At BlizzCon this year Blizzard announced Diablo Immortal, a mobile spin-off to be released next year for iOS and Android devices, co-developed by Blizzard themselves and Chinese game developers ‘NetEase’, known mostly for their heavily inspired online mobile games.
This announcement didn’t go down very well with fans at all and lead to an explosion of criticism and expression of disappointment by gamers all over the internet. Diablo Immortal likely won’t be a bad title considering its platform; however this isn’t the focus of Blizzard’s community outcry.
There’s several reasons people think the reveal was such a disaster, let’s go over some of the circumstances that lead to such negative response from Diablo fans.
BlizzCon is a big and expensive convention, costing hundreds of dollars in entrance and travel fees for many, even the virtual tickets are more expensive than most mainstream gaming expos. It is attended by hardcore Blizzard fans, made up mostly of PC gamers.
Most would argue that of all the various groups of gamers in the world, these people wouldn’t exactly be the target audience for a free-to-play mobile game, at least not exclusively anyway. Huge announcements aren’t made at every BlizzCon, but Blizzard usually only make a big deal out of those that are considered exciting and important to their fanbase.
The final reveal slot of the event was reserved for Diablo’s mobile spin-off and was announced with the sort of enthusiasm that you’d expect from a much larger title in the franchise. One would argue that Destiny 2 being free for all battle.net users, World of Warcraft Vanilla demo available to all BlizzCon ticket holders or the long awaited Warcraft III Reforged would have held out better as closing announcements.
There was a lot of Diablo related news prior to the event, with Diablo 3’s Nintendo Switch release and a tie-in Netflix TV show, not many were expecting the closing announcement to be honoured by a casual mobile game. Whether it is in development or not, it’s clear that a Diablo II Remaster would have been much more welcomed news than a mobile spin-off developed mostly by a third party.
This is quite possibly their biggest mistake besides their failure to maintain realistic expectations. Other large publishers have announced mobile spin-offs of their AAA titles with great excitement and applause from fans. One stand out example being Fallout Shelter, announced alongside the reveal of Bethesda's Fallout 4. This acted more as a fun marketing tool and kept fans engaged leading up to the release of the game they all actually wanted.
We all know Diablo 4 is likely in development and will eventually be released, we know Blizzard take their time so we didn’t need a release date, but literally the title ‘Diablo 4’ on screen followed by the mobile announcement would have made the world of difference. If Diablo 4 isn’t at the stage to commit to revealing its active development, then they should have pushed back Immortal’s grand announcement.
Leading up to BlizzCon, Blizzard was teasing various exciting Diablo announcements besides the Switch and Netflix projects – it had been 6 years since the release of Diablo 3 and a remaster of Diablo II had been rumoured since before Starcraft and Warcraft III got the same treatment.
With Diablo 4 most certainly in the works at this point, fans drooled with anticipation on what the big Diablo announcement would be at BlizzCon. Blizzard saw this as worrying and made almost riddle-worthy attempts at cooling down the hype, however this was too little, too late. While Immortal might end up a great mobile game, the Switch port may be excellent and the Netflix show may well be an interested approach to telling the story – what we all want is the next big instalment, and Blizzard know that.
No PC Release
Diablo Immortal isn’t Blizzard’s first mobile venture, Hearthstone is playable on iOS and Android devices worldwide, and is incredibly successful – some could argue making CCG games mainstream in the industry and setting a standard. But this isn’t how it started, Hearthstone was announced and initially launched as a PC title.
The team at Blizzard have “no plans to bring Diablo Immortal to PC”. While this isn’t exactly tragic, we doubt Immortal will bring much innovation or improvements to the Diablo experience beyond what the third instalment already offers, but it worked for Hearthsone which is a very mobile friendly game but is equally popular on both platforms. A port should have at least been considered but microtransactions are much less frowned upon in the mobile space and Activision clearly wants to capitalise on that more.
Response to criticism
During the Q&A sessions that closed the Diablo Immortal reveal, Blizzard responded to the negative reaction directed their way when announced there would be no PC release with the insensitive question “Do you guys not have phones?”. Come on Blizzard, you know full well that’s not the point and only gives validity to fans’ claims that you have become out of touch with the interests and desires of your community.
While the dust will settle, Immortal most likely will still be a success, and fans will move on – Blizzard won’t be remembered in this historical moment as a company that knew their community well enough to respond in a way that soothed concerns and realigned expectations.
What do you think to Blizzard's announcement of Diablo Immortal? Are you excited for the game? Let us know your thoughts!