By DERRIK J. LANG
AP Entertainment Writer
ANAHEIM, Calif. — After tackling online strategy and role-playing games, the company behind “World of Warcraft” is taking aim at the shooter genre.
Blizzard Entertainment Inc. announced plans Friday to release a multiplayer shoot-’em-up PC game called “Overwatch.” The reveal kicked off BlizzCon, the company’s fan-centric celebration where more than 25,000 attendees are competing in game matches, dressing in costumes and bagging swag at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Blizzard’s chief of story and franchise development, Chris Metzen, said “Overwatch” marks the first new franchise in 17 years from the creator of such long-running game series as the fantasy role-playing saga “World of Warcraft,” gothic slasher “Diablo” and sci-fi strategy game “StarCraft.”
“You guys know that with Blizzard games, we like to find genres and game types that we’re in love with and take the best elements of those and really amplify it,” game director Jeff Kaplan told the BlizzCon crowd. “You saw us do that with the strategy genre, a massively multiplayer online game, and most recently a collectable card game.”
“Overwatch” will feature original superhero-like characters with various skills — such as mechanized gorilla Winston, winged healer Mercy and robotic monk Bastion — blasting each other in six-versus-six matches on a futuristic, cartoony rendition of Earth.
“The story takes place something like 60 years in the future,” Metzen said. “It’s far enough in the future that we have flying cars, ray guns and all the technology you’d want to have, but it’s not far enough that it feels too exotic.”
A beta test for “Overwatch” will launch in 2015 and a demonstration of the game is available at the convention this weekend, Metzen said.
“Overwatch” will join Blizzard’s growing game portfolio, which includes such newcomers as the “Warcraft”-themed collectable card game “Hearthstone” and the battle arena game “Heroes of the Storm” featuring characters from other Blizzard games.
Blizzard also announced plans Friday for the first “Hearthstone” expansion and a version coming to the Android devices.
The developers declined to specify whether the business model of “Overwatch” would be subscription-based like “World of Warcraft,” free-to-play like “Hearthstone” or stand-alone like “Diablo.”
Blizzard is a division of Activision Blizzard Inc., which publishes the first-person shooters “Destiny” and “Call of Duty.”
The company said during its earnings call Tuesday that strong sales of “Destiny” and “World of Warcraft” led to better-than-expected results for its third quarter and raised its full-year forecast.
Blizzard said it had 7.4 million “World of Warcraft” subscribers as of Sept. 30, ahead of next week’s release of the “Warlords of Draenor” expansion. At its peak, the game had 12 million subscribers in 2010.