Earlier this week, Blizzard released the Cataclysm cinematic to the public. I find this anti-climactic given the fact that BlizzCon is only a few days away. Perhaps this might be clue as to what they might be revealing at the opening ceremonies on the main stage Friday October 22 from 11 am to 11:30 am?
I have a question: Why wouldn’t they have the premiere screening of the Cataclysm cinematic at the opening ceremonies if something bigger such as their next-gen MMO wasn’t due to be announced?
If you look at the official BlizzCon 2010 schedule you can see that they are showing the Cataclysm cinematic on day 2 of BlizzCon on Saturday from 10:30 am to 11:30 am. When they announced Cataclysm at last year’s BlizzCon they did so during the opening ceremonies and accompanied it with the first trailer.
If they are going to announce a new MMO at BlizzCon then they would not be foolish enough to put “New MMO announcement” in the official schedule. By keeping quiet beforehand and only revealing the new MMO to the world at BlizzCon 2010 they would be doing the smart thing by heightening the drama and anticipation for their new MMO. From a marketing point of view and to make BlizzCon worth attending this makes sense.
Blizzard has a well-established pattern for announcing new games and releasing new games. There is a gap of 3 years between announcement and release:
World of Warcraft – announced 2001; released 2004
StarCraft II – announced 2007; released 2010
With this knowledge about their past behavior, let’s speculate on Blizzard’s Next Gen MMO. If it was announced in 2010 at BlizzCon, it would probably be released 3 years from now in 2013.
Let’s not forget that they’ve already spent about 2 years in pre-production on this MMO that we know of and probably more that we don’t know of. Since there is no current EverQuest of next-gen MMOs to borrow from like they did for WoW, it makes sense that they would need more time to create a truly original MMO.
Another factor is that since Blizzard already has an existing MMO franchise to worry about they will not want to release both another WoW expansion and a brand new MMO in the same year as they would be competing with themselves.
As we have learned about Blizzard’s development process, the next WoW expansion will be in pre-production starting in January of 2011 and will be most likely announced at BlizzCon 2011 and will be released in late 2012 or early 2013. Given these projected dates it makes sense that the next gen MMO from Blizzard will probably be released in fall of 2013 just in time for Christmas.
If the next gen MMO is not announced at BlizzCon 2010 then it would have to be announced at BlizzCon 2011 which would not make sense as the new WoW expansion beyond Cataclysm will most likely be announced then as well given the 3 year rule. Also, it would push the release date of the next gen MMO to 3 years from the date of announcement which is fall 2014. I don’t think Bobby Kotick and Activision’s shareholders will want to wait that long for Blizzard’s next cash cow to be unleashed on the MMO marketplace.
Update: I just read Oliver Chiang’s October 8th article at Forbes where he interviewed Blizzard chief operating officer Paul Samms and there’s some interesting information about WoW subscriber numbers and the development of their new MMO. Samms revealed the dev team for the new MMO is equal to the size of the WoW team:
We have built a development team for that product from our top talent here and augmented it with some of the best and brightest from around the industry,” Sams says. “The product is something we think is going to re-design the way these types of games are looked at.
Samms also goes on to say that there will be no announcement of this new MMO at BlizzCon 2010. We shall see.