Blizzard Entertainment's sixth annual Blizzcon event started on Friday with the announcement of a new World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria.
The new expansion will add an additional new race, the Pandaren, with a panda-like humanoid appearance, and character class, the Monk. It will also increase the player level cap to 90, a new continent, Pandaria, and additional dungeons and features. A release date has not been announced, as per usual Blizzard policy.
Chris Metzen, vice president of creative development at Blizzard, who oversees the games' storylines, said the game would have a different feel than previous expansions, which have featured an arch-villain that is often the endgame boss. Instead, the focus would be on conflict between the game's main factions, the Horde and Alliance.
Blizzard's upcoming action roleplaying game, Diablo 3, will be given free to customers that commit to a year's subscription to World of Warcraft, a marketing move targeted to boost the paid subscriber base of around 11 million, which has declined this year.
Blizzcon, a two-day event at the Anaheim Convention Center, has over 20,000 attendees. Fans will attend developer panels and have the opportunity to play games still in development. A costume and dance contest are scheduled for Friday.
Blizzard will also reveal more details of the Heart of the Swarm expansion for its real time strategy franchise Starcraft 2 and its action roleplaying game Diablo 3.
Two Starcraft tournaments will be held over the weekend. The South Korean Global Starcraft League's grand finals, between players Jung Mvp Jong Hyun and Moon MMA Sung Won will be broadcast on Friday night, with the winner taking a first place prize of around $46,000. The tournament has a combined prize pool of around $134,000.
The Blizzcon Starcraft invitational tournament, with 16 players from the Americas, South Korea, Asia and Europe, will take place with a total prize pool of $85,000. An eight-team World of Warcraft arena tournament will also be held.
The company also has a next generation massively multiplayer game, codenamed Titan, in development, but the company will not be announcing any details this year.
Foo Fighters will close out the event with a concert on Saturday.
Tickets for the event, sold for $175, sold out almost immediately, but Blizzard is offering a free and premium online video stream of the event through DirecTV.
The developer, respected in the industry for its meticulous attention to detail and rabid fanbase, had its 20th anniversary earlier this year. Blizzard is a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard. Shares of the company were trading at around $13.47 per share on Friday.