Blizzard was expecting some backlash following the announcement of its massively multiplayer Diablo Immortal mobile game, but “not to this degree", according to studio co-founder Allen Adham.
The backlash, which included fans claiming Blizzard was "spit[ting] in the faces" of the community, was nothing new, Adham told Kotaku. “We know our audience here is passionately PC- and console-focused. We’ve also seen this before. We saw a similar response when we announced that we were bringing Diablo to console, and we saw a similar response to the announcement of Hearthstone.”
He said the reaction from fans came from a place of "passion", adding: "It’s pretty clear that their incredible passion for Diablo manifests in interesting ways.
“They love what they love and want what they want. That passion, it’s actually what drives us, and we feel it too. It’s why we make games and why we’ve made games for almost three decades now—and why our community is so passionate about our franchises. I understand their feeling and wish we could share more about all the amazing things we’re doing, not just with the Diablo franchise but across the company as a whole.”
Part of the anger was down to the fact that fans expected to hear more about the next major Diablo game release at Blizzcon, and some were hopeful of a full Diablo 4 reveal. "We knew our audience here desperately wants to see and hear about one thing in particular," Adham said.
That never materialised, but Adham moved to reassure fans that Blizzard was still working on "multiple unannounced Diablo projects", and said that the development of Immortal would not distract from whatever was coming next. "I know our community here, there’s a concern that we are focused on this instead of that," he said. "The truth is that we have multiple Diablo teams working on multiple unannounced Diablo projects even after announcing [Immortal].”
Lastly, Adham headed off accusations that Diablo Immortal was just a reskin of another game by NetEase, which Blizzard has partnered with for Immortal's release. He said that the art and assets for new game were themselves completely new, and that Immortal was "purpose-built from the ground up". Undeniable similarities in UI between Immortal and Crusaders of Light (read more about that here) were simply a result of the control scheme NetEase had adopted in previous games becoming "ubiquitous".
“In the East, that control method is becoming ubiquitous, and it’s becoming ubiquitous because it’s very natural, and it feels great," he said. "Less so in the West, but we’re now starting to see some games that are bringing that mechanic to the West. So it’s us taking inspiration from some of the work they’ve done already.”
Read the full interview here.