As the internet continues to reel from the controversial unveiling of the upcoming Diablo: Immortal title, I felt it was my moral duty – as a man of infuriating optimism – to weigh in with some positivity about the game that has left many people feeling sad, betrayed and angry.
First, a quick recap. Diablo: Immortal was announced at the most recent Blizzcon as an all-new, ‘built from the ground up’ chapter in the Diablo franchise that promises to fill the gap between games II and III in the series. Whilst, to look at, it’s indubitably a quintessential Diablo experience, the announcement was met with literal booing and disdain owing to the fact that it has been developed exclusively for mobile – a move which the developer Blizzard says will make the title accessible to a wider catchment of people but, for the predominantly PC and console-based Diablo fans, is nothing short of a kick in the teeth.
And, to be honest, I have the greatest of sympathy for Diablo players. I should say, I am not one myself – in fact I’ve never played a Diablo game in my life, as it’s not my genre and it looks waaaay too hardcore for the unashamed Sonic the Hedgehog lover that I am. However, I know what it is to be a passionate fan of something only to be delivered the PR equivalent of being kicked in the tackle (I’m talking Sonic Unleashed, the Rise of the Tomb Raider Xbox One exclusivity and – a little wider – the announcement of the Doctor Who spin-off Class. Yuck yuck.) Moreover, mobile versions of popular franchises often bombard players with incessant, infuriating in-app purchases, and tend to deliver more sanitised gaming experiences that are designed to appeal to the mobile masses du jour. For any hardcore Diablo fan, surely Immortal is going to offer a considerably less satisfying game experience than ever before?
And whilst I’m aware that any ‘positives’ that I can offer are going to come straight from the bottom of the barrel – written by someone with limited knowledge of Sanctuary / the Worldstone / the Eternal Conflict – I am anything if not willing to offer a few crumbs of comfort when crumbs of comfort are to be found. So here we go.
First, remember – it’s still another Diablo game. Maybe (no, definitely) not the one that anyone asked for or wanted, and one that admittedly feels like the moment the love of your life buys you a gift that affirms just how little they actually know you. And I know it must be gut-wrenching to be presented with something like Immortal when Diablo IV is all that anyone’s interested in, but it’s about keeping perspective.
For example, in 2003 I was promised a Blake’s 7 video game that was intended to rival the likes of GoldenEye in terms of quality and cultural impact, and now, in 2018, I am still waiting for it to arrive. And it probably never will. So if the BBC miraculously relents and offers me a diluted, mass market Blake’s 7 cash-grab on mobile, chock-full of mediocre game mechanics and a barrage of microtransactions, heck, I’ll still take it; we Blake’s 7 fans scramble for anything these days. So, Diablo fans, at least you have something. And if it sucks, you can always choose not to play it right?
Second, you will at least be able to play it on the bus / train / plane / toilet?? And whilst the touchscreen controls of mobile gaming might not easily lend themselves to the universe of Diablo, there is hope. Hardware manufacturers such as Huawei are developing products that are specifically designed to make cell phones more like Switches (see their recent swipe at Nintendo with the Huawei Mate 20X, which is compatible with a special clip-on gaming controller.) And there are also rumours that Samsung is planning to develop a similar thing. So, in the next couple of years, mobile gaming could look very different, and may be a lot less ‘fiddly’ (in some games) than it is today. Thus, we may well reach a time when there is little to choose between Diablo III on the Switch and Diablo: Immortal on mobile.
Finally, the backlash from this controversy may do the franchise some good. At the time of writing, the Diablo: Immortal cinematic has 17K likes versus 447K dislikes on YouTube which is, uhh, quite the ratio. Many people (and, indeed, some quite prominent people) have stated that this mobile move is indicative of a developer that is out of touch with its fan base, and if Blizzard was not aware of this fact prior to Blizzcon, then it certainly will be now. They may have expected to ruffle a few feathers, but I find it hard to believe that they set out knowing that they were about to have their product booed on stage. Maybe this furore will encourage the company to look at its relationship with consumers and work out where, exactly, it all went wrong, and consider how it can make it up to the people that it’s hurt and win back their trust. As such, in the long run, this whole situation may work out in favour of dedicated Diablo fans.
So there we go – three positive take-aways from this weekend’s cluster-fuzz of a reveal. If you’re still feeling frustrated, just remember that there is nothing new under the sun. Xbox One announcement, anyone? Fortnite cross-play? The removal of backwards compatibility on the PS3? Blizzard isn’t the first company to pull a gaming faus pax of astronomical proportions, and it certainly won’t be the last.
And I think the I know the answer to this question, but: How do you feel about the upcoming Diablo: Immortal?? 😀 Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Please keep posts constructive, polite and civilised – thank you thank you.
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