I was planning to write this article yesterday after Diablo: Immortal was announced at BlizzCon 2018. “Oh cool, another Diablo,” I thought to myself, mind blissfully unaware of the jokulhaups of rage currently loosed upon the world. “That trailer seems pretty low-quality, Blizzard usually spends at least four small towns worth of tuition funds for each announcement trailer. Oh, it’s a mobile game, that makes sense.” So I hopped in my car and spent an hour in the sweltering Phoenix rush hour, ready to jot down this rather benign announcement and be on my merry way. By the time I got back to my place, the internet was in full revolt. Yes, for a company that has been releasing mediocre rehashes and dumbed-down sequels for almost a decade, this was apparently the final straw.
If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, here it is:
Funny enough, even if you’ve seen the trailer for Diablo: immortal, chances are this will still count as your first watch. After the massive initial backlash and over 100k dislikes, Blizzard reportedly re-uploaded the video to try and scrub away the bad press. It clearly hasn’t worked, as at time of writing this trailer is sitting at a whopping 304k dislikes when compared to just 9.4k likes. Reports also abound about widespread censorship of comments, as the folks at Blizz do their best to put out this wildfire with buckets of gasoline.
Now as with all reports of blocking comments or deleting critical posts, its difficult to tell what’s real and whats just all part of the sweeping tide of resentment. Nonetheless, it’s clear that the tidal wave of hate is very, very real. Check out this clip, and bask in the hate:
Now personally, I prefer to deal with internet drama the same way I deal with Walmart parking lot bum-fights: lawnchair, popcorn, and hours of free entertainment. There are so many countless hate threads on Reddit and the official Blizzard forums, that it’s impossible to link them all. Here are just a few of my personal favorites. I mean seriously, regardless of your opinions, the dude in that last video is an absolute savage.
Personally, I don’t much give a Baal sized shit if Blizzard decides to take their newest iteration of a decades old stale franchise and put it on my pocket computer. Like most kids my age, I played several dogs lives worth of time playing Diablo 2 with my buddies. I thought Diablo 3 was just fine, but I’m past the point in my life where I can spend even a gerbil’s lifespan clicking on endless waves of increasingly large healthbars. I played through, got through to Nightmare mode, and called it a day. So when I heard that the game was going mobile, that’s the level of expectation I was coming in with. On paper, it sounds like a good idea. Make the game more accessible through mobile, and it’s not like clicking demons and tapping on them is a fundamentally different concept. I’m also guilty of dumping an embarrassing amount of time and money into Hearthstone, so it’s not like Blizzard hasn’t made a decent mobile game before. Still, I entirely understand why long time fans of one of PC gaming’s most prized titles are upset that Diablo is getting the Command and Conquer/Dungeon Keeper/Lineage/Everything You’ve Ever Known and Loved Eventually treatment.
So my own opinion out of the way, what really got me out of my lawn chair and into my desk chair was the weird dissonance between “professionals” and the general public. Just open a window, stick your head outside, and somewhere in the distance you can hear the anguished cries of some distant gamer lamenting the passing of their fallen king. And yet various blogs, twitters, and more legit news sites are plastered with journalists defending the poor, mistreated, billion dollar gaming giant.
It’s easy to take some tweets and fake a trend, but there are some pretty damning headlines out there. Forbes put out an article this morning titled “Everyone Needs To Chill Out About Diablo Immortal.” The article is admittedly a pretty rational discussion of the backlash and ultimate success of Diablo 3‘s console version, and the author does end with, “I remain admittedly skeptical about Diablo Immortal, but I at least hope it turns out to be something worthwhile.“ Still, with a title like that, you can’t help but antagonize fans. Other sites are not so moderate in their opinions, as the Mashable article titled “‘Diablo Immortal’ controversy is really just entitled gamers shouting” shows. So what has led to this wave of seemingly oblivious tweets and antagonistic articles?
There are really two answers to this question. The first is that the journalists are a voice of reason amidst a sea of unwarranted hate. It’s no mystery that on the internet, the voices heard the most are generally the loudest. And nothing shouts louder than a fan enraged. The second option is that all that sweet sweet Blizzard cash and special treatment is swaying these journalists to the dark side. The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle.
Now personally, I have never received any kind of product or special treatment from Blizzard. Maybe that’s why I feel totally comfortable posting videos of their devs getting booed on stage. There’s no real mystery that most of us game reviewers get our copies for free, and I’m no exception. I always do my best to remain objective, but even I will admit to pangs of guilt when I rip into a title just weeks after interviewing the devs. This is especially true for indie games, where I can picture the exact person I am wounding with my words. Still, this is my job. Sometimes, you piss some people off. But when those people have the power to kick you out of the massive, globally broadcast event that they themselves are holding, it shifts the balance of power beyond just missing out on the 10-day review window for new games.
So to say that the devs are objective paragons of journalistic integrity, free from the fetters of financial interest, that’s an absolute lie. I get full hundred dollar portable batteries and special editions in my goody bag at E3. The schmooze is very real. I’m sure a significant amount of the content creators and journalists defending Diablo: Immortal have a direct financial interest in maintaining a positive relationship with Blizzard. I personally had to think twice about even writing that sentence, and I don’t even work with Blizzard. There’s no possible way that the desire for new exclusive content and access to events and developers isn’t in some way coloring their opinions.
That being said, it’s not like the chittering masses are any less swayed by decades worth of nostalgia. Seriously, Diabo 2 isn’t the holy grail of gaming. It was pretty fun, and you mostly enjoyed it because you were too young to think critically beyond maxing out Teeth on your Necromancer and letting the little white missiles of death fly. Yeah, sure, a mobile Diablo isn’t what you were hoping for. But at least it’s not taking them over a decade to come out with the next one this time. And who knows, Diablo: Immortal might be fantastic. As I said before, it’s not like it would be terribly difficult to translate the Diablo formula to a touch screen. Getting this upset about a game before you’ve had a chance to play it is like negging the hot chick at the bar: ultimately pointless, you’re only doing it to make yourself feel better, and you just ruined any slight chance you had for fun.
Now that I’ve thoroughly pissed off everyone in the room, I’ll turn it over to you guys. Let me know on twitter or in the comments what your personal level of outrage and disgust is over Diablo: Immortal. If you shout loud enough, you might just turn back time to 2000 again.