I’ve watched the Diablo Immortal fallout with interest. You only have to have a quick peek on Twitter or the Diablo subreddit to see that its community - or certainly large swathes of them - aren’t happy. While I sympathise with their desire to see something far greater undertaken with the Diablo licence, their hatred isn’t born from the fact it’s Diablo has been brought to mobile, nor is it based on the fact Diablo fans hate women (honestly, I’ve never read such a stupid suggestion in my entire life) but instead, it’s born from the simple fact that mobile games are notoriously shit.
I don’t quite understand why the subject needs to be explained more than that, and it’s clear for all to see that the mobile games market is predatory, with products that are often intentionally designed to extract as much money from players as possible, through loot boxes, paywalls, and grind. You only have to look at the top grossing list on the Android store to see a vast array of games that are accumulating huge sums of money, while offering very quality. Looking at the “top selling games” on Android, (typically a one-time purchase), the quality on offer does increase, but only marginally.
Please, stop! I can't take in all the quality mobile games on offer.
Unfortunately for the mobile gaming industry, not only does it have a reputation for nickel and diming its users, but it’s still bound by device limitations. Mobile gaming is often frustrating, with control systems that niggle, design decisions taken to simplify play and mechanics, and the looming spectre of an inadequate battery life, regardless of whether you’re on a tablet or smartphone. I’m not suggesting there aren’t great games on mobile: there absolutely are. However, to find quality amongst all the steaming piles of dog doo isn’t easy.
Even if you look at two of the most popular mobile games (Hearthstone and Fornite), the former is born from a natural transition from desktop to handheld, thanks to the fact its genre lends itself perfectly to a touchscreen. In contrast, Fornite mobile was created as nothing more than a money spinner, and an effort on Epic’s part to flex their programming muscles. While its release on mobile might have widened its audience even further (never a bad thing), to suggest its comparable to its console or desktop peers is, to be blunt, bullshit. To enjoy Fornite on mobile is to intentionally hamstring yourself with nightmarish controls and at times, awful frame rates; the same cannot be said for Hearthstone. Even those I’ve encountered who swear that Fornite mobile is great, still only play it with a controller and when they can guarantee a stable internet connection (which pretty much excludes everything but your own home).
While I have nothing against the concept of mobile gaming (it’s only a natural evolution of the Gameboy, only on a much wider scale), there’s no mistaking that it has an image problem, that developers and publishers are doing little to remedy. It’s no surprise, then, that Diablo Immortal has been met with such rabid scepticism. We already have Diablo III, and this offering already shows signs that it’s a lite version of its bigger, better brother. Do I welcome Diablo being exposed to a wider audience? Absolutely. Do I welcome the fact a whole new generation are going to experience a Diablo that’s inferior to a product already available? No.
If people want to go and play a new Diablo game on a mobile device, that’s completely up to them. And considering Blizzard have passed off development of Immortal to an entirely new team, it likely won’t be a huge resource drain. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Blizzard are palming off one of their most famous IP’s to another company (which brings about its own quality concerns), went about deleting dislikes on the launch trailer video, and baited the hardcore faithful with the now infamous: “dO YoU gUyS nOt hAvE pHoNeS?!”. If that wasn’t bad enough, you’ve journalists in the industry smearing fans who showed their dissatisfaction (calling them misogynists, really?), because they lack independence: they’re massively entrenched in the advertising site-skin budgets Blizzard provides them.
If Diablo Immortal isn't a straight-up reskin of Crusaders of Light, I'll eat my own eyes.
Blizzard don’t have to give the community anything, and the community certainly isn’t entitled to Diablo 4. However, there’s no doubting this could have been handled better, and Diablo’s fans could have received something for a game they’ve invested vast amounts of time and money into. Considering the majority of the Blizzcon audience were hardened PC gamers, with many having travelled hundreds (thousands?) of miles at significant expense, to be shown a mobile game developed by a 3rd party, that’s effectively a reskin, is a kick in the balls. Not only that, but if you also consider that Diablo III was a shit-show at launch, thanks to Jay Wilson’s woeful handling of the IP, is there any wonder that its fans are pissed off? They’ve not had a new, quality Diablo experience in years.
I suspect a major part of what went wrong is the fact that Blizzard has become something much bigger than a games developer. They’re a industry juggernaut that (wrongly) assumes all that it touches turns to gold, and that they can trot out anything they like at Blizzcon in the knowledge that their fans will lap it up. In most instances that might be true (let’s be honest, Blizzard do make great games), but based on their latest deliveries (Battle for Azeroth was woeful in so many areas, Overwatch’s Ashe looks distinctly average and development speed on Heroes of the Storm has shuddered to a grinding halt), the grand reveal of Diablo Immortal makes me wonder what’s going on at Blizzard HQ. Don’t they play their own games anymore? Is there no one who has the balls to say, “hang on guys, this is a really shit announcement!”
Despite me having largely ignored Diablo III after buying it due to it feeling far too simplistic, and lacking far too many RPG elements, I seriously hope this is a wakeup call for Blizzard when it comes to its much loved franchise. With Path of Exile well and truly killing it, I the fan-faithful deserve a new Diablo they can be proud of.
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