November 20, 2011 by Amanda Zahn
I have started, and scrapped, multiple attempts at my second post about BlizzCon 2011. It is not that I am forgetting what happened or how I felt while I experienced it, but it is hard to vividly explain those experiences. This is especially true when attempting to tell the story to people who have never attended a BlizzCon. If those readers have attended another convention dedicated to the geekdom of their choice – like Comic Con or PAX – they might have an idea of the things I felt, but those other conventions are a general gathering of things: comics, movies, television shows, games, books, etc. BlizzCon is also a gathering of those things, thanks to transmedia, but all of them are still focused on Blizzard Entertainment and their three main franchises. Keeping the similarities and differences between the conventions in mind, here we go with Part Two.
I was on cloud nine at the success I felt the night before BlizzCon’s opening ceremonies. I had eaten lunch at the Blizzard Entertainment headquarters and experienced an opening of the floodgates of fangirl Dragon in my heart. After lunch, we got ready for, and attended, the BlizzCon Benefit Dinner. By the end of the evening, I was extremely proud of myself – both for the little, black dress and my interactions with the Blizzard Entertainment co-founders and Chris Metzen – and was sure the convention would fall in the shadows of all that I had experienced already. BlizzCon is a yearly dance of new announcements shrouded in tried-and-true events and performances, surely this year would be no different.
Getting into the convention center and finding seats was much easier this year than the years before it. With only four people in my immediate party, and less than ten altogether, we were able to claim our seats and argue with only one other attendee about saving the seats. His vow, as he walked away, was that he would be sitting in that seat if he walked by and it was not occupied next time. I could almost hear Dr. Claw… “Next time, Gadget. I’ll get you… NEXT TIME!”
As we waited for the opening ceremony, I took in what I could see from our vantage point and realized I was already seeing things differently than I had in the past. Each booth, strategically placed to flow the attendees, worked seamlessly with vendors, displays, and events. Everything that drew my eyes competed with my resolve in the battle with my wallet, although I did not know in the years before that the battle was being waged. The schedule laid out in the program of events dictated our lives for a full 48 hours, but we could never guess the work that went into preventing events that would force attendees to choose. BlizzCon, a marketing ploy in itself regardless of the personal connection it creates with its customers, was a living, breathing textbook of everything I had learned in almost two years at Full Sail.
Yes, I surely saw this year differently than the last few.
The ceremony opened with Mike Morhaime, co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment, discussing the life of the company and the games since BlizzCon 2010. He threw out numbers that I filed away to use in future projects if I needed them and he talked about the future of Blizzard Entertainment. After Morhaime, Chris Metzen greeted us wearing an Alliance t-shirt and carrying a Doomhammer replica. In an organization that attempts to appear neutral in the Horde versus Alliance argument, the employees of Blizzard cannot typically hide their pride in the Horde. Metzen’s fashion statement spoke volumes, but he still could not help himself in displaying his loyalty with a “For the Horde” into the mic. Then he mentioned the newest World of Warcraft expansion…
I will insert a break in thought here. There is always a big announcement at the opening ceremony of BlizzCon. Sometimes it is an announcement of an expansion; other times it has been an announcement of a new class for Diablo 3 — a game that has been in the works for a few years now. There haven’t been any major announcement for future games, but any Blizzard Entertainment fan cannot help but let the thoughts of the project, Titan, being the news one of these years. Still we wait.
As the lights dimmed and the cinematic for World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria played, I found myself falling in love with the game all over again. This is not a difficult feat because I am very attached to the game and, more importantly, the friends I have made there, but seeing the future of World of Warcraft made the fangirl in me very happy. After the cinematic played, however, was when the real news started.
To combat the attrition rate for World of Warcraft, which has lost 800,000 subscribers since BlizzCon 2010, Blizzard Entertainment introduced the yearly subscription. Subscribers who switch their commitment from monthly or bi-yearly to a yearly subscription not only get in-game perks, they get to play Diablo 3 for free. Instantly I began analyzing with the minimal learning I have had on the subject:
- Combats attrition — “Come back to the game. See this other game we have been working on for years? It could be yours too.”
- Offers reward for the loyal — “You guys that have been playing for seven years now? Keep doing what you are doing… we will give you free stuff for it.”
- Offers players a chance to branch out — “You have played World of Warcraft religiously for years now. Look at this other game that you might find enjoyable since we are giving it to you anyway.”
This is the point of the opening ceremony that I texted an instructor from Full Sail to thank her for what she taught me. I saw the entertainment world, and one of my favorite companies, with new eyes because of her class.
Other highlights are brief, so I saved them for the end. Without the presence of Flonne, I picked up her “duty” of completing the Brady Games quest among the vendors of BlizzCon. My hopes for anything other than a Horde or Alliance patch were low, but — surprise, surprise — I won the newest version of the World of Warcraft Atlas. I blame Flonne for that one, actually. If I had not watched her complete this quest year after year, I would have handed the quest starter bookmark to someone else. Thanks, Flonne.
Blizzard was smart this year and put all of the panels on the first day and all of the competitions on the second. This allowed for more breathing room when scheduling our activities over the course of the weekend. I actually participated in the game trials this year — something I had never done because the lines in years past have been huge. A key point for you that know of my passion for my shaman… I could switch seamlessly into playing a monk based only on the accumulated three hours of time I had to test it, but I do not plan on it. My shaman is still my baby, but a serious raiding alt is a nearly assured possibility.
Here comes the final recap: glorious hotel room with three fabulous people, skipped a huge wait at Cheesecake Factory by opting to sit in the bar, spent time with Khas and Eriya, attended a much smaller realm meet-up than last years, talked to Richard A. Knaak for a long while, had the most miserable of all miserable experiences with the shuttle service as we went to leave Anaheim…
And we departed. It is never easy to say goodbye to friends, but each goodbye was laced with a smile of the times we enjoyed together. With promises of safe travel, good health, and good luck, we split the pieces of our hearts to be carried by each other until we could meet again. Would it be BlizzCon 2012 or some random gathering of likeminded geeks? Only time will tell, but I cannot wait for the meeting.