Following the release of Diablo's mobile spinoff Diablo Immortal, Diablo 2 producer Mark Kern opened up about how Blizzard Entertainment doesn't understand gamers anymore. The mobile spinoff garnered considerable backlash, prompting an outpouring of criticism from gamers and industry professionals alike.
A mobile extension of the action role-playing video game series Diablo, Diablo Immortal takes place inside the dangerous world of Sanctuary in between the events of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction and Diablo III. In the game, players join a massive online community to take part in the battle against ancient evils who are in pursuit of harnessing the powers of the shattered Worldstone. However, the game's release provoked a massive wave of backlash, and one of the previous game's producers has spoken out publicly against the new game's developer, Blizzard Entertainment.
Following the flood of criticisms, Diablo 2 producer Mark Kern tweeted about his personal insight on the situation - specifically referring to the way Blizzard doesn't appear to understand its own gamers anymore. Explaining that "Blizzard used to be really gamer driven," he expressed his dissatisfaction with way the studio handled the anticipation and release of a new game in the franchise. And, though his lengthy Twitter thread points out that he has no issue with a mobile spinoff, he said:
"Blizzard coyly played up the Diablo hype, which is a good move, but failed to anticipate that their PC based audience was going to expect...well...a PC based announcement. And that following all that hype up with a *different* product is a huge bait-n-switch feeling moment."
Since I was producer on Diablo 2, a lot of people have been asking for my thoughts on the whole "Diablo Immortal" fiasco. I hate to say it, but what you are seeing is Blizzard not understanding gamers anymore.— Mark Kern (@Grummz) November 4, 2018
What also bothered Kern was the fact that Blizzard seems taken aback by the criticisms. He explained that the bulk of his frustrations stemmed from the fact that "they [Blizzard] were expecting backlash, but they didn't have a plan for it," and that his response is less about being a "toxic gamer" than it is about addressing "bad PR." He then took this opportunity to address the fact that Blizzard's game developers have "really lost touch with gamers" and "need to make an effort to connect and tear down the corporate wall" to create a more fluid interaction between gamers and developers so that this sort of backlash doesn't happen again.
Unfortunately, the disconnect between Blizzard and its own gamers may extend beyond PR issues in how they announce their games. According to Kotaku, Blizzard referred to the inclusion of loot boxes as being an example of they "deliver overwhelming value ethically" to their players. Though they're hardly alone in the inclusion of in-game microtransactions, it's their questionable method of communication that prompted Kern to tweet about the company in the first place.
No customer will be one hundred percent satisfied with a product, but the issue with Diablo Immortal is less about the game itself than the way it was presented to gamers. Kern addresses the fact that Blizzard announced they are working on other Diablo projects outside of Immortal, but that they could have breezed past any kind of backlash had they simply let gamers know that a direct PC-based sequel was in the works. So, at the very least, there appears to be a silver lining in this mess. That said, it'll require a meticulous clean-up crew, some solid announcements for future releases, and a maybe even a more personable connection with gamers that prove Blizzard isn't quite as disconnected as Kern mentioned.
Source: Mark Kern