by Tony Tamasi

I’ve been at NVIDIA about 10 years, and in the graphics and gaming industry for almost twice that. And I’ve been a gamer going back to first-generation pen and paper D&D. There’s lots of commentary on the health of the gaming industry and the state of gaming.  But if anyone questions the passion gamers have for great games, even in the face of the economy, they should check out Blizzcon.

NVIDIA had the opportunity to partner with Blizzard at this year’s Blizzcon, which was held late last month. Blizzard’s annual event celebrating their great games and the fans that play them.  It’s an amazing event, with roughly 25,000 die-hard fans having lined up to pack out the Anaheim Convention Center.  This year, Blizzard apparently sold all the tickets within 56 seconds.  If you weren’t in the queue to get a ticket in the first 30 seconds, you didn’t get one.  Incredible.

Stage at Blizzcon Between dance contests, Ozzy concerts, Ret Pally nerf QQ and various competitive gaming tournaments, Blizzard took the time to present a wealth of information (MP5 Gone!) on their three games, all PC only:  World of Warcraft, and its upcoming expansion, Cataclysm; as well as StarCraft 2 and Diablo 3.  In addition to various presentations and QA sessions, everyone had the opportunity to play Blizzard’s work-in-progress.  With 1,700 PCs on-site, all with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275 graphics cards, the lines this year, while long, moved at a good clip.  I had the chance to run around as a Goblin and a Worgen (even if it was Alliance) for the first time as a player in WOW (nice water, by the way), experience the Monk class in Diablo 3 (seemed just a tad overpowered, but certainly tons of fun), and marvel at the awesomeness of StarCraft 2.

Sadly, I wasn’t one of the lucky players that had some real epic loot drop during these game trials.  Blizzard and NVIDIA worked together to provide some rare epic drops in-game for players of the World of Warcraft and Diablo 3 previews.  A couple hundred lucky individuals actually walked home with genuine loot, specifically, a GeForce GTX 275 video card.  Imagine the farming that would happen if that were live!  Relics of Ulduar would pale in comparison!

NVIDIA was there in other ways, too, giving away (foam) weapons, and showing one of its newest advancements, 3D Vision, which has been tightly integrated into WOW. If you haven’t had the opportunity to walk up to Arthas and have Frostmourne (not a hunter weapon!) protrude from the screen, or fly your Ashes of Al’ar mount around with its color streaks of uberness, or just kick some old fashioned Gnome butt in Arathi Basin in stereo, I highly recommend you check it out.  As a long time graphics guy, gamer and a WOW player, I can honestly say that stereo has come of age.  It’s a fantastic experience.

Crowd at Blizzcon Anaheim was full of evidence that passion for gaming remains very much alive and well. It could be seen everywhere – especially in the thousands of passionate fans literally sprinting into the event, after waiting hours outside, to be first in line to buy shirts, queue up to play games, or strut their stuff wearing costumes of their favorite in-game personalities, and in the countless WOW players tightly packed in for a presentation scream for the Alliance or Horde.

For the Horde!