BlizzCon 2020 is officially cancelled. Blizzard released a blog post confirming what has long felt inevitable, stating that the convention themed around the publisher’s popular game franchises will not go forward in the way fans have been hoping.
“We’ve also talked about different paths we could take, and how each one could be complicated by fluctuations in national and local health guidelines in the months ahead. Ultimately, after considering our options, we’ve come to the very difficult decision to not have BlizzCon this year,” BlizzCon executive producer Saralyn Smith said in a statement.
Though Blizzard did not state it explicitly, the decision stems from the COVID-19 pandemic, with BlizzCon following a slew of other prominent expos including E3, as well as a number of canceled live events around gaming and esports.
In lieu of BlizzCon, Blizzard hinted that it is planning to do some manner of online event instead while also supporting alternative esports events for its titles. BlizzCon 2019 hosted both the Overwatch World Cup and the 2019 StarCraft II World Championship Series Finals, and was likely to play host to the same competitions this year.
There will likely be something in the same vein as E3 2020, which will see games and hardware that were meant to be unveiled at the event shown off online instead. Blizzard did not offer an exact date for when its online event may come, but stated it will “most likely be sometime early next year.”
Blizzard has been in an almost constant state of turmoil over the last two years. The disastrous reveal of mobile game Diablo Immortal at BlizzCon 2018 was followed by mass layoffs at the publisher despite a very strong balance sheet and the abrupt cessation of Heroes of the Storm esports.
Reports of Activision’s creeping influence over the company’s operations undermined fans’ faith in them, which wasn’t helped by uninspired updates to Blizzard’s games. Concerns were only furthered when the publisher rushed to harshly punish Hearthstone player Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung after he voiced his support for pro-Democracy protesters in Hong Kong, leaving fans wondering about the Chinese ownership stake in Activision Blizzard.
Though Blizzard eventually capitulated to some degree and lessened its punishments on blitzchung, it still issued harsh sanctions and company executives refused opportunities to apologize or even acknowledge any wrongdoing on the matter. BlizzCon 2019 saw protests outside the show floor from individuals that both supported blitzchung and wanted to speak out against the publisher’s perceived decline.
Most recently, Blizzard’s release of a remastered WarCraft 3 was met with an overwhelmingly negative response. This stemmed from the game’s lackluster optimization for hardware and numerous features that were discussed by the publisher and even shown in trailers, but were not ultimately present in the released version of the game.
Given the controversies that surrounded the last two installments of BlizzCon, it is possible that this cancelation could be a blessing in disguise for Blizzard.