What was supposed to be an exciting weekend for Activision Blizzard and fans paying to attend (or to view all the offerings) of BlizzCon 2018, turned out to be a PR nightmare and lead to a drop in Activision Blizzard's stock price.
After teasing that "multiple" Diablo projects were in development for months now, Blizzard took to the main stage at BlizzCon - where its most passionate and hardcore fans gathered for news on what's next from their favorite developers. And they announced... a mobile game. Enter Diablo Immortal.
Long story short, fans wanted the inevitable Diablo 4 announcement for PC (which reportedly was planned for BlizzCon 2018 originally) and instead got a seemingly China-focused mobile game that was quickly developed where chances are there will be some harsh and controversial monetization options (because these things make money). The trailers for Diablo Immortal are setting records for the amount of dislikes they're getting, comments are disappearing, and Reddit has been flooded with anti-Blizzard memes and game journalists debate whether some fans are too entitled or not. Here are our thoughts on BlizzCon 2018's Diablo Immortal reveal.
Rob Keyes - Editorial Director
Mobile games make money, and can be mega profitable versus their relatively inexpensive development costs. Take an established brand or IP, convert it to an optimized free-to-play mobile experience, and you can reach out to the most-popular platforms in the world (Android and iOS). Diablo Immortal, from a business and growth perspective, is a no brainer and that's why Blizzard has even more mobile games on the way. And it's going to make a ton of money, even if it does include sketchy monetization practices and grind-heavy gameplay. Remember, it was Activision Blizzard that tried to monetize the awful Diablo 3 auction house and that still to this day have gambling-esque loot boxes in Overwatch. It's about the money.
While the game and further additivepush towards mobile is obvious and essential, the announcement and presentation of Diablo Immortal at BlizzCon - a one-company marketing event for the most hardcore paying fans - was stupid. A failure of epic proportions that could and should have so easily been avoided with only a few tweaks to the BlizzCon 2018 plan.
Mansoor Mithaiwala - Features Editor
Diablo Immortal isn't inherently a BAD idea (mobile games have been the future for years now), but the way Blizzard went about announcing the game - and making that reveal one of the highlights of the annual event, for that matter - is where everything went awry. To cap it off, imbuing the mobile game with predatory microtransactions and turning a beloved PC series into what can ultimately amount to a cash grab instead of properly announcing and focusing on Diablo 4 is the real crime here.
Blizzard will survive this, there's no question about that, but fans need to realize that the people who made their favorite games all those years ago probably don't work at Blizzard anymore. That notion applies to other companies as well (e.g. BioWare, Bungie). Just because a studio made something great at one point in time doesn't mean they can replicate it years later. But it's also worth noting that Activision Blizzard is a company, and they'll go wherever the money is. They shouldn't be hounded because they made a "smart" business decision - but that doesn't mean how they went about it all wasn't wrong, either.
Rob Gordon - Lead Writer
There’s been an extremely strong reaction to Diablo Immortal, and although there’s a sense that the response is a little over the top, it’s easy to see why fans are unhappy. Long-term Diablo players will have seen what the mobile industry did to former peers like Dungeon Keeper, and threatens to do to Command & Conquer, and so wanting to steer clear of those kind of mechanics and emphasis on money over quality is understandable. Meanwhile, Activision has never been shy of implementing predatory microtransactions, so a fair amount of skepticism is perhaps warranted. In the end, it will all come down to just how Blizzard manages to keep Diablo Immortal fun in a classic Diablo sense - but winning over devotees could be difficult now.
Corey Hoffmeyer - Contributor
Blizzard should have taken some pointers from Bethesda’s E3 presentation: introduce your spiffy new mobile game but also give the fans what they came there for. Even a ten second teaser for Diablo 4 would have offset a lot of the post-reveal onslaught of negative reactions. Blizzard completely missed the mark on this one. With that in mind, there’s no denying that gaming fandoms have become something of an entitled, eternally bitter lot and this latest fiasco proves it. Mobile gaming is the way of the future, whether Diablo fans want to admit it or not, and Diablo Immortal will make a boatload of money for Blizzard. Still, the company should have known better than to have their keynote reveal at BlizzCon be a mobile game and it shows just how out of touch they really are.
Leo Faierman - Contributor
The announcement of Diablo: Immortal at BlizzCon went down with all the grace of Monty Burns attempting to eat an irradiated bite of Blinky. Failing to read the room is one thing, but failing to read a massive audience — both present at the convention and online — with a sacrosanct franchise that’s already scraped certain individuals with its online marketplace evolution is unprecedented, earning them their present online status of “negotium non gratum.” All but the most optimistic can not only see the writing on the wall, but the wallet-sucking roadmap in detail, with Blizzard’s subtle grooming practices of more and more freemium baubles for purchase in their growing slate of multi-platform games. People will surely play it, but if a wary fan sees an option to watch a Kate Upton ad in exchange for a rare loot drop, I’d expect an immediate and angry uninstall.
Tom Chapman - Contributor
With all eyes of the gaming world on Diablo at BlizzCon, it would've been so easy to grab the attention of fans and cash in on a beloved franchise that is already 22 years old. Sure, players had been warned that there wouldn't be a Diablo 4 announcement, but Blizzard still went above and beyond to tease something big from this year's convention.
Players have seen how Rocksteady took the flack for failing to reveal its next Batman/rumored DC project at E3, but at least the developers had the foresight to apologize in the middle of the uproar. Instead, Wyatt Cheng's bizarre statement of "don't you guys have phones?" was a poorly-timed response. If Blizzard had thought about it carefully in a year with so many big games hitting consoles and PC, they'd probably have realized that not everyone would be happy with a mobile game presumably littered with microtransactions.
Ty Sheedlo - Contributor
Blizzard is a company for profit. Mobile games are very profitable. So Blizzard making Diablo Immortal makes perfect sense from a business perspective. Can I see how they thought this wouldn't affect their more hardcore audience? Sure. The game has nothing to do with them. However they should they have anticipated fans being disappointed that the Diablo announcement ignored the vocal minority of their playerbase. But games aren't just made for "gamers" despite their insistence. Here's hoping Blizzard sticks by their guns.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with a free-to-play Diablo spin-off for mobile, but Blizzard had to know that going to BlizzCon and trying to pitch the game to hardcore franchise fans was a losing battle, especially without even so much as a pre-rendered teaser for Diablo 4 or – if we can dream for a moment – Diablo II Remastered. That being said, the response across the internet has reaffirmed just how immature, entitled, and obnoxious the hardcore crowd can be. Calling Immortal an “April Fool’s Joke” is a direct insult to developers who work really hard on trying to make the best game they possibly can, and is completely inappropriate behavior for a group which already struggles to be taken seriously by mainstream culture.
The gaming community needs to pick their battles. Mobile games are traditionally free-to-play and driven by microtransactions. That’s how they work, and to expect anything different is a failure on the part of the consumer, not the game. We should continue to protest “recurrent consumer spending” in triple-A titles like Star Wars: Battlefront II and Devil May Cry 5, which already cost $60, but Diablo Immortal, however predatory its pay-to-win processes may or may not turn out to be, isn’t the same thing. If you don’t like it, don’t play it. There’s already a mobile game for you, and it’s Diablo III on Switch.
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Diablo Immortal is a mobile Massively Multiplayer Online Action RPG (MMOARPG) developed by Blizzard Entertainment in partnership with NetEase, coming exclusively to Android, iPhone and iPad. It doesn't have a release date.