So Blizzcon happened. I only know thiathis because the gaming pundits and fans alike have been collectively shitting their pants about one particular announcement: Diablo Immortal. There has been a lot said about the subject but I decided I would throw in my two cents as well.
The two biggest issues that have people up in arms are the announcement of a mobile game and the reactions from both those announcing the game and some games journalists. For those out of the loop, let’s go over the details of what happened.
At Blizzcon 2018, a new Diablo game was announced. People were expecting the announcement of Diablo 4 (it’s been over six years since Diablo 3 launched) and were very excited for news of a new entry in a franchise with a pretty serious fan base. Instead, Blizzard announces Diablo Immortals, a mobile game developed in partnership with Netease. There is some question as to how much of it was handled by which studio but we will set that aside for now.
Following this announcement, the Diablo team had a Q&A session with fans in attemdance and thats when things started to go south… quickly. The video feed can be seen online in a lot of places but the two most popular clips seem to be a fan asking if the game would also be on PC, to which the team said no and were thoroughly booed and a fan asking if this was “an out of season April fool’s joke” which got a pretty good laugh from those in attendance. This is where the trouble really started. It was obvious that the team onnstage was not happy with the crowd’s response. In fact, one of the reasons the “is it coming to PC” question has been shown so often is the responses from the presenters on stage including the current leader for my “Dumbest Thing Said By A Corporate Mouthpiece” award. As the fans booed one of the men onstage asked “Do you guys not have phones?”. Yeah…
Let me pause right here to say that in a way I feel for the guys having to come out and announce this game. They are in a no win situation. There was no way that this was going to be anything good for them. Nothing I’m saying here is directed specifically at them, or anyone on the developer team in particular. If I take issue with anyone it’s the corporate shitheads that are making the calls that lead to this kind of mess. But back to the topic at hand.
Afterwards, as this news started making its way across the internet, several games media sites called out gamers and claimed that they were overreacting or behaving like entitled children. Became that always goes over so well. As this situation has developed there have also been issues about potential dislike manipulations by the developers and lots of other shenanigans. That is a subject that has been covered by others way more knowledgeable than myself so I’ll leave that for another time.
What I do know enough to explain is why people are right to be upset and why those defending Activision-Blizzard should pull their heads out of their asses long enough to have a rational thought.
They Didn’t Think About Their Audience
The people at Blizzcon are primarily a PC gaming crowd. That is a segment of the gaming market that is traditionally not keen on mobile games. Yes, to answer the question posed during the Q&A, they do have phones but to most of these people that isn’t a gaming device. This was never going to be a title they would get excited about.
This is also a very “hardcore” crowd. Cons are expensive to attend. They require a significant investment of time and money from a predominately younger crowd who may not have a lot of that to throw around. The people there are the ones who are the most dedicated to the franchises Blizzard puts out. All the “PC master race” and “I’m a real gamer” bullshit aside, these are the essence of what this developer has built on for years. Offering up a product that is essentially designed for anyone but them is going to go over like a fart in an elevator. People are going to notice it but they wont have anything nice to say.
Partnering With Netease Is A Bad Idea
Chinese developer Netease has a bad reputation. Bluehole Studios (they make PUBG) sued them earlier this year for ripping off PUBG Mobile. They have made several other mobile games that were obviously clones of other peoples games. Their games have a well deserved reputation for being pay-to-win, cash devouring garbage. For Activision-Blizzard to work with them to develop this game put them in a negative position from the start.
People already don’t trust the Activision part of Activision-Blizzard. They shouldn’t. Activision has been a prime example of AAA publisher chicanery plenty of times. This looks like nothing more than using a beloved franchise to make a quick buck.
Don’t Bite The Hand That Feeds You
Not everyone is going to like every game that comes out. You’ll always have someone criticizing something. However, when a sizeable portion of your customer base is adamantly against something from the moment you announce it there is a better than average chance that you “done fucked up”. There are a lot of ways a company can respond to this situation. Telling people that they are wrong about what they should like is one of the least likely to go over well. One of the first things you learn when studying how to effectively debate is that starting with “youre wrong” will rarely change anyone’s mind. They dont seem to understand one important thing about their fans: they’re fans because they are passionate about something. They are going to have strong reactions about this. Telling them, right off the bat, that what they think is wrong is only going to piss people off.
This whole situation has been a shitshow from the beginning. The ball has been dropped, picked up, dropped again, kicked into a puddle of gasoline, and set on fire. The general mood of the gaming community has been getting more and more cynical over the last few years. Gamers are less trusting of developers now more than ever, and for good reason. These companies are running out of good will from their customers and if they keep it up there will be hell to pay.
On my signal unleash heck!!