This past weekend in California, Activision-Blizzard held its 12th annual BlizzCon and managed to kick the hornet’s nest that is the “Diablo” gaming community.
“Overwatch” fans were given the new McCree animation, where the smooth-talking gunslinger fought with the game’s new hero Ashe and her delightfully mustachioed robot butler, B.O.B., while “Warcraft” fans were given the announcement of a “Warcraft III” remake.
“Diablo” fans were given a mobile game, “Diablo Immortal.”
Now, on its own, this is not necessarily a big issue. Mobile games are a huge market in Asia and even western companies such as Bethesda have seen some success with games such as “Fallout Shelter.”
However, the big issue here is Blizzard’s handling of their presentation and their inability to read their audience – their community, one which has supported them for more than a decade.
The “Diablo” presenters were booed on their own stage during a Q&A where they revealed no plans to bring “Diablo Immortal” to the computer.
This is, to the best of my knowledge, the only time Blizzard has ever been booed at their own event, which is significant considering fanbases of game franchises can usually be ravenously supportive and defensive of the products they care about, even when the company does something questionable.
The response to this was justified due to how tone-deaf the company seemed to be, though there are some people on social media calling the “Diablo” fan-base entitled and whiny for booing the guys on stage.
Following the boos from the crowd, Wyatt Cheng, one of the principal designers of “Diablo III,” responded with “Do you guys not have phones?”
This is a crowd of predominately PC gamers, people who have made the investment to build computers that are able to play games and have been waiting for news on the “Diablo” franchise since the third installment’s release.
The other issue here is that this mobile game isn’t even being developed by Blizzard, but by NetEase, a Chinese mobile game company with a sour reputation for making games laced with microtransactions.
In a Kotaku article, Blizzard was said to have expected some outrage over the announcement, but they were surprised by the magnitude of it, which is incredibly depressing and kind of idiotic.
Was there no one on their community team looking into the fanbase’s expectations?
Was there no one monitoring how folks were being hyped up for BlizzCon and what they hoped to see?
Did anyone think it was a good idea to display their new product, their hook into a new market, with their core audience who is predominantly made up of PC gamers who had already bought into the franchise?
The most disturbing aspect of all this is this could have been avoided if Blizzard had just said they were working on “Diablo IV” before announcing the mobile game as a means of tiding people over while development was going on.
But they didn’t.
News of “Diablo IV” came out via various gaming sites, but not at the company’s own event, not at BlizzCon.
At least we got B.O.B.