BlizzCon. A place where historically shown off some of the greatest trailers and announced some of their biggest games. One of the most memorable Blizzcon’s was back in 2014 which saw Overwatch announced and the convention was closed out by a musical performance by Metallica. Then rewind back to 2011 where we Diablo 3 cinematics leading up to the 2012 release, with major World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Pandaria, was announced alongside a playable demo. It is safe to say, while Blizzard hasn’t always hit it out of the park, Blizzcon has always been about the fans, and the games that made people fans of the work Blizzard has done since the companies founding in 1991.
Fast forward to post-BlizzCon 2018, Blizzard decided to wrap up the convention with an unveiling an unannounced project. There had been tons of rumors prior to Blizzcon stating that Diablo 4 would be making an appearance but Blizzard was quick to squash those rumors stating that Diablo 4 was in development but it would not be shown at BlizzCon, while they did still have a Diablo-related announcement for the show. Then a rumor of a Diablo 2 remake surfaced and many fans began to get on the hype train for a remake of one of the classic games in the franchise. Instead of a Diablo 2 remake, Blizzard announced Diablo Immortal, an outsourced free-to-play mobile game to wrap up BlizzCon. The outrage was huge, social media exploded in anger. The cinematic trailer on YouTube currently sits at 21k likes and over 550k dislikes. It is safe to say the game was not well received.
Before diving deeper into this, I have to clarify a few points. Yes, some fans’ reactions were radical and took it to far. However, fans should be able to voice their disdain with developers because at the end of the day, the fans are the people who consume the product the developers make. On the flip side of that, how social media as a whole has treated Blizzard employees who have no say in the direction of the games or projects has been abhorrent in some cases. They work on the games that higher-ups and executives give the green light to. There needs to be a middle ground between common decency and criticism.
The fact that there is a Diablo mobile game is not even really the core issue at work here. Many developers have had much success in revealing their mobile games to very little backlash, and even some receiving positive fan feedback after the reveal. Fallout Shelter is a very good example of this, being announced as playable during E3 2015 after Bethesda had already shown off Fallout 4 and given it a release date. This is very similar to how Bethesda showed off Elder Scroll Blades the upcoming mobile title E3 2018, while also showing a teaser for Elder Scrolls VI. Xbox did the exact same thing during E3 2018 when they announced Gears of War POP, which was a mobile Gears of War game featuring Funko Pop characters. You would think the backlash from that would be huge right? No, it wasn’t, because they also showed off Gears 5 and Gears Tactics, an XCOM style take on the Gears franchise. Yet, when EA unveiled Command & Conquer as a mobile game, with no news on the future of the franchise, they received the huge backlash from fans in a similar style (though not as extreme) to what Blizzard has faced.
The core issue that surrounds Diablo Immortals is a few basic facts which are as follows. They should never have shown off a Diablo mobile game with not even a teaser for Diablo 4. Even if it was just a cinematic trailer to close out the show it would have been better received. Closing on a mobile game is completely tone deaf on Blizzard’s part. The BlizzCon audience is filled with some of the most hardcore of the gaming audience who paid good money to be in the crowd. These people don’t want you to close the show on an outsourced mobile game. This fiasco completely overshadowed other great announcements, such as Warcraft III: Reforged, a new character announcement in Overwatch and Destiny 2 coming free to PC for a limited time. If this mobile announcement had been made in the middle of the event, fans would have been disgruntled but closing out the show with Warcraft III: Reforged was a completely missed opportunity.
While media and fans all point fingers at different sources as to why this situation blew up the way it did, all Blizzard can do is learn from this mistake. Blizzard is one of the few companies that has had success with mobile games like Hearthstone, and console/PC games like Diablo, Overwatch, World of Warcraft and more. Diablo Immortal may not end up being a bad mobile game, some fans may begin to embrace it. Only time will tell, and here’s hoping that at the next BlizzCon fans and developers can walk away happy.