Let’s Try to Understand the Diablo Immortal Controversy

Diablo Immortal isn’t the only new Diablo game currently in development. In a blog post released ahead of Blizzcon 2018, Blizzard more-or-less announced that Diablo 4 was on its way, noting that “evil things often take longer.” The company choosing to conclude its opening ceremony without a tease for this sequel was a misfire, and the fan backlash has been immense. But if we know that a new Diablo is on its way, then why the hysteria surrounding Diablo Immortal?

It’s likely that many Blizzcon attendees were aware that a new Diablo game was in the pipeline. Yet, the Diablo Immortal announcement was treated as though it’s the only Diablo game on the horizon. One attendee even snarkily called out Blizzard in a Q&A, asking a dev if it was an “out-of-season April Fools’ joke?” Those identifying as Blizzard’s core player base took to YouTube, Reddit, et al to express their dissatisfaction, and the hyperbole machine went into overdrive. While the facts of the situation clearly indicate that a “proper” Diablo game is on the way, this has been firmly overlooked. So why all the anger?

Everybody Hates Microtransactions

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Mobile gaming is widely considered a lesser platform than PC or console. While there are plenty of great mobile games out there, from Reigns through to Ridiculous Fishing, the reliance on free-to-play often means that titles are stuffed with overbearing microtransactions. Games such as EA’s Dungeon Keeper Mobile have taken an existing IP and used it as a conduit for predatory in-game purchases, becoming a go-to example for anti-consumer practices on the platform. While many games don’t go to the lengths of Dungeon Keeper Mobile, mobile gaming has its negative reputation for a reason.

Blizzard opting to close its opening ceremony on Diablo Immortal in 2018 was a big mistake. The industry is less than a year removed from Star Wars Battlefront 2, which significantly rocked the loot boxes boat and made microtransactions an even dirtier word than it was previously. Even a short Diablo 4 teaser would have helped to reduce the negative reaction to Diablo Immortal, but the mobile game closing the opening ceremony left a bad taste in viewers’ mouths. We know how lucrative mobile games can be for publishers, so some are concerned by Blizzard veering into this trend.

Diablo Immortal isn’t replacing an existing Diablo game. However, Blizzard venturing further into mobile gaming is a concern among fans. In an interview with Digital Trends, co-founder Allen Adham elaborated on the developer’s plans.

“I can say, without getting overly specific, that we have big plans for the mobile space,” Adham said. “It’s a big initiative for us across Blizzard, and you can expect to see more mobile titles from us spanning all of our IPs at some point in the future.”

This is a vague statement and one that doesn’t in any way suggest that Blizzard is moving away from its core games. After all, Hearthstone has become one of the studio’s most popular and competitive titles regardless of it being a mobile game. However, closing out on Diablo Immortal can be seen as a statement of intent on the company’s behalf, leading to frustration among a sect of its audience.

YouTube and Performative Anger

new diablo mobile game

YouTube deals in performative anger, and this is evidenced through a search of Diablo Immortal on the site. A stream of videos delving into various levels of overreaction pop up, highlighting the criticisms some had with the community’s response to the announcement.

“We know what many of you are hoping for and we can only say that “good things come to those who wait,” but evil things often take longer,” Blizzard wrote in a post prior to Blizzcon 2018. “We appreciate your patience as our teams work tirelessly to create nightmarish experiences worthy of the Lord of Terror.

“While we won’t be ready to announce all of our projects, we do intend to share some Diablo-related news with you at the show.”

That’s pretty self-explanatory, no? Stopping short of formally announcing Diablo 4, Blizzard has stated that it’s working on the Diablo game its fans want, but that it wouldn’t appear at Blizzcon. Some speculated that Blizzard would instead announce a Diablo 2 remaster, but this was complete speculation. So it was known ahead of Blizzcon that the Diablo announcement wouldn’t be exactly what fans wanted, but some are still disappointed that it’s not the other thing they wanted. This is understandable, though the online reactions would lead you to believe that Blizzard had just morphed into PopCap Games:

diablo immortal mobile youtube

Unfortunately, this is difficult to avoid. YouTube is the go-to destination for quickfire and furious opinions, so the reality that Blizzard isn’t replacing its traditional games with mobile ones was spent under the carpet in favor of adding to the outrage. This compulsion to contribute to bubbling anger has caused key elements of the story to be overlooked.

“There are actually two distinct [Diablo] teams,” Adham told Kotaku. “That’s something we tried to communicate [during the announcement]. I know our community here, there’s a concern that we are focused on this instead of that. The truth is that we have multiple Diablo teams working on multiple unannounced Diablo projects even after announcing [Immortal].”

The reality is that while Diablo Immortal clearly isn’t for some fans, other Diablo projects are in the works from separate teams. While a mobile Diablo game may not be what the more die-hard fans wanted, it’ll have its audience and the jury’s still out in regards to its quality. As noted by Adham in the interview with Kotaku, Blizzard experienced a similar backlash when it announced that Diablo 3 would come to console. While mobile is certainly a more controversial platform, if it doesn’t affect a proper Diablo sequel, then there’s no harm done.

So Why All the Outrage?

Diablo Immortal‘s announcement was a big marketing blunder, but it wasn’t anything more than that. It didn’t help that this Blizzcon opening ceremony wasn’t exactly rife with new announcements, but Blizzcon 2017’s ceremony wasn’t a highlight reel, either. Blizzard has always been keen to only show upcoming games when they’re in a passable state, so it could well be that Diablo 4 is some way off and the developer didn’t want to get hopes up too quickly. After all, with so many currently successful games still receiving various updates and improvements, there’s really no need to shift the focus to a game with no planned release window.

Either way, the Diablo Immortal reveal was a bust and Blizzard will be hoping to change the tide of public opinion. Currently sitting at over 400,000 dislikes and only 15,000 likes, the cinematic trailer for the game suggests it has a lot of work to do if it wants to convince long-time Diablo fans. But even if it doesn’t, more Diablo projects are on their way regardless, so fans just need to sit tight in the meantime.