ZAM's Guide to BlizzCon 2009, featuring panel listings, contests, tournaments, "survival guides" and more. Plus the scoop about the live DIRECTV and Internet coverage if you couldn't score tickets.
Since 2005, tens of thousands of gamer fans have flocked to southern California each year (with the exception of 2006) to take part in BlizzCon; Blizzard's celebration of its complete IP lineup. The first convention took place on October 28, 2005 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA, and it's remained there ever since. About 8000 people were in attendance; a fairly substantial turn-out when you consider that no one knew exactly what to expect.
By the end of the weekend though, fans were thrilled with what they had finally found: a convention for gamers, by gamers. Technically, BlizzCon is similar to a trade expo in some functions, but Blizzard knew from the get-go that it wanted to offer its fans something other than the stuffy, industry-only direction in which tradeshows were headed. One weekend out of the year, Blizzard wanted to throw a massive party disguised as an expo, where its fans could gather and celebrate the entire array of the Blizzard franchise—including the Warcraft RTS series, StarCraft, Diablo…and of course, World of Warcraft.
For those of you lucky enough to score tickets to this year's convention (Aug. 21 and 22), ZAM has you covered, in this preview guide to BlizzCon 2009. You'll find a round-up of this year's highlights, along with some sage advice gleaned from attendees of years past. And if you weren't able to purchase tickets this year (along with seemingly everyone else who tried), don't worry! We'll give you all the info you need to consider the live "virtual pay-per-view" service being offered this year—which also entitles you to receive the same "Grunty the Murloc Marine" in-game vanity pet in this year's swag bags.
Since its inception in 2005, BlizzCon has featured what many fans believe to be the best of both worlds. From the industry expo side, Blizzard's new games are showcased with hands-on demos, developer panels and world-first unveilings. But there's also the "fan-con" side of BlizzCon, featuring many of the staples you would find at any fan-oriented event. Multiple gaming tournaments rage on throughout the weekend while a slew of shows and events take place, including costume contests, musical concerts, celebrity appearances and much more. And of course, there's always the swag. BlizzCon has become renowned for its "goodie" bags, which are chock-full of Blizzard-themed swag, including a coveted and exclusive in-game item (traditionally, WoW vanity pets or mounts).
Even at $125 per ticket, it didn't come as a shock to many people that this year's BlizzCon 2009 sold out almost instantly during each of its ticket sale phases. Blizzard did a better job this year of keeping its servers up and allocating more overall tickets for everyone, although the majority of would-be buyers were left empty-handed, staring at the "Sold Out" sign on their PC screens. Every year BlizzCon gets a little bigger; total ticket sales this year have been estimated in the 15,000 to 22,000 range. But in order to match the growing number of attendees, Blizzard has added more events, and BlizzCon 2009 ought to be a blast.
For a complete listing of this year's scheduled panels and presentations, check out the official Events Section of the BlizzCon 2009 website. Following are just a few of the most notable highlights (descriptions quoted from official listings):
Diablo 3, Heroes & Monsters: "The hero you play and the monsters you slay take center stage in any Diablo game. Join us for a look at the design process that brings these characters and creatures to life, as well as the mechanics involved in creating epic and memorable battles."
StarCraft II, Gameplay: "The creators of StarCraft II discuss the design process and evolving mechanics of the upcoming real-time-strategy sequel."
StarCraft II, Art: "Join Blizzard Entertainment artists for a discussion about the distinctive art style of the StarCraft universe -- and how that style continues to evolve with the development of StarCraft II."
World of Warcraft, Class Discussion: "Always a crowd favorite, the class-discussion panel gives insight into the intricate workings of class design and balance, from conception to continuing development. If you're passionate about the class you play, this is the panel for you."
World of Warcraft, PvP: "The crowd thunders, the timer starts, and the battle-hardened combatants take their positions. But this isn't an Arena match -- it's the World of Warcraft PvP panel! Join our designers and your fellow players for a lively discussion of competitive play and our PvP battle plan."
World of Warcraft, Dungeons & Raids: "Not to be outdone, the biggest and baddest enemies in Azeroth have united to form a panel of their own. Learn how World of Warcraft's most epic encounters are created and balanced from the game's raid and dungeon designers."
World of Warcraft, UI & Mods: "Find out more about the ongoing quest to make a simple yet highly customizable UI. Join the World of Warcraft UI designers and programmers as they explain their philosophy and offer a peek at future features that may be coming to an Interface Options menu near you."
Blizzard Entertainment, Cinematics: "Meet the artists, storytellers, and creators behind the high-quality cinematic sequences you see in all of Blizzard Entertainment's games. Join them for a behind-the-scenes peek at the creative process."
Blizzard Entertainment, Sound & Music: "The right music can make Icecrown more chilling and Mar Sara more thrilling. Meet the composers and sound designers who help bring the StarCraft, Warcraft, and Diablo universes to life through the use of music and sound effects."
This year, BlizzCon brings back the World of Warcraft, Warcraft III and StarCraft tournaments, offering an array of prizes. Simply watching the tournaments from the sidelines can be fun and exciting, especially if you're competitive player yourself. Both the 2009 Warcraft III and World of Warcraft Arena Tournaments will take place at BlizzCon. As usual, the qualifying players and teams from the US, EU, Korea and Taiwan will compete for the $25,000 grand prizes.
The previously-rated top StarCraft players from all over the world will compete in the fourth BlizzCon StarCraft Invitational. All tournaments will cater to the audience, following the new and popular "eSports" spectator model. For full details, check out the BlizzCon 2009 Tournaments section of the website.
Believe it or not, you still have a few days left to enter some of the upcoming BlizzCon contests if you haven't already done so. A few of the deadlines extend until July 31 (this Friday), so if you feel like you have a chance at winning, you better kick it into high gear. For a complete listing of all the BlizzCon contests, along with specific information, rules and deadlines, check out the official Contests section of the website. Following are just a few of the most popular contests you'll be seeing (or taking place in) next month:
Costume Contest: "We're proud to bring back the popular BlizzCon Costume Contest for BlizzCon 2009. You know the drill -- we're looking for talented folks who want to show off their amazing tailoring abilities and enthusiasm for Blizzard Entertainment games by dressing as characters from the Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo universes."
Dance Contest: "Back by popular demand, the BlizzCon Dance Contest challenges the ordinary and extraordinary to step into the blinding lights of the stage, stare into the judging eyes of their friends and peers, and shake their groove thing. Contestants will be scored on their ability to faithfully recreate the dances seen within World of Warcraft."
Sound-alike Contest: "For this year's BlizzCon we're bringing back an oldie but a goodie: the BlizzCon Sound-alike Contest. Tap into your inner Thrall, Deckard Cain, Kerrigan, or any other notable character voice from any of the Blizzard Entertainment universes. Don't be shy! Be prepared to take to the BlizzCon 2009 stage and share your voice acting skills with the audience."
Movie Contest: "Ever since the first "talkie," people have been mixing sound and motion to create amazing tales of drama, horror, love, and humor. We're looking for your very best stories of life in Azeroth for this year's BlizzCon Movie Contest. Contestants are challenged to tell an original and compelling story using game footage from World of Warcraft in three minutes or less."
Original Song Contest: "Sometimes a song can express more than a thousand words. In keeping with this spirit, we're once again calling all masters of sound to create some touching, comical, or just plain awesome songs grounded in the Warcraft, StarCraft, or Diablo universes. Fill our ears with powerfully emotional melodies in two minutes or less and you'll have a chance to reap some fantastic rewards."
Prior to BlizzCon 2007, Blizzard released an "official" BlizzCon Survival Guide with the hopes of relieving a bit of that fish-out-of-water convention stress that many attendees end up dealing with. In addition to the official guide, there's a great "Unofficial Survival Guide to Blizzcon 09" posted in the WoW forums, created by player Leonaidus < Azure Twilight > of the Cenarion Circle server. It's surprisingly detailed, and features additional comments and advice from subsequent posters. Lastly, WoW.com has been doing a pretty good job of releasing its own BlizzCon 2009 advice throughout the past couple months.
Despite the fact that it may seem we're throwing free advertising toward Blizzard, the company did come through with a pretty accessible option this year for fans who weren't able to get tickets, or make the trip out to California. Live coverage of BlizzCon 2009 is being offered via two mediums this year; DIRECTV Pay Per View and Internet Streaming Footage.
Blizzard was able to secure a deal with DIRECTV in order to televise the major BlizzCon events, presentations and concerts—all live and broadcast in HD. The service promises to provide a minimum of eight hours of coverage from the show floor each day, for a total of 16 hours worth of content. The coverage will include "the opening ceremony, main-stage presentations, exclusive interviews, demos, tournament coverage, and more," according to Blizzard. For more information, including various promotions the partnership is offering, check out the official BlizzCon DIRECTV site.
The second option is to stream that same coverage via a live Internet feed, if you don't have DIRECTV and you're not interested in signing up. You can test your Internet connection and browser to see if your setup is compatible at the official streaming site.
Both serviced are priced at $39.95 USD, and include the special bonus mentioned earlier: your very-own BlizzCon 2009 Exclusive Pet, "Grunty the Murloc Marine" (a little Murloc in a StarCraft space marine suit, "equipped with gauss rifle, which he'll occasionally fire into the air to make sure no invisible spacecraft are swooping in to attack"). For more information about both services, check out the Live Coverage FAQ on the official site.
That concludes our Preview Guide to BlizzCon 2009! Stay tuned to ZAM over the next couple weeks for more BlizzCon news and information, and be sure to check in with us every couple hours during the event for our own live reports, interviews and more! You can always browse directly by searching with our "Blizzcon" tag, or by bookmarking this tagged URL!