Last's year announcement of Diablo Immortal at BlizzCon resulted in an immediate and unexpectedly harsh blowback against the studio. "Fans" of the series complained that Blizzard "spit in our faces," among other things, by unveiling a mobile game rather than the full-on Diablo 4 they wanted; the Diablo Immortal cinematic trailer now has a staggering 751,000 dislikes on YouTube, compared to just 29,000 likes. It was ugly, and the fact that Blizzard has previously reassured gamers that it has "multiple Diablo projects in the works" didn't do anything to calm the waters.
"I think the thing that we did a poor job of when we announced Diablo: Immortal was contextualizing what we think the future can be and what we think of mobile in particular," Blizzard president J. Allen Brack said in an interview with Gamespot. "And I also think the key thing that was lost, that we did a poor job double emphasizing, is we are a PC developer first. And then we look for other platforms that we think are awesome that can support the types of game play experiences that resonate with the type of games and values that we want to put forth into the world. And the example of that is, there was a little bit of a backlash when we [announced] that we were going to port Diablo 3 to console as well."
Brack emphasized that Blizzard believes it can make mobile games without sacrificing the quality it's known for, and that "we can have Blizzard values around monetization." But he also acknowledged that even though he thinks people will be impressed with Diablo Immortal when they actually get to play it, "we did not do a good job in assuaging our core fanbase that we're not abandoning PC for mobile and console."
"It's not hard to understand the fan reaction of, 'I'm a Blizzard fan. Blizzard, just keep making PC games like you've always done. Like I like. That will make me happy. But, I think if you think about the world, and you think about games, it's hard to imagine how anyone who is a core PC Blizzard fan today also has not experimented with console platforms, or mobile platforms in their career, or in their life, rather," he said.
"If you're a core PC gamer, then there are not an insignificant number of mobile games that don't have a great reputation. We've seen these games, and we've played these games. We've played games that we feel like are predatory when it comes to monetization, that are not the most fun experience that we could imagine, and not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's hard [for people] to see how Blizzard is still Blizzard on that platform."
I think Brack might be overly optimistic about converting the most vocal naysayers, who were up in arms over the game without knowing anything about it beyond the fact that it's mobile. But overall, he's probably right: There are an awful lot of mobile gamers out there hungry for quality experiences, and if Blizzard can deliver them, the Diablo Immortal upset will soon be forgotten.
Diablo Immortal doesn't have a release date yet, but BlizzCon 2019 does: It's set to run over the weekend of November 1-2. Virtual tickets went on sale yesterday.