[Update #2: Lord Fluffy, the Diablo streamer who asked if Diablo Immortal will come to PC, has released a detailed overview of the context behind his question and Activision Blizzard’s reaction]
[Update: Activision Blizzard stock value has dropped 7.2% (resulting in $3.7 billion USD lost) following the Diablo Immortal announcement discussed below]
Some companies are so loved by gamers that they can do no wrong. Others discover, they are no longer part of that club! In a disastrous move, Activision Blizzard announced Diablo Immortal for mobile to close out their keynote speech at this year’s Blizzcon 2018. The game is being developed by NetEase and will see the franchise delve into the free-to-play MMO genre.
The original Diablo 2 producer has come out and said he doesn’t believe Blizzard understands gamers anymore. Fan reactions to this announcement have been so negative that the PR team behind this game is now censor criticism from the internet as a petition against its release is gaining momentum. So why are people so upset? Where did it all go wrong?
Activision Blizzard revealed that Diablo Immortal for iOS and Android smartphones / tablets is available for pre-registration on Google Play already, and will likely utilized free-to-play economic strategies like micro-transactions to bring in revenue. The live crowd of fans at Blizzcon 2018 who paid $199 plus taxes and fees and plane tickets and hotel rooms were disappointed and presented questions, disbelief, and even booing towards the developers on-stage.
While many have risen to the defense of Activision Blizzard and are calling gamers “entitled” for this reaction, there’s plenty of reasoning behind fans being upset. It also adds credence to the theory that the Activision arm of the company has been influencing the Blizzard side a lot more than some gamers may have originally predicted when the merger first took place.
Diablo Immortal’s announcement could also be seen as tone deaf after C&C Rivals was presented at EA’s E3 2018 Conference to a heartbroken crowd who had already accepted the fact that EA killed the beloved RTS franchise by closing down Westwood Studios so long ago. Although not quite the same move as this action which led to EA receiving a D Rating for E3 2018, Activision Blizzard’s announcement can be seen as a similar cash grab thrust upon a beloved franchise that’s been in question for some time as countless remasters and ports of Diablo 3 release without a word about Diablo 4 coming forward.
To make matters worse, someone in charge of PR and marketing at the Diablo team has been deleting negative comments from YouTube, Blizzard forums, and even attempted to re-upload the reveal and gameplay trailers for Diablo Immortal in order to reset the abysmal amount of dislikes from viewers. These attempts are all failing to silence the masses though, who vehemently disagree with the direction Blizzard is taking the hack and slash series.
There’s also another major issue with Diablo Immortal. NetEase, who is a top developer in China producing mobile games, appears to have lifted the core elements and code of another game while slapping Diablo graphics on top of it. The game wasn’t built from the ground up for the franchise, despite claims from Blizzard PR along those lines. Some fans even see this game as a re-skin of the previously released Crusaders of Light by NetEase. Upon close inspection, this is valid and crucial. Rumor mills are scrambling to claim that D4 was supposed to be announced at Blizzcon 2018 but there’s no evidence that this is true.
Diablo 4 rumors have been surfacing since before and after Blizzcon 2018 and some even feel that the game was confirmed somehow, somewhere along the way. However, this has only materialized as proof of mere pre-production talks and speculation on job listings. For the time being, we know that the game will exist some day – but that’s all we know. There isn’t any time frame or confirmation of actual production taking place. Allowing NetEase to put out Diablo Immortal could have been meant to allow for more development time on a fourth Diablo game, but we just don’t know for sure.
A Petition has emerged to stop Diablo Immortal from even being released, and while I think it’s unlikely that Blizzard would even consider such a move – it’s good that fans can have a non-harassing way to voice their feelings. At least the quantity of people upset about this announcement can be represented by those who choose to sign the petition, and hopefully Blizzard doesn’t take an anti-gamer approach with their PR handling of this subject. As we’ve seen with EA DICE, going against your audience can doom your games.
The Change.org Diablo Immortal Petition reads, “People For the True Spirit of Blizzard needs your help with “Supporters of the Diablo franchise and the spirit of what Blizzard used to stand for.: Cancel Diablo Immortal” and has already reached over 32,000 signatures with over 100 donations towards promoting the petition to reach even more fans. Some folks have even donated as much as $30 or $50 to get the word out. Money that perhaps could’ve gone towards the pre-order of a new Diablo game.
In the end, gamers have a right to demand quality from the companies in charge of their favorite franchises. Diablo is a series which people have poured hundreds of dollars into, thousands of hours, and represents part of the golden age in PC Gaming. Perhaps there is a great Diablo 4 game on the way. Maybe Diablo Immortal would’ve been accepted as a way to get casual players into the series if it was announced alongside an epic Diablo 4 project. In the end, marketing has failed for this game and Blizzcon 2018 will forever go down as one of the biggest letdowns in game convention history.
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