Comment & Opinion

Diablo Immortal backlash shows once again triple-A publishers are afraid of their audiences

Diablo Immortal backlash shows once again triple-A publishers are afraid of their audiences

Blizzard, one of the world’s most famous developers, has just announced it’s bringing the Diablo IP to mobile with Diablo Immortal.

The title is developed in partnership with Chinese publisher NetEase - which as well as its own original titles does have a reputation for copycat games such as (the highly successful) Knives Out.

Diablo Immortal will be an MMOARPG exclusively for mobile platforms and appears to offer similar gameplay to other entries in the dungeon crawling franchise. Albeit with touch controls.

Prior to its announcement during BlizzCon 2018, the company had attempted to quell expectations before the reveal. While a blog post didn’t quite say Diablo IV, the next main entry in the franchise, would definitely not be announced, Blizzard did allude to that fact.

“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,” read a statement.

“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.”

Here we go again

And so, it revealed Diablo Immortal on Friday. The backlash quickly began.

Across social media and the internet, people - whether fans or simply trolls fanning the flames - are expressing outrage at Blizzard’s audacity to bring Diablo to mobile.

There is a section of fans of these big franchises concerned they’ll be abandoned for mobile, or that somehow a wider audience is getting in on their exclusive club.

Mobile, after all, is just a quick cash-in for developers seeking to make a buck on the back of gambling addicts. Just a reskin required. Right?

Accusations range from a betrayal of the loyal fanbase who want Diablo IV or a remaster on their favoured console and PC systems. It's claimed Blizzard clearly doesn’t care about its fans, that’s why it’s releasing on mobile. The company is abandoning its reputation for quality with that quick mobile cash grab.

One criticism has also been aimed at principal designer Wyatt Cheng, who responded to concerns about a mobile release by stating: “Do you guys not have phones?”

Most do, of course. But this has some echoes of Microsoft's 'always on' debacle for the Xbox One.

We’ve been here before of course. And we’ll be here again. There is a section of fans of these big franchises concerned they’ll be abandoned for mobile, or that somehow a wider audience is getting in on their exclusive club, which will dilute the experience somehow.

Big triple-A publishers are increasingly eyeing up opportunities in the mobile market, but they are afraid of their own audiences and rocking a boat that has toxic people on board.

This was clearly evident during E3 back in June. Bethesda announced a new mobile game, The Elder Scrolls: Blades. But to cushion the reveal, it showed some trees, mountains and a logo for The Elder Scrolls VI. That was it.

Microsoft meanwhile announced Gears of War Pop! for mobile. It also cushioned the announcement with a trailer for Gears of War 5.

These games could not be announced on their own terms, lest there be the inevitable backlash. Microsoft and Bethesda appear afraid of their audiences.

Facing fears

The same can be said of Blizzard, which tried to also cushion that mobile announcement, but much less successfully.

Of course, it is perfectly reasonable to dislike the majority of mobile games if they do not fit in with your style. That’s a lot of genres to hate, but that's okay.

The potential to generate money is no doubt a motivation of course. It’s the same motivation that leads these big companies to invest $100 million-plus in a triple-A console game.

To get so riled up or disappointed with a mobile release of a big IP and start spitting blood seems unreasonable. As if mobile games are so inferior as to be worth no one’s time. As if they only exist as a cash grab. It’s an opinion stuck firmly in the past.

The potential to generate money is no doubt a motivation of course. It’s the same motivation that leads these big companies to invest $100 million-plus in a triple-A console game.

It’s time for people to get with the times and understand that there are hundreds of millions of people who play and enjoy mobile games. Who aren’t all gambling addicts. Though that’s not to say there isn’t a serious discussion to be had about certain monetisation practices (which many Asian countries have cracked down on).

It’s also quite rich for some websites to decry the toxicity surrounding the Diablo mobile game backlash when those same websites consistently air disappointment about mobile game releases when it comes to big IP.

Typical reactions include: “Game has been announced!... but it’s for mobile."

Let’s not let “passionate” (read: toxic, as our sister-site PCGamesInsider.biz rightly points out) players trash hardworking teams for trying to create enjoyable games as a company attempts to expand a franchise to a new audience.

If players do not like it, don't buy it or play it. You are not being forced. The market will decide if Blizzard has made the wrong decision through a lack of downloads and sales. And the company isn't going to abandon PC overnight, regardless.

It’s time for publishers and players be bold and accept that mobile is a massive platform with good quality games enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people the world over.


Senior Editor

Craig Chapple is Senior Editor of PocketGamer.biz and InfluencerUpdate.biz. He was previously Deputy Editor at Develop and Online Editor at Nintendo of Europe.

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I. C. FOOLS Tech
The mobile game industry and its ra-ra-cheerleaders only have themselves to blame for the perception (that is articulately described above) people have about what mobile games are. Traditional gamers see the vast majority of new mobile titles being nothing more than lazy, investor motivated, bloated pigs, produced from essentially the same cookie cutter open source templates, just different IP colors and skins. Truth is there are very few mobile app developers that are producing unique titles that are not outright pay to be a loser scams and cash grabs with little regard for stability and product quality.

The only good thing about this is Activevision/Blizzard is taking a huge hit on its market value since the announcement. Perhaps this will keep other investors led developers from making the same mistakes.
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