BlizzCon 2009 kicks off with Cataclysm

[UPDATE] BlizzCon 2009: World of Warcraft expansion announced at Blizzard's annual expo; goblins, Worgen werewolf race to be playable, level cap raised to 85; Diablo III monk class announced; first trailer inside.

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ANAHEIM, California--Three numbers: eight, 20,000, 125. Their significance? In just eight minutes, 20,000 people handed over $125 to buy out every last ticket to attend Blizzard Entertainment's annual gaming event, BlizzCon. That, despite the fact that Blizzard expanded its presence at the Anaheim Convention Center this year, securing four exhibition halls to make room for an additional 5,000 attendees.

20,000 people x $125 = $2.5 million
20,000 people x $125 = $2.5 million

Anyone who even remotely follows the goings-on of Blizzard probably has a good idea about what all the fuss is about. Since its merger with Activision last year, the company has gone into overdrive with its product portfolio. First, the company announced the long-awaited Diablo III at the 2008 Blizzard Invitational in Paris last year. Four months later, Blizzard trifurcated its sci-fi real-time strategy game Starcraft II, the first installment of which was delayed to the first half of 2010 earlier this month.

More than that, though, the publisher has its 800-pound-gorilla of a massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft still going strong. With some 11 million subscribers across the globe clamoring for new content, Blizzard is due to make good on its target of annual expansions. In late June, Blizzard filed to trademark the name "Cataclysm" with the US Patent and Trademark Office, a name many believe to be the title for WOW's next major add-on.

BlizzCon 2009 will feature a variety of activities catering to the tastes of Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo fans. Those in attendance will be able to play prereleased builds of Blizzard's upcoming games, including Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty and Diablo III. The show will also include a variety of panels from Blizzard developers, casual and competitive tournaments, contests, a silent auction, and a merchandise store. Oh, and the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne, will apparently be here as well.

And as is customary, Blizzard will set the tone for its gala with opening remarks from CEO and cofounder Mike Morhaime. What secrets does this game master play gatekeeper to? Those answers will come in the next few minutes...

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[11:26] With five minutes to go before Blizzard is scheduled to take the stage, BlizzCon attendees have packed the cavernous Anaheim Convention Hall seemingly to capacity.

[11:27] WOW's login screen currently states that Blizzard will be collecting non-personal system specifications data in the very near future...a sign of things to come?

[11:27] A thick white smoke pervades the massive main hall. An overworked dry ice machine, or the condensing fumes from the horde of WOW aficionados?

[11:30] Blizzard's hallmark tunes ring from gigantic speakers suspended from the ceiling. The music is at once lighthearted in the vein of WOW's wholesome villages and then discordant to fit Diablo's mood.

[11:30] From a vantage point in front of the hall, the smoke and the crowd seem to extend to eternity, with no end of people in sight. Now would be a very, very bad time for someone to pull the fire alarm.

[11:31] Here we go, the lights dim, and the announcer welcomes the crowd. The crowd cheers back.

BlizzCon organizers extend some helping hands.
BlizzCon organizers extend some helping hands.

[11:31] No health-care debate town hall riots here.

[11:31] Not yet, anyway.

[11:32] Blizzard's Gary Platner takes the stage.

[11:32] Platner asks the crowd how they're doing. Apparently, they are doing well.

[11:32] Platner, who is one of the lead artists on WOW, says that Blizzard listens to its players.

[11:33] He regales the crowd with a post complaining about pet peeves expected at BlizzCon. Apparently, someone doesn't like real people speaking in l33t sp3ak. "L-O-L," he jokes.

[11:33] Apparently people want to fight you in real life just for not being horde. No pandering is occurring here, that's for sure.

[11:35] There are over 1,700 PCs here today. Would you like to know more?

[11:35] Platner is running through some administrative announcements: Please, only one collector's program per attendee. Thanks.

[11:35] "Ladies and gentleman, Terran, Protoss, and Zerg, members of the horde and the alliance, welcome to BlizzCon 2009."

[11:36] Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime takes the stage to thunderous applause.

"Um, you're sitting in my frozen throne..."

[11:36] Apparently, Starcraft II was just named best game at GamesCom. No word on who awarded the honor.

[11:37] BlizzCon is the only place where attendees are waiting for something "Cataclysmic" to happen, he says.

[11:37] Yeah, that's not portending anything...

[11:38] Morhaime then welcomes Chinese players back online. The crowd doesn't know how to react, but someone shouts a token "YAY!" Not exactly a hostile audience.

[11:38] Morhaime is talking about the passion of the world's greatest gaming community. If you didn't get into the queue to buy a BlizzCon ticket within 30 seconds, you didn't get a ticket.

[11:38] It took 45 minutes to process all the orders, but essentially 20,000 tickets sold out in less than one minute.

[11:41] Morhaime then talks about the sales success of Wrath of the Lich King, which sold 2.8 million units in 24 hours. Um, yeah. We got the press release in November, thanks.

[11:41] Morhaime then queues a trailer highlighting BlizzCon 2008 moments, as well as in-game moments from Wrath of the Lich King. Reruns? Awesome.

[11:42] The reel shows footage of BlizzCon attendees doin' how they do, playing Starcraft, Diablo, and WOW, as well as a number of other tabletop games. Cosplayers are featured prominently. Unfortunately, not all are female.

[11:43] The trailer is still rolling, showing the massive crowds around the world who lined up to purchase Wrath of the Lich King in November. US, Mexico, France, just to name a few. This just in: WOW is popular.

Flying mounts are back in Cataclysm.
Flying mounts are back in Cataclysm.

[11:43] The old, the young, the beautiful, the socially awkward--they're all represented.

[11:44] Note: Those categories are not mutually exclusive.

[11:44] Morhaime is back, and he's talking about the many enhancements made to WOW in the past few months.

[11:45] The Blizzard exec is talking about iPhone integration with the mobile armory.

[11:45] He's now talking about the big plans in store for 2010. They will be revamping Onyxia in November to celebrate the five-year anniversary.

[11:46] Next year, we will be shipping Starcraft II, along with the new Battle.net platform.

[11:47] Morhaime then asks whether the name Sam Raimi means anything to the crowd.

[11:47] The Spider-Man will direct the Warcraft movie. Apparently, they first met Raimi while he attended last year's BlizzCon.

[11:47] Apparently, Bruce Campbell will not be playing Leeeeeeeeroy Jenkins, so the crowd boos.

[11:48] Raimi expressed interest in the movie, and discussions progressed from there.

[11:48] Morhaime then talks up the tournaments, which, for those who are wondering, are in Hall B. Just in case anyone was wondering.

[11:50] Some of the top pro-gamers are in attendance, and total prizes from Blizzard games hit $340,000 this year. That's chump change to a company that has over $100 million a month in earnings.

Seriously. Get your mount on.
Seriously. Get your mount on.

[11:50] Morhaime then talks about the Noobs figurines. One of the ones handed out as part of the schwag bag given to attendees is one of a kind. Check your local eBay listing for more.

[11:51] MC Frontalot and Jay Mohr are here to perform. One out of two ain't bad.

[11:52] Morhaime gives a shout out to Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftain will be playing.

[11:52] Oh, and some guy named Ozzy Osbourne will be here too. Apparently he was in a band, had a reality show, and is a fan of bats.

[11:53] Morhaime then turns the stage over to VP of creative development Chris Metzen.

[11:54] Metzen says the company prides itself on not putting games out until they're done. Thanks for the news flash.

[11:54] He seems contrite and apologizes that Blizzard doesn't put out more games. He seems earnest.

[11:56] He thanks the crowd, and with that said, "I'm pretty sure you guys are curious about what we've been cooking up for the past year."

[11:56] We've got a couple trailers to show you, we've got a couple of things to announce.

[11:56] "Where's the Alliance at?" The crowd erupts. "Where's the Horde at?" Again, eruption. "Can I get a WOW what what?"

[11:57] "Where are the Diablo players in the house?" is said with earnestness. Metzen says he'd like to talk to these folks for a bit.

[11:58] "Diablo III is really taking shape, it's kicking ass, it's a lot of fun." He says that over the past few months they've been unveiling a number of classes.

[11:59] All thus far have been pulled from classic archetypes, he says.

[11:59] "The class we're going to be unveiling today has its roots in the same tradition."

[11:59] "Without further ado, I'm very proud to introduce the monk."

[11:59] A trailer rolls, showing the monk walking through a sandstorm in a barren wasteland.

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[11:59] A man fully cloaked asks the monk if he is heading to a city and asks the hero to help.

[12:00] A zoomed-out shot of the city, which looks much like the sand level in Diablo II.

[12:00] The monk has a gigantic staff with which he slays his foes, and in Diablo tradition, they are numerous.

[12:00] "You, you're alive. But that's not possible!"

[12:01] An infernal being then launches a fireball and throws a bolt of blue/orange flame.

[12:01] The monk prays and seems to disappear.

[12:01] He suddenly reappears, having lost his staff, and drops all kinds of hand-to-hand hurt on the demon

[12:01] The fight culminates in the monk putting a firey fist through the demon's chest. Monk 1, Demon 0.

[12:01] Metzen then rolls a trailer for in-game footage of the monk.

[12:03] He seems to be very speedy, with close-range melee attacks, with his staff, fists, and feet.

[12:03] Lots of gold particle effects, along with runes during his special attacks.

[12:03] Mmmmm, runes.

[12:03] Metzen says to check out the panel at 2:00 p.m. today to find out more.

[12:04] And we're back to WOW. "Alliance and Horde, you've all been very patient." Here it comes...

[12:04] "BlizzCon, the wait is over."

[12:06] In just a second here, we're going to roll the first gameplay trailer of the new World of Warcraft expansion.

[12:07] "Without further ado, I'm very geeked up to debut an expansion set that will be nothing less than earth-shattering."

That looks cataclysmic all right.
That looks cataclysmic all right.

[12:07] "Ladies and gentleman, I give you World of Warcraft: Cataclysm."

[12:07] A trailer rolls, with a voice-over saying that as the terrible war between the Lich King continues, there can be no peace when the world itself is devoured.

[12:08] An ancient evil has risen.

[12:08] Kalindor and the Eastern Kingdoms have been transformed.

[12:08] Ancient lands have been torn asunder, unleashing widespread destruction.

[12:08] Many islanders of the great sea have been driven from their homes. Goblins run across the screen.

Are WOW races racist?
Are WOW races racist?

[12:09] Goblins will be a Horde playable race.

[12:09] Humans, turned werewolf, called Worgen, join the alliance.

[12:09] The elves bring them into the fold, apparently.

[12:09] New race and class combinations are on the way.

[12:09] New monsters, dungeons, and raids, of course, are also on the docket.

[12:12] Level cap is raised to 85.

BEHOLD! A LOGO!
BEHOLD! A LOGO!

[12:13] Archeology added as secondary skill.

[12:13] Deathwing has returned.

[12:13] "Welcome to BlizzCon!" bellows the announcer.

[12:13] And the lights come up. Not a bad way to end as a litteral bang rocks the auditorium.

[12:13] And that's it. For more information, check out GameSpot's continuing coverage of BlizzCon 2009.

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