|Search engines. Is they anything they can't do?|
Despite my protestations that last week was a slow news one, two rather important nuggets did appear: the first is the acknowledgement by Blizzard that 'Project Titan' won't be available at the end of this year, but we'll have to wait until 2016 to play it. The second is the Duncan Jones-helmed Warcraft movie is likely to begin filming 'in the first quarter of 2014. At first it may not seem that these two announcements have that much linking them, until you go check in a search engine when Warcraft was first released. As if you weren't already aware, the game will be ten years old on November 23rd 2014.
Suddenly, those two announcements become a great deal more interesting in a wider context.
I'm going to throw a large weapon at the Naysayers who think the end of Warcraft edges closer with every quarterly Activision profit announcement and reinforce the point I've made a few times here: Warcraft's aiming to hang around at least a decade. At current production rates we can expect the movie to debut in that 10th Anniversary year, which is undoubtedly going to generate massive buzz for the game worldwide (and because Duncan Jones is making it we are assuming it WILL be awesome, if his previous CV is any indicator. Yes, we know he's only made two films, but WHAT A PAIR!) If we look further ahead, I'd reckon that if Blizzard slip in one more expansion before that film (should be doable on current content release rates) that will also mean we'll have that to co-incide with the film's release.
I'd like to place an early bet that Mr Jones is making the movie ABOUT the Expansion we'll see in 2015. I'm also betting that expansion will be a stonker, that we'll get something suitably epic to accompany a film that makes us all realise just how great a game we've been playing all this time. Then we'll all get hugely sentimental, millions of people will pour back in to play and Blizzard will choose to end the affair on a massive high, just in time for Titan to launch in 2016 and for us all to quietly and efficiently shift our loyalties over along with our Battle.net tags. There's a certain amount of satisfaction, after all, in quitting while you are massively ahead... but Titan will take a while to grasp the collective consciousness so I reckon Azeroth could yet have a year or so left after that. Those two bits of news may seem appear largely unrelated, but I'd say they are anything but.
We then find ourselves asking a very important question: just how far ahead is Warcraft from 5.4 in terms of planning?
|Insert obligatory 'Under Construction' graphic here.|
Blizzcon's coming in November: we already have Hearthstone as a release, plus a new expansion for Diablo 3, AND the porting of said title to console. Is there really enough room to announce the next Expansion? At current rates I'd expect us to see 5.4 in September which means by November there'll already be people baying for new content. I reckon you'll get your new Expansion in the New Year, because stretching what we have out to 2014 with current patch release speeds would appear tantamount to gaming suicide for Blizzard. That means we're on No 5 in 2014, and that one would last until the movie makes to to the big screen in 2015. Of course, as this is all speculation, it is just as likely that the next Expansion could be a precursor to the film, and we'll get a massive announcement of both come November. However, I cannot see Blizzard passing up an opportunity to use the film release to 'tie-in' with the game, at least in some way.
This is probably the biggest single issue with any Warcraft movie: the sheer range of source material Jones has at his disposal to use. As a writer I know the benefit of making whatever you write personal, to appeal to the reader first and foremost. Epic tales are all very well, but without a way to pull in your readers you're on a hiding to nothing. The same is true of players in Warcraft, and what we are seeing in recent years is a very deliberate shift towards a perspective when playing that sticks the focus DIRECTLY on the individual, in the context of a storyline happening around them. I sense, that is Jones is going to make a Warcraft 'story', it will very much focus on a single protagonist, and that person will have Azeroth happen around them, just as is the case in the game. If I were Blizzard, I'd make sure the story that played out in the Movie had deliberate links to the game, perhaps to the point where one and the other were part of the same storyline. Giving Jones an Expansion as his canvas, one (I'd suspect) that pulls all previous Expansions together in some way, would be a great starting point.
The more I consider last week's announcement, the more I feel there is a deliberate plan in place to combine both cinema and gaming in a way that will be totally unique and special, and will be befitting of the most successful MMO of the last ten years. Not getting Titan until 2016, frankly, is a small price to pay if it means more people are working on Warcraft...