Blizzard has begun unveiling skins for the Overwatch Anniversary Event

Overwatch anniversary event Sombra skin feature

Overwatch isn’t receiving too many updates currently with Blizzard focused on its sequel. However, it has continued to release the annual events. The next event for Overwatch is the Anniversary Event, celebrating five years since the hero shooter first launched.

Ahead of its launch Blizzard has been unveiling various skins that will be coming with the event. The tweets started with Baptiste’s ‘Funky’ skin, a throwback to 80’s Disco culture. After this Moira’s ‘Venus’ plant skin was revealed. Finally, Sombra’s ‘Black Cat’ skin is the last we know as of writing this. If previous events are anything to go by, a further four skins should be announced before the event goes live.

What’s in the Anniversary Event?

Overwatch anniversary event baptiste and moira skins

Outside of skins, the Overwatch Anniversary Event usually features the return of old game modes. This includes the Archives story missions, holiday specific modes like Lucio Ball, and a one-off competitive game mode. In 2018, Blizzard released competitive 6v6 Elimination as a temporary mode whilst the event was live.

Throughout the event you can expect various game modes to rotate in and out. Newer players should watch out for these as playing certain modes for the first-time rewards free loot boxes. They are usually quick to play through and are a great way of unlocking skins and cosmetics.

Unfortunately, outside of the new skins, no new content should be expected for this event. Blizzard is focused on the development of Overwatch 2. The side effect of that is that the original has not received any substantial new content since the release of Echo in April 2020.

Although this Anniversary Event won’t change that, a recent announcement does at least reassure us that Overwatch 2 is coming. A full showcase of its multiplayer PvP gameplay is planned for May 20. Be sure to tune into the official Overwatch Youtube or Twitch accounts for further details.

Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan is leaving Blizzard after 19 years of work

Jeff Kaplan Blizzard stepping down

In a breaking announcement posted earlier today, Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan is leaving Blizzard. The veteran developer has been responsible for the development of Blizzard’s hero shooter ever since it was first pitched in 2013. Before that he had worked on World of Warcraft and the cancelled Titan.

In the announcement Kaplan does not provide a specific reason as to why he is stepping down. Simply, he calls his time at Blizzard “an honor,” and thanks everyone for supporting him. With Kaplan leaving current assistant game director Aaron Keller will be taking his role. Before joining Blizzard, Keller was best known for his contributions to Realm Royale.

End of an era

Jeff Kaplan Blizzard announcement

It’s no secret that Jeff Kaplan is widely considered one of the industry’s most talented individuals. He has had years of success at Blizzard with almost everything he worked out turning out a success. However, it’s his creation of Overwatch which most know him for. The hero shooter has gone on to become one of Blizzard’s premier brands.

Overwatch isn’t just a video game franchise. Jeff Kaplan came up with an idea and Blizzard expanded it into so much more. We now have Overwatch novels, comic books, and several cinematic shorts.

Kaplan stepping down may have some fans concerned about the fate of Overwatch 2. The long-awaited sequel was first announced at Blizzcon 2019 with further details being revealed at Blizzcon 2021. However, according to Keller you don’t need to be worried.

In his own statement Keller reassures fans that Overwatch 2 is “continuing at a good pace.” Equally, fans can expect “more frequent updates,” on Overwatch 2 going forward. It will be interesting to see how Blizzard proceeds without Jeff Kaplan. He has been a key figure in designing some of its flagship franchises. It’s never easy to lose such a talent but I’m sure everyone involved at Blizzard is ever thankful for Kaplan’s contributions.

Blizzard won’t be releasing Overwatch 2 or Diablo 4 in 2021

With Blizzcon right around the corner many gamers are excited to see what Blizzard has to offer. But if the American games publisher’s financial report is anything to by, we could be waiting a while. The report states that despite making “significant progress,” on these titles they should not be expected in 2021.

Both Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4 were first announced way back at BlizzCon 2019. And yet since updates on either game have been extremely limited. Even worse, the original Overwatch has hardly been touched outside of new skins and a single deathmatch map. If players have to wait over twelve months longer for a sequel then that’s far from ideal.

What is Blizzard thinking?

Blizzard Overwatch 2 cinematic shot

I’m sure in an ideal world Blizzard could greenlight Overwatch 2 for a 2021 release. However, the simple truth is that the game is most likely nowhere near ready. I doubt either Diablo 4 or Overwatch 2 were even announced when they were supposed to be.

Those with good memories will probably remember the state Blizzard were in leading up to Blizzcon 2019. It had just handed out penalties to several pro players and casters for promoting Taiwanese independence in an official livestream. After the Chinese government pushed it to do something, it resorted to banning everyone involved.

There was an uproar against Blizzard for what many perceived as an abuse of power. Not only that but by making this move it had effectively told the world the CCP were more important than its own community. Hardly a good move from a PR perspective.

Considering this, it likely pushed the announcement of Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2 forward to steady the tide. Many gamers at the time warmed up to Blizzard after the announcements due to the hype of getting to play such anticipated sequels. But over a year later and we’re left wondering if it was the right move after all. Either way, it looks as though we’ll be waiting until 2022 for the next big Blizzard release.

Blizzard to finally unveil more Overwatch 2 details in February

Overwatch 2

First revealed at Blizzcon 2019, Overwatch 2 was a big deal. But over 13 months later we’ve still heard nothing new from Blizzard. That is until now. In the latest Overwatch developer update video, lead designer Jeff Kaplan confirmed more details are on the way.

In the developer update Kaplan admits its “been too long,” and that his team have been “quiet,” regarding Overwatch 2 news. He explains that COVID has affected development and that there’s still “a ways to go.” But come next February fans will at least finally get some much needed new information.

Overwatch 2 at Blizzcon

Overwatch 2 kanezaka new map

Blizzcon 2021 is set to be hosted online next February. Alongside the other Blizzard titles, Overwatch 2 is expected to star as the event’s big announcement. We now know that more details will be coming but exactly what we should expect is still unclear. It could be a beta, another cinematic, or even a release date.

Outside of Overwatch 2 news, this update also confirms that a new map will be arriving on live servers soon. Named Kanezaka, it is based in a small Japanese town on the outskirts of Hanamura. This is likely where the Shimada brothers, Genji and Hanzo, grew up. Unlike Hanamura, Kanezaka is a free for all map that will only be playable in deathmatch game modes.

Supposedly the new map features a ton of easter eggs that could hint at potential future content. Some members of the Overwatch community are already speculating that a new hero called Brit could be in the works. Brit was first seen in concept art for the original game but has reappeared on a billboard in Kanezaka. Given how many new heroes are expected to feature in Overwatch 2, it’s not out of the question.

For the time being, all we can do is wait until Blizzcon. It’s not ideal that we’re having to sit around and pray for some Overwatch 2 news, but it shows that Blizzard care. Neither Kaplan or his team want to rush the long awaited sequel out and release a bad game. In that regard, being patient is still the best thing we can do as fans.

Activision Blizzard’s financial report details a very successful 2019

Activision

Every so often, something magical happens in the video game industry. Large publishers like Activision have to submit financial reports to their shareholders detailing how successful the year was. This matters because it’s usually the only time these AAA publishers are actually honest.

So, when I opened up Activision Blizzard’s report I was ready for some juicy information, but they didn’t have much to hide. The truth is Activision has had a great year and their latest financial report proves that.

Activision’s Financial Report

candy crush saga

The primary focus of the report was firmly placed on Modern Warfare. Whilst it’s likely Activision was confident it would do well; its numbers are seriously impressive. PC sales alone increased by 50% in comparison to Black Ops 4. Equally, Modern Warfare’s overall sales increased by a “double-digit percentage,” when compared to its predecessor. 

Meanwhile, Call of Duty Mobile managed to stack up 150 million installs worldwide. This helped it top download charts in over 150 countries and finish top 15 in grossing mobile titles. Speaking of Mobile, Activision’s acquisition of KING back in November 2015 has continued to pay dividends. As usual, Candy Crush Saga was the top-grossing title across all U.S app stores.

Blizzard’s Financial Report

world of warcraft

However, the Blizzard half of Activision-Blizzard had less to celebrate given their various PR mistakes. Regardless, there’s no doubting that the launch of World of Warcraft Classic did a great job of resurrecting a once declining MMORPG. Blizzard claims WoW’s player base over doubled thanks to the release of Classic.

Outside of WoW, the report touches upon Overwatch’s expansion to Switch and the latest Hearthstone expansion. Unfortunately for Blizzard, their newest release, Warcraft 3: Reforged, has gone down as yet another PR disaster. Perhaps if they hadn’t claimed all user content in the first place, this wouldn’t have happened.

If you want to read through the various financial details, be sure to check out the report yourself. There are listings for revenue, profits, taxation, and just about anything else an Activision shareholder would need to know.

Gamers Make Their Move Following USA’s Immigration Ban

Insomniac Games

Immigration Ban

Last January 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order stating the ban of immigrants entering the United States from seven countries. As stated in the executive order, these countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. And now, there is a recent news that the order will be ‘streamlined’. This news shocked the world and urged the gaming community to take action. Players, developers, publishers – the whole gaming community joined hands and made their own statements regarding the immigration ban. Read on and hear the various opinions and views made by the developers and publishers we all support and love.

Unity

Immigration Ban: Unity

 

For those of you who’s been living in a rock for the past decade; Unity is a renowned gaming engine that powers various video games that you might have played. Here are some of those games: War Commander: Rogue Assault, Werewolves Within, I Expect You To Die, Superhot, Ori and the Blind Forestand – the game that reminds us all of the beauty of Shadow of the Colossus – Prey of the Gods.

Now that we got that out of the way; Unity’s CEO, John Riccitiello, sent an internal message to Unity’s employees expressing the effect of the immigration ban to the company’s core values. He also stated that Unity is willing to match the donations (up to $1000) that the employees donate. The donations will be given to reasonable charities/countries like ACLU. Unity is also willing to fly 50 developers from the list of countries impacted by the immigration ban to the upcoming Unite Amsterdam. Now that is awesome.

 

ESA

ESA

Alright, I’ll say it real quick: ESA is the one behind E3. Multiple AAA developers and publishers refer to ESA’s statement. Here, have a look at their statement:

“The Entertainment Software Association urges the White House to exercise caution with regard to vital immigration and foreign worker programs. As a leading force in technology and exporter of entertainment, the U.S. video game industry thrives on the contributions of innovators and storytellers from around the world. While recognizing that enhancing national security and protecting our country’s citizens are critical goals, our companies rely on the skilled talent of U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, and immigrants alike. Our nation’s actions and words should support their participation in the American economy.”

Insomniac Games

Insomniac Games

The developers of Ratchet & Clank and Sunset Overdrive made their stand publicly with a video. Insomniac’s founder and CEO Ted Price said, “We at Insomniac Games stand united in strongly opposing President Trump’s immigration ban. There’s no question that these orders will harm us as a company, and many of our team members”.

He also begged the question, “We ask, is this the American way? Is discriminating based on religion, faith, or national origin American? Absolutely not.”

Price also asks those who support Insomniac games to make a stand and let their voices be heard. If you want to watch the whole video, you may click here.

Microsoft

Microsoft

Of course, Microsoft! Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, posted a while back about an email that was sent to the company’s employees. In the email, Microsoft states that the company is willing to provide legal advice and assistance for their employees and for their families who are affected by the order.

Aside from a lot of employee support from the developers and publishers. Some companies showed their support in a different way. For example, Humble Bundle offered bundles of games for only $30. Some of the bundles include: The Witness, Stardew Valley, Super Meat Boy, The Stanley Parable, and a lot more.

These are just some of the statements that developers and publishers made in response to the recent immigration ban. How about you? What do you think of the executive order and how do you think does it affect the gaming industry? We like to hear your thoughts in the comments down below. Let’s talk.

 

World of Warcraft: The Nighthold Beckons

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft

After an astounding Legion release, World of Warcraft’s subscriber numbers surged up to one of their highest peaks. The expansion itself was one of the greatest yet in the history of World of Warcraft, adding and recreating some of the most fun and interesting things to do on Azeroth. The addition of world quests, a class hall and the next ten levels of life in World of Warcraft give players, young and old, things to do in the game daily that revitalized the drive to log in and play. Six months after the expansion’s release, it’s time for the newest raid instance to come out: The Nighthold.

The Nighthold

The Nighthold
The Nighthold

The Nighthold is the third raid instance to be released in this expansion, and will currently reign as the longest raid with eight new bosses to kill and loot. This instance will be found in Suramar, home to the once-fading Nightborne. As you progress your character to unlock the new raid, you’ll give life back to this trapped and starving race of elves, and help them thrive in the new world on the Broken Isles. You find out that the terrible Gul’dan, a fel-powered Orc who’s bent on destroying all of Azeroth with the Legion, has taken up residence in The Nighthold. The once grand structure that it was, The Nighthold was a testament to the achievements of the Nightborne. It was created around the Nightwell, the source of power for the Nightborne and the only thing that kept the race alive when their world was crumbling around them. Gul’dan means to seize that power, and only you can stop him.

It’s Time To Raid

It's Time To Raid
It’s raid time.

Well, you and 19 of your closest friends. Like all WoW raids, you’ll need your friends and guild mates to help you take down the evil that’s within this fortress of the Nightborne. Not only will you have to fight Gul’dan and those that support him, but The Nighthold’s own defenses as well. Battle a giant scorpion named Scorpyron that guards the secret entrance you’re using to get inside. Once you dispatch him, you’ll be fighting entities of the very Nightwell itself, a being made of pure leyline energy and a construct that hasn’t had a good fight in many years. After you breach the defenses and creatures of the instance, you’re on to fight those that are drunk on the power of the Nightwell and the fel-energies of the Legion. You’ll even get to fight against well known demons like Tichondrius and Krosus, the giant colossus that you fought at the entrance of the Legion expansion. This fantastic run ends with Gul’dan himself, and he’s not going to go easily.

Why We Raid

Why We Raid
Spending time with our family.

Having a new raid is a fun and exciting way to get your entire World of Warcraft family together. After you’ve dominated a previous instance and all the loot you could ever need was acquired, it’s fairly usual that players would start to dwindle, interested in other games until something new comes along. That very moment is now, and the release of The Nighthold has brought the World of Warcraft family together once more. It’s an exciting time as you head into a new place that you’ve never been before, fighting giant bosses that you’ve never killed and winning loot that takes your character’s power to new heights. An expansion release is fun, engaging and helps you get to know who you are as a player, but as the year goes on, it’s the continual addition of new content, like raids, that have kept players engaged for all these years in World of Warcraft. As they celebrated their 12th Anniversary this past November, you know that Blizzard knows what they’re doing. Here’s to another 12 years of adventure, excitement and nerdy online family.

Overwatch: First Strike Comic Cancelled

Blizzard’s hit first-person shooter, Overwatch, has garnered plenty of praise for its world-building despite lacking a single-player campaign that fully explores said world.  As such, many fans have been eagerly anticipating the release of Overwatch: First Strike, a graphic novel published by Dark Horse Comics that would have explored the origins of the original Overwatch strike team and the beginning of the game’s universe.  It turns out that fans will have to wait a lot longer to see how it all began as the First Strike comic has officially been cancelled.

Michael Chu, the lead writer for the game, recently announced on the official Overwatch forums that graphic novel was cancelled just before the digital version of it was scheduled to release.  Chu stated that the reason for the comic’s cancellation comes down to it being planned out during the early days of the game’s development and that the plans for the game’s story has changed since then.  Essentially, it comes down to wanting to keep the narrative consistent and avoid potential plotholes that the now outdated graphic novel could create.  Blizzard still plans to release free animations and comic shorts as they have in the past to further explore the world of Overwatch, including the origins of Reaper, Soldier:76, Ana, Torbjörn, and Reinhardt as the First Strike novel would have.

If you’re curious about the lore of Overwatch, be sure to check out our beginner’s guide with all the information you need to know.  What are your thoughts on the cancellation of First Strike?  Do you regret the loss of this storyline?  Did Blizzard make the right call on this?  Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Yogg-Saron and More Hearthstone Cards are Being Nerfed

Blizzard announced another upcoming round of nerfs for several controversial Hearthstone cards.  The one archetype that will be taking the biggest hit is the Aggro Shaman build, easily the most controversial deck in the current meta, with Rockbiter Weapon and Tuskarr Totemic each taking a hit.  Rockbiter will have its mana cost raised from 1 to 2, while Tuskarr will only summon a totem from the Shaman’s hero power rather than any totem minion in the game.  Another common tool of aggression, Abusive Sergeant, will also be nerfed with his attack power reduced from 2 to 1.

Warrior will also be taking a couple of big hits.  Execute, the class’ top removal option, will have its cost raised from 1 to 2.  Charge, the linchpin of all of Warrior’s combo decks, is being seriously reworked.  It will no longer give a minion +2 attack and the minion it is used on will not be able to attack the enemy hero for that turn, but it will also have its cost reduced from 3 to 1 to compensate.

Finally, we have two of the most intimidating late-game cards falling under the nerf-hammer.  The powerful Hunter spell Call of the Wild will have its cost raised from 8 to 9.  The one card that has people’s attention the most is the legendary Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End.  Yogg has been infamous with competitive players as it can warp the course of any game by casting a variety of spells and potential kill either hero out of nowhere.  While the text on Yogg hasn’t made any apparent changes, the card has been nerfed as it will stop casting spells should it die in the middle of its own effect.  If you have any of these cards in your collection, hold off on disenchanting them until after the nerf hits as you’ll then get full dust refunds for them.  Blizzard hasn’t given an exact date for the nerfs, but they will come before the Last Call events in the Hearthstone Championship Tour.

What are your thoughts on the recent batch of nerfs for Hearthstone?  Which card are you going to miss playing with like you used to?  Which ones should Blizzard have in their crosshairs next?  Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Hearthstone Guide: Defeating The Crone

The opera house has plenty of unique new challenges for the One Night in Karazhan adventure with its grand finale being a battle with the Wizard of Oz homage, The Crone.  Much like the fight with Emperor Thaurissan in Blackrock Mountain, The Crone’s hero power can kill you in one shot and the only thing stopping it is the survival of a specific minion.  In this case, it’s Dorothee who will stand on your side of the board and offer buffs to your minions.  All minions to the left of Dorothee will gain charge and all to her right will gain taunt.  These effects will immediately make almost any deck incredibly powerful and this will be one of the easier bosses on normal difficulty.

One quick route to victory is to simply build a deck of all your best taunt minions, place them all to the left of Dorothee, and just go for the face.  Only trade when it’s absolutely necessary to protect Dorothee and be sure to have a range of minions rather than simply going for a zoo deck as that can leave you vulnerable to the Abominations that The Crone has.  Keep in mind that The Crone has plenty of buffs like Blessing of Kings and Power of the Wild, so be prepared for those types of bursts.  Also, remember to change your deck for the encounter to Wild as all cards are legal against the bosses.

On heroic difficulty, things get a lot trickier as The Crone not only has 50 health, but is also putting you on an eight-turn timer.  On turn eight, The Crone is guaranteed to draw Twisting Nether and will use it for a  guaranteed kill on Dorothee and, by extension, you.  I played several matches to test it and she topdecked the card every time without fail.  It’s possible to buy yourself an extra turn with Loatheb or Counterspell, but the fact remains that you need to be able to bring The Crone down fast.

One of your best bets for bringing down the wicked witch is to build a Warlock deck with a focus on strong stat lines for low costs.  Cards like Duskboar and Ancient Watcher are generally what you’re going to want to focus on.  What makes Warlock particularly potent is that it has minions like Flame Imp, Wrathguard, and Pit Lord that trade your health for powerful stats.  Since the crone is going to focus exclusively on attacking Dorothee, so your own health is irrelevant.  Warlock also has plenty of sticky minions like Imp Master and Possessed Villager that provide plenty of protection.

Another potent tactic is to play Priest and cast Inner Fire on Dorothee.  You’ll still need plenty of minions with strong stats to keep her safe, such as the neutral ones mentioned earlier.  You’ll also want card draw as your strategy will be built entirely around this one spell and you’ll struggle without it.  However, you do have unlimited attempts at the boss, so just keep trying until you get lucky.

Hearthstone Screenshot 08-18-16 20.49.29

There are all the tactics you’ll need to turn The Crone into a green puddle.  Maybe you’ll catch her in a charitable mood and she’ll spend her buffs on your minions.  Seriously, the above image is just one of three separate occasions where she just gave me the match for no real reason.  Hearthstone A.I. is just the best.