Gamers are up in arms over the announcement of Blizzard’s upcoming mobile MMO Diablo Immortal. There are a lot of issues at play here, and we are going to deep dive into a few of them. Are Gamers really right to be so upset about this Game?
For many Gamers, this was going to be the year of Diablo; The big year. This was going to be the year that Diablo 4 was unveiled (or at least Diablo 2 remastered). Many bought their BlizzCon tickets way in advance in anticipation of this huge announcement.
These Gamers could hardly contain their excitement as BlizzCon’s opening ceremony rolled on. Blizzard usually saves the best for last, and the final announcement was clearly reserved for Diablo. Blizzard’s Wyatt Cheng took to the stage and unveiled something unexpected.
Instead of Diablo 4 or Diablo 2 Remastered, Gamers were presented with the trailer for a mobile MMO. A game meant to be played on smartphones and tablets. Later during a Q&A, Blizzard confirmed that they don’t have any plans to bring Diablo Immortal to PC.
It didn’t take long for Gamers to attack Blizzard through social media. The attack came from all sides. Diablo Immortal’s gameplay trailer has been downvoted repeatedly.
These Gamers feel betrayed by one of their favorite companies. Many feel that Blizzard enticed them to purchase BlizzCon tickets, and then did a bait-&-switch on them. Others are concerned about Blizzard’s partnership with mobile developer NetEase. The list of complaints goes on and on.
Are Gamers Right?
Should Gamers be this upset about Diablo Immortal? There are a few sides to this situation, and we’ll do our best to discuss some of the more prominent points.
Gamers were expecting a PC Reveal
Gamers are claiming that Blizzard set the expectation that something big was going to be announced at BlizzCon for Diablo fans. In a sense there is some viability to this claim. However, Blizzard also went out of their way to set the record straight before BlizzCon even started.
“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. We appreciate your patience as our teams work tirelessly to create nightmarish experiences worthy of the Lord of Terror.”-Blizzard Blog
Blizzard made it pretty clear ahead of time that Diablo 4 was not going to be announced at BlizzCon. This left many hoping that they would at least show off Diablo 2 Remastered. This expectation was reinforced by a Blizzard job posting from 2017.
“Compelling stories. Intense multiplayer. Endless replayability. Qualities that made StarCraft, Warcraft III, and Diablo II the titans of their day. Evolving operating systems, hardware, and online services have made them more difficult to be experienced by their loyal followers or reaching a new generation. We’re restoring them to glory, and we need your engineering talents, your passion, and your ability to get tough jobs done.”-Blizzard Job Posting
In a sense, it wasn’t wrong for Gamers to put 2-&-2 together. The job listing makes it appear that Blizzard is working on a Diablo 2 remaster. It wasn’t unreasonable to think that Diablo 2 might be Blizzard’s big announcement for BlizzCon 2018.
NetEase has a Questionable Reputation
Gamers are concerned about Blizzard’s partnership with mobile developer NetEase. NetEase has a reputation in Asia for creating cash-grab Games that are known to be exploitative. On Reddit, Gamers are chiming in to talk about their experience with other NetEase titles.
“What Netease has done in game field is some thing you foreigner guys cannot imagine.”-Niurouxing
“In China, we call net ease as “pig farm” which mean, they do not treat player as normal human but pigs. If EA is like a 2 out of 10, Netease is -2859.”-Roscoeakl
“Having spent a substantial amount of time with NetEase’s US version of Crusader’s of Light, I can confirm that whatever suspicions, worries, doubts or apprehension you have about Blizzard’s partnership with NetEase, it’s well founded. This is a money grab, pure and simple.”-ExumPG
Gamers are worried that Blizzard is creating a game full of microtransactions and gambling. NetEase has a reputation for this sort of product in Asia, so these concerns are well-founded. When asked about the monetization system in Diablo Immortal, Blizzard essentially sidestepped the question.
“If you think about Blizzard over the last three decades, we’ve made lots of different games using different models: boxed products that we sell, digital downloads, WoW is subscription-based, Hearthstone and Overwatch have loot boxes and loot packs. Heroes of the Storm is another free-to-play game. So I hope our community can see that over that time, there are a few central themes that drive us at Blizzard. And they are always ‘Make an amazing game and deliver overwhelming value ethically to our players.’ That drives the way we think about this. So whether it’s free-to-play or premium, that remains our north star.”-Blizzard’s Allen Adham
Gamers were hoping that Blizzard would speak plainly and that they would be transparent about how Immortal will be monetized. Instead Blizzard’s answer leaves the door open to all sorts of questionable economic systems for their upcoming Game. In Blizzard’s defense, they are committing to delivering “overwhelming value ethically”. We’ll have to wait to see what the definition of “ethically” ends up looking like.
What about the Game itself?
So issues aside, is Diablo Immortal going to be a good game? For now, it looks like opinions are varied. The press was invited to test a demo of Diablo Immortal, and their impressions are a mixed bag.
“With Diablo: Immortal, it’s easy to feel like you’re playing Diablo, but it also feels like an illusion. It looks like Diablo, it sounds like Diablo, and it even plays like Diablo. And yet it feels like it’s missing the sense of satisfaction that comes each time you crumple a demon corpse in every other Diablo game. The soul of Diablo doesn’t feel present.”-Polygon
“If nothing else, Diablo Immortal feels good enough that I can imagine myself contentedly tapping away at it during commutes or while waiting for loading screens in the PC and Switch versions of Diablo III. I’m worried, though, that it might not have much staying power.”-Kotaku
“I came away from Diablo Immortal with hope. It’s fun because, despite the fact it’s now on the phone, it feels authentic to the series in both gameplay and art style. It’s Diablo made simple, and with the introduction of legendary items and some late-game difficulty bumps, it could be a great Diablo game in its own right.”-DigitalTrends
The Bottom Line
If we were to sum this up, it looks like much of this situation is based on unfounded expectations and assumptions. We already knew that Diablo 4 wasn’t going to be announced, and we were not promised Diablo 2 Remastered. It’s fine to be disappointed that we didn’t get to see these Games. However, it doesn’t mean that Blizzard has wronged us. Blizzard Games are always ready “when the time is right”. This is nothing new.
On the other hand, Blizzard’s partnership with NetEase may be cause for concern. NetEase has a history of questionable microtransactions and exploitative mechanics. The fact that Blizzard wouldn’t confirm their monetization approach is a bit of a red flag.
When it comes to the Game itself, my biggest concern is that it’s not going to be for everyone. Many people clearly don’t enjoy playing Games on a mobile device. And that’s unfortunate because it looks like Blizzard is preparing to tell a new part of the Diablo story through Immortal. If you skip Immortal, then you’re missing out on part of Diablo as a whole. This is a difficult consequence for those that are passionate Diablo fans. Blizzard is basically saying that you either play Immortal the way that we want you to, or you miss out on the story. Some people may not care, but others care about Diablo’s story a great deal.
Personally I think that there may be a middle ground. Devices like Apple TV and Nvidia Shield create easy cross-over potential for Immortal. It wouldn’t take a ton of additional effort from Blizzard to release Immortal on these platforms. They are essentially bigger versions of their mobile counterparts. The difference in the experience would be very pronounced. You could play on your TV, and you wouldn’t have to worry about less-than-ideal touchscreen controls. This little addition in itself may be the olive branch that the Diablo Community needs. Blizzard needs to be looking for more ways to be inclusive rather than exclusive.
Also published on Medium.
Josh is a long-time Gamer and Technology Guru. He is known for his writing and troubleshooting skills. Josh can solve just about any problem, and is especially good at getting to the bottom of technology challenges. He has a background in Networking and holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree. When he’s not gaming, Josh can be found blogging, testing new tech, and interacting with Flickstiq’s social media following. He lives in Ohio with his wife and children.