Every week, there’s another news bit that becomes the focal point of ire, anguish, and outrage in gaming communities. Previously, there were users who review bombed Total War: Rome 2 months after the incidents were complaining about happened. Then came the people who started review bombing Shadow of the Tomb Raider because it went on sale. Next, an incident involving a Steam key revocation in Depth of Extinction led gamers to have outraged reactions two weeks after the issue was resolved amicably. And, of course, who could forget the reactions to GOG’s tweet?
It seems the internet is never short on outrage, and recently there’s another one to add to that growing list. It’s the fan reaction to the Diablo Immortal announcement at BlizzCon 2018. The announcement trailer below has 10,000 likes and almost 260,000 dislikes:
Although Diablo Immortal is a mobile game, the Diablo franchise on the PC has been a key area of success for Blizzard. It’s become a hot topic among the hardcore PC fanbase. It wasn’t just a port like the Nintendo Switch version; it was a brand new game whose development is being outsourced to a Chinese company, NetEase. The company has released Blizzard games in China and parts of Southeast Asia in the past. Still, many were upset and worried that it would become a microtransaction-riddled mess. That, and the fact that it looked just like a re-skin of another mobile game called Endless of God.
Here are a couple of gameplay videos so you can compare both titles:
“They Don’t Really Care About Us!”
Like the Michael Jackson song, that was the initial rallying cry among fans. Blizzard “no longer cared” about its loyal and dedicated fanbase. The company “abandoned” them and treated them with “disrespect.” It was a “slap in the face” to many players. Diablo as a franchise “was as good as dead” and “Blizzard is going under!” The creators of World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Hearthstone, and Overwatch suddenly became Electronic Arts because of such “evil, unforgivable, corporate greed!”
Here are some reactions from the Battle.net forums:
And here are some from the Diablo and PC Gaming subreddits:
Notice the slant that these opinions have. It’s as though there’s real emotional hurt there or general frustration due to a mobile game’s announcement. As a long time Diablo player, I can understand where these reactions are coming from. The first Diablo game released in 1996 changed the action role-playing (ARPG) landscape. Diablo II and its Lord of Destruction expansion (released in 2000 and 2001 respectively) provided me with countless hours playing with classmates.
But starting with Diablo III, the franchise has occasionally had a hard time catching a break. Sometimes with good reason. At its launch, there were core gameplay issues, including how the server crashed from the player count, which could have been avoided if the game didn’t require an online connection to play, even for single-player. There was also a massive grind for a lot of worthless loot.
At the same time, some players criticized the art design, its middling story, and the anticlimactic deaths of key characters like Deckard Cain. Then, of course, there was the Real Money Auction House (RMAH), which caused so many problems that it was later removed from the game. Many fans felt that Blizzard had lost its way and Diablo III was no longer the same dungeon crawl into hell and epic loot fest that they remembered.
It took a long while and multiple updates until Diablo III and its Reaper of Souls expansion could get back on its feet. So yes, it’s understandable why the rabid fanbase was anticipating a major announcement for Diablo’s home: the PC. What they got, instead, was a mobile game.
Stay Awhile And Listen = “NO!”
This mobile game was not what fans expected. Developer answers to certain questions thrown at them while onstage did not help matters; and the internet will just be likely to turn these moments into memes. Likewise, allegations of removing negative comments on YouTube, as well as reposting announcement trailers (to offset the dislikes) did Blizzard no favors.
As mentioned, I do understand where these frustrations come from. However, I don’t agree with these sentiments wholeheartedly. That’s because we already knew, full well, that Blizzard tried to temper our expectations.
As you can clearly see above, Blizzard mentioned a month ago in a blog post that they do “have multiple teams working on different Diablo projects.” They also mentioned that there will be “some Diablo-related news” during the convention. The word “some” does not often equate to “super-duper earth-shatteringly massive!” They even implied as much in their YouTube video in August that “[some projects] would take longer than others.”
The fact that the development of Diablo Immortal was outsourced to NetEase means that there’s a good chance that a Diablo game/expansion/remaster on PC is in the works. It’s just that BlizzCon 2018 wasn’t the time to announce that.
In 2016, it was reported by Newzoo that mobile gaming would overtake the PC gaming industry in terms of revenue. Fast forward to the present and statistical trends show that mobile gaming will become a $100 billion industry by 2021, the largest slice of the pie in the video game industry. From a business or analyst’s perspective, this is a smart move.
What better way to announce a mobile game spinoff, the first for the Diablo franchise and what’s certain to be a big push in the mobile and Asian markets for Blizzard, than in their very own convention that’s watched by millions?
The Internet Mob
All in all, the reactions seem more akin to knee-jerk online outrage than anything nuanced. While there are valid criticisms, all of that gets drowned out by all the noise from disgruntled players who feel that the game they love is dead. This is strange because, as far as I know, the Diablo servers on PC are still up and running; and a Diablo III port just released on Switch. It’s not like the servers magically turned off and you could no longer play; it’s just that a spinoff for mobiles has been announced.
Ironically, if there are people who do offer different opinions, commentators are quick to downvote or silence those users for no reason. Likewise, you could be called “a blind sheeple,” a “shill,” an “apologist,” or that you’re incapable of your own thoughts. Good luck seeing your comment or tweet get to the top; a few upvotes to gain traction yet getting lots of downvotes mixed in means that you’re not getting through that echo chamber where hundreds or thousands of imaginary internet points tend to mean: “Wow, these people must be right!”
It’s as though people only want to hear and believe what affirms their thoughts and opinions; with little to no disregard for any dialogue. That’s almost expected in today’s interconnected, social-media-addicted society. Don’t forget, even during the internet’s infancy in 1996, MIT researchers already warned us about what echo chambers and seeking confirmation bias will do when we’re online:
“Individuals empowered to screen out material that does not conform to their existing preferences may form virtual cliques, insulate themselves from opposing points of view, and reinforce their biases. Internet users can seek out interactions with like-minded individuals who have similar values, and thus become less likely to trust important decisions to people whose values differ from their own.”
“Blizzard Ate All Our Halloween Candy!”
The outrage is akin to Jimmy Kimmel’s annual YouTube challenge where parents tell their kids that they ate all their Halloween candy. It’s very fitting given that the Diablo: Immortal announcement took place just a short while after Halloween. Just like candy, fans felt as though everything that was Diablo was taken away from them. The funny thing is, unlike those kids in the Kimmel video, fans know that they’ll still get treats (Diablo 4 or the rumored remasters) later on.
In closing, let’s take a look at some of the tweets from people imploring David Brevik, the creator of Diablo 1 and 2 and former president of Blizzard North, to take charge and bring their beloved franchise back from ruin:
Remember, many players publicly stated how much they’ve enjoyed the Diablo franchise and remembered how much the classic games meant to them. Who better to turn to than the man who made these games that they hold most dear? Surely, David Brevik would have been as outraged as they are about this “disaster” and “travesty,” right?
There’s just one problem: it looks like people didn’t read the memo. That’s because Brevik himself has recently stated that he wants players to “give mobile a chance.” He made it very clear that it’s better to try a game before actually judging it, and that this push into mobile markets is actually a smart decision.
Brevik also directly chided gamers because of overhyping themselves even though Blizzard already tried to temper expectations. It’s as though people still kept setting loftier expectations when they were told not to, and they still ended up upset after they didn’t get what they wanted.
Brevik, likewise, pointed out that Blizzard was at fault for announcing a mobile game during BlizzCon without any backup plan, and that their partnership with NetEase was a bit weird. Other than that, he was fairly welcoming of his baby’s venture into the mobile market. He even surmised that many of those who are angry now would end up downloading the game on their phones anyway.
So yes, if the creator of the franchise isn’t even outraged by Diablo: Immortal, what does that say about those who remain feeling that way?