The past year has been an exciting one for Blizzard fans, and though the developer is best known for churning out at least one big title a year there are a ridiculous amount of games sitting in a near-completed state. Three of them seem guaranteed to launch, with two more sitting primed to be released into the masses; and amongst that number are two games that count as entirely new franchises for the developer. Uncharted waters, so to speak.
So sit back, relax, and lets ponder what next year's releases and announcements may mean for the future of Blizzard Entertainment. Or at the very least, hype ourselves up for what's ahead.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
It's got the flavor of Warcraft, a bit of strategy from Magic the Gathering, and some light elements of Stratego all bundled into a single card game. In open beta for Hearthstone is officially just around the corner, and so far the game is set to be free-to-play with the usual pay-to-win elements. Available for PC (and eventually tablet) Hearthstone is bound to rake in a lot of cash for Blizzard via its draft-like arena format, and though there haven't been any official announcements we can all bet that Hearthstone cards will somehow find their way heavily entwined with the evolving MMO.
On a side note, if any unlockable cards do actually become directly tied with achievements within WoW I will completely lose my mind.
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
When Diablo III first came out it was met with some incredibly mixed feelings. A real money auction house, some insane RNG on item generation, no arena pvp, and of course some questionable difficulty curves. It wasn't the best foot to step out on, but years later the franchise seems to have finally solved a majority of its issues and its port over to the PS3 has been quite well received.
Enter Reaper of Souls, the expansion that looks poised not to repeat the mistakes of the past. With itemization fully taken care of at this time, and the auction house finally taken offline most look forward to seeing the franchise finally return to its roots. Expansions to existing classes in the form of armor, runes and abilities are inevitable; but trials and bounties look like a nice twist to get an extra bit of excitement from Sanctuary's domain. Throw in the new Crusader class, an expansion on Paragon levels and some stunningly detailed dungeons and Reaper of Souls looks like it'll be the Diablo expansion fan's have been waiting for.
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
It wouldn't be a big year for Blizzard if not for Warcraft being involved in some way, and as always changes are afoot for MMO enthusiasts. The upcoming WoW expansion features not only an increase to level cap and a new zone to explore, but many long-awaited feature will be finally working their way into the world of Azeroth.
Instant leveling to 90 for a single character lets both players that have avoided the game so far and old familiars interested in sampling WoW once more have easy, no fuss access into content. Housing finally makes an unusual step in the game with player garrison, and promised changes to the daily quest and crafting system are likely to have a huge impact on both the amount of grinding necessary to remain financed at endgame and how hard you'll have to work toward individual professions. Visual upgrades for every race add the cherry on top to a list of complaints finally addressed, meaning that Warlords of Draenor may be a good contender for Blizzard's strongest expansion in the WoW franchise yet.
Heroes of the Storm
In some ways its a newcomer to the Blizzard family, but at the same time it sits in territory that's entirely familiar. A MOBA style team-action game that pulls characters both famous and lesser known from every corner of the Blizzard universe, Heroes of the Storm has a lot of work cut out for it. Competition in the battle arena style of gameplay has been particularly fierce these past few years, and though League of Legends and DotA may be ahead of the pack in status and stature newcomers like Infinite Crisis and Dead Island: Epidemic are all hoping to start cutting away at that large bit of pie.
Many will be watching the development of the game as it inevitably moves from closed to open beta, and although there's no telling how long that may take Blizzard has always been a very honest and open company when it comes to the development of their games. I wouldn't be surprised to see something spring up towards the end of 2014, particularly when the game will likely run from a micro transaction standpoint. The sooner it goes up, the better.
Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void
Not much has been said about Legacy of the Void, which means that we're due to hear about it sometime soon. With two franchises stepping into the next expansion it feels like Starcraft hasn't seen quite as much love, and whether we wait until E3, GDC or Blizzcon you can bet that 2014 won't roll by without some news on Legacy of the Void's progression. Hopefully that's more than enough time to clean up the story they're seemingly unhappy with, and introduce something that'll raise the bar on their already notable franchise.