I feel bad for Blizzard. I really do. And I feel bad for all the fans of the Diablo series. All fans want is to get something, anything about the state of Diablo III on the PC. Or even a small graphic or mention of Diablo IV being worked on. You know, like how Bethesda teased Elder Scrolls VI with just a very small video.
But all fans got was an announcement for Diablo Immortal, a mobile game that they outsourced to NetEase to create. And from the looks of it, it's like they took the Diablo assets and just applied it to their own Diablo clone called Crusaders the Light.
Needless to say, the fan reaction ranged from disbelief to sadness to anger. Here's Blizzcon where thousands of fans paid $200 a ticket and thousands paid $50 for the virtual ticket to watch an event for a company that they love end the keynote with an announcement for an IP that many love going mobile only for their next installment.
As I've said a few times this week, I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed.
Diablo Immortal looks good for a mobile game. I like the vertical element included some of the levels. But, digging deeper, you find out that it's not even by Blizzard themselves. It was outsourced to a company called NetEASe. NetEase has a big hold on the mobile gaming division in the Asian markets, but they also don't have the best reputation either. You think EA is bad here in the United States? NetEase ain't all that great and they definitely look to milk as much money out of mobile gamers as possible from the things I've read.
Let's be honest, this does look like Blizzard going for the cash grab that is the mobile market. Especially when you partner with a company known to make games that do that.
Look, I don't mind that they decide produce this game. I'm all for companies moving into a new market and trying to introduce their IP to different set of customers. It's good business and if you want to do this then, fine. Go ahead.
The problem though is that there's a time and place to do this right.
Let's take for example Bethesda. Bethesda first delved into mobile gaming with Fallout Shelter. It's free to play, but lets you buy lunchboxes and nuka colas. But Bethesda didn't showcase Fallout Shelter as THE title of their press conference. No, it was a nice little addition to their main attraction, Fallout 4. Again this year, they announced Elder Scrolls: Blades, a mobile AND PC free to play game that I'm sure will have more microtransactions, but it wasn't their main focus. Fallout 76 was and in the end, they gave everyone what they wanted with the tease of of both Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI. No one was mad about the mobile offering because there were the core titles that appeal to the audience that they were presenting to.
EA is an example of doing it wrong with their announcement of Command & Conquer Rivals. They spent a good amount of time talking and demonstrating a mobile game from a beloved franchise that the audience of that event didn't care about. Again, I don't have a problem with EA wanting to go do this, but it was the wrong place and time to focus on a title that the audience watching didn't want.
Microsoft did it right with Gears of War and also trolled the audience a bit with good fun. Gears POP! was shown, which is a mobile game and then Coalition's Rob Fergusson came out to announce the mobile spin, but quickly moved into Gears Tactics and finally showed Gears 5, which the audience loudly applauded. No one talked about the POP! game and the core audience at the event got to see what they wanted. The Gears POP! game will probably make money for Microsoft, but Microsoft was smart not to focus on a mobile title.
Again, know the audience and know what they want at large events. Microsoft and Bethesda did. EA and now Blizzard made mistakes.
Fans of Diablo are wanting something, anything. Anything but a mobile announcement. They want another expansion pack. They want a teaser for Diablo IV. They want to know Blizzard hasn't put their IP low on the priority list. And I think the people on the Diablo team want that as well. Sometimes though, as developers, we don't get to do what we want as the higher ups dictate what you can do. It's the nature of the business.
Seeing Wyatt Cheng struggle near the end of the keynote was disheartening. He's getting the brunt of the anger that fans are spewing and that's not right. He helped turn the franchise around after the marketplace fiasco and he doesn't deserve this.
As I said before, I'm all for a mobile title if that's what you want to do. Good luck and I hope it makes you a great deal of money. I have absolutely no problem with Diablo Immortal being available for others to play and enjoy. It's not for me and I'm not going to bag on something that's not meant for me. I've gotten more patient as I've grown older and I'm going to patiently wait on news of the next PC Diablo offering and hope Blizzard doesn't mess it up.
Blizzard should've known better than to try to trot out a mobile game to that audience and throw the Diablo team out there to announce it. They've seen how people react to others who've tried this and it never goes well. I don't know if they are going into full damage control mode now or if they'll just wait it out, but the damage has been done and as we know, passionate fans have a long, long memory about these types of things.