Blizzard Deserves the Backlash for ‘Diablo: Immortal’ Announcement

Recently, Blizzard Entertainment announced the mobile game “Diablo: Immortal” at BlizzCon 2018 and was met with widespread backlash for several reasons— most of which stem from the game’s platform: mobile. Hardcore fans of the company’s games are right to be so upset, as the company’s display showed a complete lack of concern for the desires of the Diablo series’ core fanbase.

Considering the game hasn’t even been released yet, why isn’t anyone giving Diablo: Immortal a chance?

The answer is simple: because it’s played on a phone. Phones are not nearly as optimized to play games as personal gaming computers and consoles are. They lack both the processing power and the memory to be able to sustain a comparable extent of graphical detail, level size or even amount of enemies. Mobile games are constrained by the power of the average phone, which is substantially weaker than modern gaming PCs and the current generation of consoles. Such a constraint results in visually lacking games with poor gameplay by comparison.

Additionally, a medium sized phone with only touch controls available makes precise control of one’s character awkward and quickly uncomfortable. The Diablo games, being of the hack ‘n’ slash genre, have typically emphasized complex, satisfying combat – the kind which demands quick, exact and unambiguous inputs that are nearly impossible to achieve consistently with a touch screen.

Touch screens are not only inferior to keyboards or gaming controllers in terms of rapid input accuracy, they are simply not as ergonomic. Most modern phones have been designed to be held and operated primarily by a single hand; holding one horizontally with both hands for an extended period of time soon becomes uncomfortable and can even result in pain. But the problem with mobile gaming is not only its surface level inferiority to PC and console releases.

Mobile games are typically teeming with obtrusive microtransactions. This norm — on top of the very fact of releasing a game on a platform the core fanbase dislikes — has led Diablo series fans to the conclusion that the game is more a desperate grab for cash than a quality addition to the franchise meant to appeal to loyal, long-time fans.

Mobile games are typically much cheaper and easier to produce than their PC or console oriented cousins, further suggesting the game is more a ploy to make money than anything else. The fact that the gameplay and user interface shown so far looks very similar to that in Crusaders of Light, an existing mobile game created by codeveloper NetEase, is not helping the issue – but it’s important to note that a Blizzard spokesperson has said “Blizzard, in partnership with NetEase, has built ‘Diablo Immortal’ from the ground up for iOS/Android.” The phrase “from the ground up” in particular should dispel any concerns about Diablo: Immortal being a reskin, but not enough gameplay footage has been released yet to say for sure if the games bear real similarity or not.

In addition to the fact that Diablo series fans in attendance simply do not like mobile games, Diablo: Immortal’s unveiling was announced with incredibly bad timing. The game was BlizzCon 2018’s final unveiling. Gaming conventions typically save the most anticipated releases for last, so many fans were hoping for something big. The last entry in the Diablo series was Diablo 3, released in 2012, so fans were reasonably hoping for a slated “full release” like Diablo 4.

The fact that fans’ anticipation was met with a mobile game at the time when they were expecting the climax of the convention justifies their anger further. Had Blizzard simply shown the trailer earlier on, instead of expecting hardcore fans in attendance to be excited for a mobile game, perhaps the fans’ anger wouldn’t have been so palpable.

In the face of their decision to announce a game which prioritizes monetization over satisfying core fans of the series, Blizzard has shown a blatant disregard for a very large and very loyal portion of their fanbase. If the company wishes to make money rather than please its fans, then so be it; but it shouldn’t be so surprised when the fans are outraged for being presented with a product they clearly did not want.

Simon Orychiwski is a fourth year Political Science major and English and Literary Journalism minor. He can be reached at sorychiw@uci.edu.