Blizzcon ’08: Opening Ceremony With Mike Morhaime

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Blizzcon Opening Ceremony

This is a big hall. Seriously – a really, really, big hall … and before long, it’s all full. You can really get a sense of how many people are here when the crowd goes absolutely nuts just for the opening announcement. “Ladies and Gentlemen, take your seats! We’re about to begin!”

Gary Plattner comes to introduce Blizzard founder and CEO Mike Morhaime. Mike gets quite the cheer, of course.

Morhaime begins by poking a bit of self-deprecating fun at himself: “We have a great show planned for you… We better, right? After what you guys went through to get tickets!” He goes on to thank the crowd for taking time to come to Anaheim to celebrate all things Blizzard. Gives a shoutout to everyone watching at home on Pay-Per-View. Someone shouts out “Losers!” and the crowd laughs.

While they spend all year working on games, and getting to play their games, Blizzcon is a special time for them to show pre-release version of games to their most dedicated fans.

For the 2005 Blizzcon, it took tickets 3 weeks to sell out. This year, tickets went in about 15 minutes. They sold 15,000 tickets – double the amount from last year, and the demand was clearly much higher than even that.

Morhaime says that there are people from 27 different countries here, and that if WoW were a country, it would be the 75th most populated country in the world. He then jokes that there are representatives from 28 different countries here, but it falls a bit flat.

This is the first time that they have new games from all three of their universes to play – including Diablo 3 – we’ll be the first people outside of Blizzard to explore the world of Sanctuary in 3D.

The purpose of the WorldWide Invitational events is to support the incredible e-sports community around their games. Paris was the first WWI to be held outside South Korea. They then show a highlight real from the Paris WWI, and there are cheers for when they show the crowd’s reaction to the first Diablo 3 trailer.

Morhaime continues by saying that Blizzard has been at the forefront of e-sports from the beginning. It’s because of the players, and their dedication – they are the reason Blizzard games have been played in more than 100 tournaments in more than 30 countries, in just 2008 alone.

Not only will BlizzCon have the standard WoW, WC3, and SC tournaments, but this year they’ll be having the first ever official StarCraft 2 tournament. Pretty positive reaction from the crowd there.

At Paris, the total prize money they gave out in tournaments was $100,000. Here, the sum is double that – $200,000.

Morhaime says that this is a particularly exciting event, because we are on the eve of a huge event next month – and he doesn’t mean the election. On the 13th of November, Northrend will open … and Arthas will be waiting. There will be midnight opening events at stores around the globe, and developers will be sent out to places around the world to meet players and sign copies.

While he acknowledges that most of us attendees have probably seen the WotLK intro cinematic unveiled at Leipzig in August, we probably haven’t seen it on screens quite this size. So they show it again. It’s still an awesome trailer, even more so with ridiculous surround sound that shakes the entire room. They’ve got some mighty powerful subwoofers here.

They also have news to share about StarCraft II – development is coming along well, and while the game isn’t quite ready for beta testing yet, when it is all Blizzcon attendees will have access – there’s a beta key in our goody bag.

Switching to Diablo, Morhaime formally announces the new D3 playable class, the Wizard. Like the Barbarian and the Necromancer, the Wizard will be playable here. Players will get to venture into the Tristram catacombs from the first game, where they’ll encounter a familiar foe from the first game: the Skeleton King.

They show a trailer (comprised of in-game footage) for the Wizard. She gets attacked by a mob of undead, but quickly uses an AoE blast to kill them all. We get a look at some of the new spells; she has a channeled “Disintegrate” beam that she uses to blast down a wall on top of undead, some sort of icy blast to freeze enemies solid. We also see that the Wizard has what looks like a Chain Lightning, a bubble shield that reflects projectiles, a rain of meteors, and though it flashes too quickly to tell, it appears that the Wizard has the Necromancer’s Corpse Explosion spell. The trailer ends with her confronting a fully-armored King Leoric.

Tonight, there will be the standard contests – costume, dance, imitation … there will also be a /silly contest, for entrants to deliver their best Blizzard-related one-liners. He predicts that it’ll either be tons of fun, or pretty painful.

Tomorrow, at the closing ceremony, there will be an appearance by orchestral group Video Games Live, as well as Blizzard-employee metal band, Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftain. He then thanks us all for attending and with that, the con formally begins!

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