Last week BlizzCon 2018 sparked one of the largest, angriest responses to a video game announcement I think I have ever seen. The announcement of Diablo Immortal, a mobile spin-off that takes place between Diablo 2 and Diablo 3, was met with pure disgust and left many hardcore Blizzard fans with an awful taste in their mouths.
So what exactly led to this and why did it happen to a AAA developer that has such a huge following? For starters, gamers are a hard bunch to please. More specifically, Blizzard has an extreme bunch of dedicated PC players that don’t want to play one of their favorite IP’s on their phones.
To be fair, the entire concept of “mobile gaming” has become a rather toxic phrase, one that most big-time developers have had to carefully navigate. That’s not to say that it’s wrong for a developer to explore mobile gaming, especially with the strides cell phones have made in terms of the technology they contain. What it boils down to is the simple fact that long-time gamers have grown used to a “separation of church and state”, if you will, myself being one of them. When we hear talk of titles like Diablo, or Elder Scrolls we don’t expect that talk to include “So I was playing Diablo on my phone last night…”.
While mobile gaming is becoming increasingly more popular, it is not taken nearly as seriously as some developers might want. We just aren’t at a point where we want a AAA title on our phones. Hence the separation of church and state comment. As gamers, we expect an IP like Diablo to find a home on our consoles or PCs that we’ve dropped a ton of money and time into. Our phones aren’t yet considered to be in the same category, and because of this, any mention of a mobile Elder Scrolls or mobile Fallout title is usually not received with the same excitement.
All of that being said, that is NOT why Blizzard received so much disdain for their new Diablo title. It was the way they handled their marketing and press leading up to the announcement that sparked such critical responses from their fans.
Diablo Immortal could end up being a fantastic new entry in the Diablo universe. It is yet to be seen, and first reactions are a mixed bunch, but that isn’t why so many longtime fans are upset. It’s how Blizzard managed fan expectations leading up to BlizzCon and how they have since handled the PR nightmare that’s ensued after their announcement.
Developers like Bethesda and Microsoft have proven that marketing disasters like this can be easily mitigated, or even avoided altogether. Which makes all of this even more baffling. Think back to E3 2018. Bethesda was just one major developer that announced a mobile title during their presentation, and while their announcement might not have gotten a ton of fans excited, it certainly didn’t get them booed off stage either. So why is that?
It boils down to how they announced it. The announcement for their Elder Scrolls mobile spinoff, Blades, was padded with other things around it. Immediately after Blades was announced, it was followed by a quick teaser for the Elder Scrolls 6, which has been highly anticipated by fans for years now. Microsoft and Nintendo followed suit in similar fashions, again receiving no boos in the process. They even went about describing their titles in a similar fashion to how Blizzard did. Things like, “Mobile gaming has come so far” and “this is a full Elder Scrolls experience on your mobile device” were used to explain what fans could expect from these titles.
Their announcements acknowledged what they knew their fans have been desperately waiting for, while simultaneously saying “here’s a mobile title that could keep you entertained while you wait”. Then you have Blizzard’s way of attempting a similar announcement, the key difference being there was no padding.
When fans heard that Diablo would take center stage at this year’s BlizzCon, it instantly led to speculation of what Blizzard had up their sleeve. For starters they let fans speculate WAY too long before trying to temper expectations that anything regarding Diablo 4 would be announced. Waiting two weeks before your event to tell fans they won’t be hearing anything about a title we’ve been waiting over six years for isn’t a great start. On top of that, there was speculation of maybe a Diablo or Diablo 2 remaster in the works. It’s been common knowledge for a long time that Blizzard is currently working on “multiple Diablo projects”. Literally, all Blizzard had to do was throw up an image of text saying “Diablo 4” or “Diablo Remastered” and followed it up with “yes, we’re working on it” and POOF, all of their problems would have gone away.
Instead, they chose to make a mobile title their centerpiece and failed to let fans know that anything else was in the works. We know they’re working on Diablo stuff, but nothing was brought up to remind fans of that, and THAT is what led to the massive fallout after the announcement. Things like one fan asking if this was an “out of season April Fools joke.” To be fair, that fan is an ass, it was funny, but it wasn’t necessary.
Since then, things have not gotten better for Blizzard. The demo they let fans play after their panel has received mixed reviews. Some even going as far to say it’s just a re-skin of NetEase’s previous title Endless of God; a title that literally makes no fucking sense. While Blizzard claims this is a brand new title that has been built from the ground up in conjunction with NetEase, the similarities are pretty clear. To make matters worse, the cinematic trailer and gameplay videos of Diablo Immortal on Youtube have been getting torn apart in terms of dislikes and negative comments.
What’s even more trivial is the fact that Blizzard might have found a way to seemingly delete these negative comments and dislikes. In a video by Youtuber and Streamer YongYea, he highlights what might seem impossible to some, but the numbers speak for themselves. You can check out his video below, which goes into detail about how this might be happening.
Even former Diablo 2 producer Mark Kern spoke out about the Diablo Immortal announcement. He put it best when he tweeted that sadly it seems that Blizzard “has lost touch with gamers.” This says it all. Like EA, Blizzard at BlizzCon 2018 seemed to be catering more to their investors than their strong fan base. It was an action that spoke louder than words, and THAT is what has made so many fans upset.
While assholes like the April Fools Day guy should certainly not open their mouths during a live Q&A, it’s understandable why so many are upset. To quote Mark Kern again, the Diablo Immortal reveal felt like a giant bait and switch moment. Blizzard announced that Diablo would take center stage this year. It is common knowledge that that setting is reserved year after year for their bigger, or biggest, announcements. While most knew that Diablo 4 was not going to show, it is completely understandable why people assumed something big was coming for Diablo fans.
It’s not even too much of a long shot to think they probably assumed it would be a PC or even console-based announcement. Then all we got was a mobile title dropped on us and it became the focal point of Blizzard’s entire presentation?? Yea, I was one of many that were taken aback by this odd turn of events. I wasn’t seething with rage, but it definitely felt like someone had let the air out of my balloon.
What is worse is developers have begun to blame fans. It isn’t the consumer’s fault they got their hopes up for a studio that usually delivers some fantastic IPs. It doesn’t make fan’s “entitled” for thinking they were getting MORE than just a mobile title. It IS the developer’s fault for assuming riding the announcement of ONLY a mobile title, on the center stage of one of the biggest gaming events of the year, would go over without anyone thinking twice about it.
Sure, hate on the “entitled” pricks that make snide remarks about Diablo Immortal being an “early April Fools joke”, but don’t assume that his feelings are the collective feelings of everyone that thought maybe we would get something more from Blizzard this year. To quote my parents, “We aren’t mad, we’re just disappointed.”