I have been covering Blizzard games for more than two decades and I don’t think I have seen such a public backlash as I have for this evening’s Diablo Immortal announcement.
Diablo players were not expecting a Diablo 4 announcement this evening because Blizzard had already told the community it wasn’t going to happen. We know there are multiple Diablo titles in the works, the Switch version which has now been released and now the mobile Diablo Immortal. There is still more to come for Diablo but perhaps Blizzard didn’t expect the backlash we saw from fans this evening because I have not seen anything like it before at a Blizzard event.
During the Diablo Immortal announcement, Wyatt Cheng was visibly shaken, he missed and fluffed his lines and he was obviously uncomfortable with having to announce Diablo Immortal. It was hard to watch.
Later during the Q&A, for the first time as far as I can remember at a BlizzCon, the crowd didn’t whoop and cheer every nugget of info from the team on stage. In fact, they were booed by the fans of the franchise. It wasn’t booing in jest either, attendees appeared to be genuinely frustrated and annoyed that this was what Blizzard was putting on the table for a Diablo announcement.
At E3 earlier this year, EA attempted to announce the reboot of their classic C&C franchise and the fans were hyped until EA revealed it was a mobile game. There was quite a backlash. A few weeks ago, EA said they had heard the fans and announced they would be remastering the earlier C&C games. Sure, it wasn’t a new game announcement but they knew it was something fans would appreciate. EA managed to get some fans back onside. They also realised the mobile announcement was terrible PR.
With EA’s reveal in mind, how could Blizzard get this so Diablo announcement so wrong? Longtime readers of Diabloii.Net will know we have been quite vocal about terrible design decisions, we’ve commented that the Blizzard community team are out of touch, well, we’ve been brutally honest about how we see things. We’ve seen Blizzard change as a company from one that really listens to their fans, to one that says they are listening but are really not paying much attention. This has been to the detriment of the Diablo franchise and Diablo 3 was where it started to go really wrong. The team was just not listening to the community. Trust me, we tried our very best to highlight problems with the game before it released. Sadly it seems they are still not listening or in tune with this community.
Since Diablo 3 we have seen Overwatch being worked on continuously, numerous Hearthstone packs/adventures, and now even a Warcraft 3 remaster. Looking back at what Blizzard has been producing in recent years, I have to say it’s quite uninspiring. Don’t get me wrong, the games sell well to the Blizzard fanbase and they are making a lot of money repeating the same formulas but that’s where the problem lies. Blizzard has always been a company that’s great at polishing existing game ideas but in the past decade or so has failed to deliver really innovative games. Blizzard is not the only publisher suffering from this problem, the industry as a whole is playing it safe and that’s part of the problem. The days of taking risks are over.
Blizzard knows a mobile Diablo will likely sell well over in Asia, and while we may not like the idea, Blizzard is following the money. This is nothing new but Blizzard fans have failed to vote with their wallets time and time again and Blizzard fans often buy anything just because it’s made by Blizzard. As long as that keeps happening, there will be little innovation and Blizzard will keep churning out the same stuff over and over.
This evening’s backlash has been quite something, the official boards are even more chaotic than usual, Reddit is wondering WTF just happened and the comments here on Diabloii.Net are no different. There’s even a petition set up to get them to cancel the game.
Today hammered home that Blizzard still isn’t listening and what was concerning is that while on stage the team seemed perplexed as to why fans were booing. That says so much about the current culture at Blizzard. How Blizzard turned this huge franchise into something that could be booed or laughed at is quite astonishing.
Today Mike Morhaime took to the stage for the last time and that seemed fitting. Blizzard is simply not the Blizzard we all grew up with and he’s probably stepping off at the right time. Getting out while he’s ahead.
Shortly I will be departing Diabloii.Net after 21 years working with this great community, and like Mike Morhaime, the timing seems about right.