Blizzard’s plans for this weekend’s BlizzCon 2019 festivities are taking on water at an alarming rate, as information about a sequel to Overwatch and the next World of Warcraft expansion continue to leak into the greater, uh, internet ocean? Or the ocean is leaking into the boat, and the leaked details are the … oars? The fish? This analogy has gotten away from me.
The point is: Blizzard’s official online shop accidentally posted some art assets that presumably shouldn’t have gone live until this weekend, according to longtime Blizzard leak watchdog MMO Champion. While the assets in question have since been removed from Blizzard’s shop, we’ve got them mirrored below for your consideration.
The above Overwatch artwork, though it lacks any Overwatch 2 branding, does feature a character named Echo in its top left, which would indicate that Echo is coming to Overwatch at the very least, or is set to debut in Overwatch 2 if all those other Overwatch 2 leaks scan.
You may notice that Echo is a robot with a blue hologram face and not, say, a black woman, which Overwatch still lacks from its roster of 31 playable characters, despite the addition of several white women, two eugenicists, and a hamster since the game’s May 2016 release. This has been a constant source of friction between Blizzard and the community, who believe that Blizzard has more than enough resources to correct this omission (it does), and that continuing to prioritize the development of characters who aren’t black women is a conscious choice that could be changed at any time (it is).
Blizzard is on record as saying that a black woman does exist in the Overwatch universe, and that she’s been in development since before the game came out. If Overwatch 2 is revealed without the presence of a black woman among its playable heroes, it will send an indisputably clear message about Blizzard’s priorities.
On the World of Warcraft front, a listing for an art print of Bolvar Fordragon (the current Lich King) revealed the name of the next major expansion: Shadowlands. On that same page, a different banner (left) for Shadowlands beckoned players to “explore the glorious land of Bastion” and “meet the noble Kyrian!” It also showcased a World of Warcraft: Shadowlands logo, along with some rad Magic the Gathering-ass artwork of an ethereal castle. Warcraft lore has never made mention of a “Kyrian” race or group, so we’ll just have to take this ad at its word and assume they’re noble as heck, whatever they are.
We’ll see how all this shakes out on Friday, when BlizzCon 2019 officially kicks off in Anaheim, California. It’s been a rough October for Activision-Blizzard — one largely of the company’s own making. It’s faced ongoing controversy around its dismissal of professional Hearthstone player Blitzchung following his pro-Hong Kong statements during a stream. The deluge of leaks doesn’t help anything either, and while I’m sure that Blizzard hopes to shift its public perception into a more positive light during BlizzCon, protesters are organizing with other plans in mind.