“I’d like to thank April Fools Guy for setting off what’s sure to be two solid weeks of hand-wringing over the time/place etiquette of criticism in video games.” This was my immediate takeaway from the Diablo What’s Next panel at BlizzCon yesterday, and my sole misjudgment there was probably that it’ll last only two weeks.
As we wrote last night, the Diablo community has gone into near total meltdown mode over the announcement of Diablo Immortal, which was positioned in the BlizzCon opening ceremonies as the big announcement but basically came off as the equivalent of “be sure to drink your Ovaltine” as it wasn’t Diablo 4 at all but a NetEase mobile-only spinoff. Not only did one fan take it out on the devs on stage during the subsequent panel, asking Team Diablo whether the game was an April Fools’ joke, but we’ve now seen vote-bombing on YouTube, a petition demanding the game be canceled, and Twitter wars over gamer entitlement and toxicity vs. corporate greed and out-of-touch-ness.
Polygon has up a fresh interview today with Blizzard’s Allen Adham and Dan Eggren that naturally inquires about the mess. Adham says flat-out that Immortal is intended to focus on the mobile market, particularly younger gamers and gamers around the world for whom “mobile is their primary gaming device” – though as we’ve seen, maybe not so much the kinds of folks who shell out for BlizzCon. He also clearly believes that gamers need to play it to love it and admits Blizzard wasn’t oblivious to the potential for reception of the game to go poorly.
“We’ve had many conversations — and I’m sure we’ll have many more actually in the aftermath of this — about the strategy of weaving mobile gaming into our BlizzCon audience, which is a very passionate desktop PC and console audience. We had a fairly similar reaction when we announced Hearthstone; if you think back to the Hearthstone announcement at Gamescom [Editor’s note: It was actually PAX East; we were there!] our audience at the time, [fans were] a bit unsure of what to expect from a digital card game given our history of making other game types. But then if you look at our history, part of what we do at Blizzard over many years is make different games and different genres, one after another on different platforms. So we’ve done this for a long time, and it usually starts with a little bit of sort of uncertainty and then we win [over] our community over time.”
Eggren appears to reject claims that Immortal is just a reskin of other NetEase titles, saying that it was “created from the ground up” specifically for Diablo.
Finally, Adham reminds everybody that other Diablo “projects” are still in development as “Diablo is a tentpole franchise” for the studio and “always will be.” So maybe we can freak-out a little bit less for now. (Yeah, probably not.)