Where was Blizzard at PAX East?
Attendees at PAX East this year rode the escalator down to the sprawling convention floor of the Boston Convention and Expo Center. They expected to see an all too familiar blue glow emanating from gaming industry giant Blizzard Entertainment. However, there was no sign of Blizzard on the con floor. Within the first few minutes of the doors being open, one could hear hundreds of conversations of confusion. “Where is Blizz?” Indeed, where is Blizz?
A staple of the gaming industry, the juggernaut behind World of Warcraft and Overwatch, Blizzard is well known for being present at PAX. The company also has a track record of having one of the most elaborate displays on the convention floor. In 2013 Blizzard used PAX East as the venue to announce their massively popular title Heroes of the Storm. Since that announcement, fans of the company have looked at PAX East as their East Coast BlizzCon, feeling more connected to the company that previously was West Coast exclusive. With eSport events, character releases, expansion demos, and large name streamers, Blizzard has been known to bring the BlizzCon experience to Boston through PAX.
Blizzard’s absence has raised serious questions from fans and observers.
This year is a departure from that in that Blizzard did not show at all. Not even a pop-up merchandise store, leaving fans hungry for D.Va shirts, Jaina statues, and Murloc plushies. Indie game developers felt the absence immediately. Thus began the speculation that reverberated on the con floor the entire event. Is Blizzard’s absence from the East Coast’s largest gaming convention indicative of their new business practices? A company known for total devotion to their customer base wouldn’t ignore their customers, would they?
Had Blizzard come to PAX East, the expectation is that fans would have seen World of Warcraft Classic demos. The game will release this summer after years of the games fans begging for the original “vanilla” version. Other excitement involves the remastered Warcraft 3, the 25th anniversary of Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans, and the mobile Diablo: Immortals.
Speaking with fellow Warcraft fans, streamers, developers and Blizzard fans, the burning question was all the same. “Is this Activision’s fault?” There is a belief that the sudden sub-par performance of the company, the departure of their longtime developers and the rage-inducing layoff of over 800 employees is related to Activision tightening the leash to pad their pockets. The two companies merged in 2008, however, Activision recently became more involved with the day to day business of Blizzard. Recent events including the departure of Bungie, the CFO payout scandal, and stock investigations have fans wondering if the worst is yet to come.