By Harold Goldberg
Last week, when Blizzard came to town to promote Overwatch and the game’s first anniversary, I was thrilled. As a seasoned critic, I actually can’t remember when Blizzard was last in the city to do a dog and pony show for journalists. Almost certainly, they haven’t been in town in this way in the last 10 years.
Some journalists complained that there really wasn’t much news to come out of the briefing. While true, that really wasn’t the point. The point was that Blizzard traveled to our fair city in our neck of the woods. Flashback to about seven years ago. We started the New York Videogame Critics Circle because we were being given short shrift by game companies located on the West Coast. While we’ve forded that river over the last seven years, there are still many rivers to cross.
That’s why I was happy Blizzard made the trip out. To get to ask the loquacious game director Jeff Kaplan about the Overwatch launch as compared to the World of Warcraft launch wouldn’t exactly yield news. But it was about perspective, which occasionally is more important. In 2004, Blizzard wasn’t ready for the massive rush of fans on World of Warcraft’s launch night. Servers went down. The launch process was somewhat chaotic. The same happened during EverQuest’s launch in 1999, too. MMO’s were chaotic beasts back then, especially on super-slow dial up modems.
But Overwatch’s team had a mission control that would be the envy of almost any space or military organization (see it in the trailer above). With maps and screens and computers throughout the room, the tech was magnificent. The only issue? Kaplan said the launch “was delayed by 20 minutes” because some accounts of fans who participated in the beta weren’t completely erased. When this was discovered, the game’s debut was delayed briefly so the accounts could be deleted. “So we launched at 4:20 p.m.”
While Blizzard’s appearance in midtown Manhattan was a small thing on the surface, it was largely a more important thing in the history of New York games journalism. It meant that Blizzard got to know us in what wasn’t a fast-paced, slam-out-an-email environment. They got to know us better on an individual basis and we expressed our wants and needs as writers as well. That can only help us cover Overwatch with more precision and knowledge in the future.
Harold Goldberg is the Founder of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.