when it will be overshadowed, its impact and thunder stolen when you can do it on your own terms, at your own event (which you can also sell expensive tickets for) where your announcement will make the news around the world and will have the limelight for more than fifteen minutes.
This is why so many journalists anticipate that the unveiling of the new WoW expansion is coming at BlizzCon. Blizzard has never been one to follow the other sheep blindly, it likes to stand out, apart from all the rest, whilst also retaining its own control. Granted hosting this years event in October will mean the reveals come later this year but Blizzard is going to do what it does best and it’s going to do it well.