A lot has been said about the events in recent Blizzcon at this point. I do recommend watching a version of Diablo Immortal‘s reveal, like this one with Youtube chat enabled at the side.
The instant reaction of the fans can be summed as negative, if we’re diplomatic about it. After few applauds, some of which are always warranted or given by the staff around the group, there is no cheering. The sound of disapproval is silent, and Wyatt Cheng, the presenter, feels the pressure. He didn’t expect things to go this badly.
Blizzard’s core audience is PC gamers. Mobile may be branch of PC gaming, but the core audience is fundamentally different due to the user interface and culture around them. A person playing a high-end PC game is not exactly interested in shoving thousands of dollars into Fate/Grand Order. By making their big announcement a mobile game to an audience that doesn’t want to play their favourite franchise on a mobile phone. This sort of announcement should have been a supplementary one alongside something more important, not the main dish itself.
The Diablo Immortal QA is a travesty, full of non-answers. Around the mid-point, a fan asks if there are plans to bring this to PC. There are no plans to bring it to PC at this point, which nets booing from the audience. Rather than taking this professionally and simply not react to this, the presenters directly counter the audience by asking if they don’t have a mobile phone or a tablet. This is the very moment Blizzard loses the audience and their fans. Their stance, attitude and reservations are on the edge thanks to the very silent reception of cinematic trailer. Simple business presentation rule in events like this is never to attack the consumer, especially when they are your core audience. You want to keep them happy, you want to tell tales that would put you in their favour. By asking if they don’t have phones to play the game with is the exact opposite what you should be doing.
Even if the audience had phones to play with, how many of them have a phone that can run modern mobile titles? Mines only few years old and some of the new ones just crap on it. Some don’t own a smartphone at all, instead opting for a standard mobile phone. Tablets had a big boom at one point, but not all people own a tablet, opting for a laptop or just not having a need for one.
No, it’s not an off-season joke, but this is a downhill road they can’t recover easily.
Following Capcom IR relations post, the reader should have a grasp why Blizzard wanted to do a mobile game. The possible revenues from that market are larger than the ones on PC or consoles. However, just like with Capcom, Blizzard has to fight a battle against money-making trains that sink pretty much everything around them. The aforementioned F/GO prints money every single day. It’s easy to see Blizzard thinking they can grab the market with a well-known IP, and by having a company that has a history of doing mobile games they most likely consider themselves to have money in the bank. NetEase is rather infamous developer in that they push micro-transactions in their games harder than most other companies to the point of being exploitative. Even the Chinese Diablo fans seem to be livid about this.
However, just as Capcom recognizes they lack the skill and know-how with mobile games, the situation seems to be the exact same with Blizzard. They will gain some whales to gain money from, but whether or not the game will turn out a title to rival big name mobile games is something only time will tell. Blizzard can only hope that it will.
The mobile market is already seen loads of Diablo-like games, and it would appear NetEase has opted to basically reskin an existing game of theirs, Crusaders of Light, to serve as Diablo Immortal. While Blizzard tried to response to the audience in regards of this in an interview with IGN, they don’t dismiss this, but effectively dance around the issue. What’s one more game into the fray going to do, even with a recognizable IP?
Diablo Immortal‘s cinematic trailer on Youtube is one of their most disliked trailer, sitting at 17k likes against 437k dislikes. The number is skewed, as Blizzard has opted to moderate comments and the like/dislike ratio, which you can check via Socialblade. People have also been archiving the page. This isn’t anything new, the same thing happened with the Ghostbusters trailer.
Considering this sort of aggressive moderation is being done, Blizzard is not aware of their position as a product provider. The lifeline they have is their consumers. Blizzard doesn’t consider its core consumers’ wishes or wants, but they will monitor you if you play Overwatch and ban you if you misbehave in social media. Does Blizzard even care that they have a PR disaster in their hands? Probably not. As with many other things on the Internet, this one will probably be a blip and nothing more. Fans who disavow Blizzard will probably be back if Diablo 4 gets officially announced. A rumour is going around that they pulled Diablo 4‘s announcement because the development has been a mess. They missed their chance for a one-two punch.
Ultimately, this is both target audience and service failure. The target demographic of Diablo Immortal is not the same as with Diablo 3 or other long-running Blizzard franchise. By opting not to announce Diablo 4, even if was in a state where they could not show anything outside some concept trailers or such, it would have served better for Blizzcon, the place where the core audience came to. Their core audience response at the event leaves little room for guessing.
Of course, this being being the biggest thing in games news for the week, there have been people who defend a million dollar corporation from fans hurting their feelings. After all, this is their IP, they can do whatever they want with it. Just like consumers can decide what to do with their money. This has gone from one extreme to another, but calling dissatisfied consumers as Nazis is few steps too far. This is business about entertainment, and consumers have all the rights to decide whether or not they want to purchase or boo when they get slapped in the face.