Earlier today we boarded the hype trained and began discussing what we can expect for World of Warcraft's next expansion at this week's BlizzCon. As well all know, once you start wondering what sort of loot is tucked away under the Christmas tree, all wrapped and mysterious, the mind wanders. What about Blizzard's old games? Surely, with the recent Microsoft acquisition, Phil Spencer will parachute into Blizzard headquarters and demand they start working on Warcraft III, Starcraft II and Heroes of the Storm again, right?
I am here to temper your expectations.
Understanding BlizzCon's Preparation
Blizzard Entertainment doesn't just wake up a couple months ahead of BlizzCon and have a casual meeting deciding what they'll showcase at the event. While we aren't privy to the exact dates they start planning BlizzCon, finalizing details and whatnot, there's a few things we can count on:
- The major announcements you see at BlizzCon, with expensive CGI trailers, are planned at least 10-12 months in advance, due to how long they take to make.
- The structure of their presentation (effects, lights, speeches, cues) are also planned at least a month beforehand, likely more.
- The final slate of announcements for the opening ceremony is finalized before the structure of the presentation is planned, implemented and tested.
When you hope that Microsoft's acquisition of Activision-Blizzard-King will change the company for the better, and they'll some love to their old forgotten games, that's great, but remember the acquisition happened on October 13, less than a month before BlizzCon 2023. Any huge announcements are out of the question. But how about tiny announcements? We'll use the power of circumstantial evidence, or rather, tinfoil-hat tier clues, to see how two beloved games are doing right now, and what could be in store for them in the future: Warcraft III: Reforged and Heroes of the Storm.
If you're wondering, "What about Starcraft?", so are we. Currently, our faith is in Stormgate, its spiritual successor, developed by ex-Starcraft & Warcraft devs.
Warcraft III: Reforged
Ever since Warcraft III: Reforged launched in a worse state than its original counterpart while simultaneously cannibalizing it, people have been clamoring for it to be fixed. It's made some progress over the years, albeit as a crepuscular pace. There has been no indication Blizzard will talk about WC3 at the convention, but due to the Microsoft acquisition, the community is still buzzing at the idea that the game might be fixed. They're not entirely mistaken, as it could be a possibility. Microsoft enjoys throwing as many games as possible on the Game Pass, but wouldn't want to make them available half-broken. Whether a small announcement of "we're fixing WC3 and it's coming to Game Pass next year" is likely may be influenced by several factors. Let's break it down:
Facts working against Warcraft III: Reforged receiving more support anytime soon:
- The game is already receiving occasional balance patches and, rarely, content updates from a studio Blizzard outsourced the game's development to.
- Blizzard is still pretty much the same until the transition period into Microsoft ends early next year. It's very likely business as usual until then.
Facts working for Warcraft III: Reforged receiving more support anytime soon:
- Chris Metzen, the father of the Warcraft franchise, is back at blizzard in a leadership position.
- Earlier this year, Blizzard sent out a survey about Warcraft III: Reforged with particularly hopeful questions relating to further fixing the game.
- Microsoft is generally hand-off with their bought studios, at least the first few years, so there will be more freedom for Blizzard to work on less profitable projects.
Thus, the future seems hopeful for Warcraft III. I wouldn't expect anything major about it popping up this BlizzCon, but I think next year we might finally hear some good news about the game.
This sour note in the company's history is aching to be remedied.
Heroes of the Storm
Unlike Warcraft III: Reforged, Heroes of the Storm has been in full maintenance mode for a bit longer now. Updates to the game, however sparse, are still handled by an internal team. The game was officially done with major updates in July of last year, receiving only... 2.5 patches since then:
- A tiny patch on July 24, 2023 adding two mounts to the store.
- A September 20, 2023 patch containing a handful of bug fixes reported by the community.
- A new patch, announced very recently on October 23, containing quite a bit more.
Let's talk about this new patch that's due to hit the live version of the game any day now. Actually, we've talked about it already, but here's a gist of what it contains:
- Enhancements to the Observer mode UI.
- Difficulty level of heroes have been adjusted (this is very important).
- Over 100 bug fixes.
- Mechanical changes, such as 'bounce' abilities now requiring targets to be visible and 'cleave' and 'slash' abilities revealing areas they are used in.
The scope of this patch is not something that only a couple people work on for two days. There's enough changes in here that prove this patch is a larger effort than you'd expect from a game that's been in maintenance mode for a year and received only one more patch. Larger patches such as these go through the chain of command, several approval stages, game design meetings and so on. Why does this patch exist, really?
When you adjust the difficulty level / rating of heroes, it means you're expecting new players to try the game. You want the new player experience to clearly distinguish between hard and easy heroes, so the new players can pick some easier one, have a fun time, and maybe keep playing the game for a longer period of time.
Recently, both Diablo IV and Overwatch 2 were placed on Steam, and Microsoft itself has stated some Blizzard games will be coming to Game Pass. Additionally, Phil Spencer, Microsoft Acquisition Czar, has shown support for teams that want to "revisit some of the things that we have and do a full focus on it".
The least we can be sure of here is that Heroes of the Storm is coming to other platforms. The least we can hope is the game will start receiving major updates again. After all, it's a great way to cross-pollinate the company's franchises and get players who, say, only play Overwatch to give Diablo a try. As for BlizzCon, it's a bit early to announce any sort of revival for HOTS, but a Game Pass announcement may be possible.
After all, they still have to add 5 more heroes, right? Talk about unfinished business.
We hope this has been an informative read for you. Warcraft III and Heroes of the Storm are in a weird spot - gaming purgatory, if you will. Blizzard is sending mixed signals regarding the continuation of development and support, but this is par for the course at this point - we live in an era where many games are expected to last forever, receiving frequent updates, regardless of how many play them. Here's hoping these dark horses of Blizzard's catalog get a chance to shine once more.
Where would you like to see either of these games going forward? Do you expect any major developments in the coming months? Let us know in the comments below!