BlizzCon 2018 Outrage
After reading and watching footage from BlizzCon this year, I have to wonder about the future of Blizzard Entertainment and their popular franchises. Of course, I'm talking about the disaster of an announcement that was Diablo Immortal. After the years of re-building a positive community and listening to feedback after the initial release of Diablo 3, they seemed to throw away any good will they had with the community out of the window.
The news and reveals from this year's BlizzCon was a disappointment for many fans. While trying to temper the expectations of their fans during the few weeks leading up to the event, Blizzard made it clear that this was going to be a BlizzCon with Diablo as a focus as they have said that there were multiple Diablo projects in development. Without saying it directly, it was heavily implied that Diablo 4 was not going to be announced.
Blizzard Entertainment's goals do not seem to align with those of their fans. Many gamers like myself, grew up on Blizzard games like Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo. While the Blizzard we know today is no longer the Blizzard North that created these iconic franchises, many fans still cling to the idea that a new game would be as good as the ones from days past.
Ultimately the reason why there is so much hate for Diablo Immortal is the transparent motivation behind its release and promotion. It's a simple way to generate more income for Activision-Blizzard investors and the parent company Vivendi. The core base of Blizzard fans has always been PC gamers. I like how Diablo 3 has been successfully ported on the PS4 and Switch, giving more players a chance to play the game. However, Diablo Immortal is being co-developed with NetEase, a Chinese game development studio known for similar mobile games. Blizzard has been killing it recently with their popular franchises, like Hearthstone, the recent WoW expansion, and Overwatch. Like any public company they seek to keep growing, which no company can do indefinitely, and Diablo is a popular franchise whose last big release was Reaper of Souls in 2014.
During the Q&A after the game's reveal, Wyatt Cheng said the game will be only for mobile platforms. The game is being advertised as a new installment in the franchise, that takes place after the events of Diablo 2. I'm sure there are a lot of players who would still love to play Diablo Immortal for the new story content that adds to the lore of the Diablo universe. Being a mobile game that is less expensive to develop and I'm sure will have a microtransaction system is not what fans of Blizzard want. I can see this game being mainly for the Chinese market, or overseas markets, where these types of mobile games generate insane amounts of revenue. Even if the U.S. version of the game had fewer micro-transactions, I personally have no interest in playing it on mobile.
The hate that the game is getting now would not be as bad if this mobile game was announced alongside a new PC Diablo game. More games in the Diablo universe is never a bad thing, but announcing this game as the main focus of BlizzCon was a terrible PR move. Their motives for making the game are transparent, and pretending the game is anything different is an insult to their fans. For a large company with many passionate gamers working for them, and community managers who are in tune with their fans, I can't believe things turned out this badly. I can see why Blizzard was trying to kill the hype around Diablo projects prior to BlizzCon, but hopefully, this is the wake-up call they needed, and how out of touch they have become with their audience.
Blizzard Entertainment is in a tough situation, it seems like they are in a situation of being dammed if you do and dammed if you don't. If they didn't make a new announcement they would be criticized for putting up a boring show. And if they announced a new project like Diablo 4 too early they would be criticized and ridiculed for the Blizzard trend of releasing a game "when it is ready", which could be 2 or more years away. The Blizzard fanbase is also split. Some fans want remaster of classic games like the announcement of Warcraft 3: Reforged or World of Warcraft Classic. Other fans want new entries in old franchises, which is another battle of not being able to please everyone. I personally would prefer new stories, compared to remasters. I love story driven games, so I don't have much interest in replaying the same story just with updated graphics and sound.
Don't get me wrong, unlike some, I don't want to see Blizzard fail. I actually enjoyed the initial release of Diablo 3, the Starcraft 2 games, and the changes they made for Reaper of Souls. Two things that I don't like are mobile games and games with microtransactions. Unfortunately, this is a trend in the gaming industry that companies see as quick and easy ways to make a big profit. I just hope that Blizzard does not lose all their goodwill with the community just to pick the low hanging fruit.
Let me know in the comments below if you agree or have a different opinion on recent Blizzard backlash.