Now, my dear reader, you may be confused by the title, but please, indulge me as I detail you the PR disaster that was the Blizzcon 2018 Diablo announcement, in what seemed like a case of trying to put out a fire by pouring oil on it. Let me preface this article by stating that I am not a diehard Blizzard fan by no means, however I do consider myself to be a supporter of the gaming industry treating their audience respectfully; this is not what happened at the Diablo panel in Blizzcon 2018.
To give you some background on the series: Diablo is a very much beloved PC/ Console RPG series which has been ongoing since 1996. The second game was released in 2000 (its expansion in 2001) followed by another instalment to the series in 2012 (and its expansion in 2014). Since its release, the series has been available on PC and consoles, as such, you’d imagine that they would continue such a trend. So, imagine you’re a diehard fan of the Diablo series:
After the amazing game that was Diablo II and less amazing game that was Diablo III, Blizzard announced that they would be detailing news about their upcoming projects involving Diablo. It’s been six years since the last Diablo game, and sure as anything fans were ready to sink their teeth into another gameplay and lore rich experience, may that be a remastering of Diablo II or a new release. Having heard news of Blizzard cancelling two other titles - Ghost and Titan - due to them not being up to the company’s high standards, fans knew that Blizzard wouldn’t betray those standards, especially when handling Diablo based content.
With hearts beating faster than a professional Starcraft player’s mouseclicks per minute, tickets for the upcoming Blizzcon were sold in a flash; if the fourth game or a remaster were going to be announced, people wanted to get their hands on the free merch and be there for the announcement. Tension being built up like an orchestra of drums, fans entered the room for the moment of truth. The room descending into silence with eager anticipation of a new Diablo game or remaster from a barren six years.
Walking onto the stage an announcer greets the audience, saying “Blizzcon, we love Diablo! We love the way Diablo has brought millions of players around the world together to slay Demons!”. The hype was immense, but then a red flag appeared - the announcer suddenly mentioned mobile devices and how they keep us closer … I mean it’s touching, but it doesn’t seem particularly relevant … you would think? The screen behind him changes, revealing the newest addition to the gaming behemoth that is the Diablo series: a mobile game version of Diablo … just what no-one really wanted. After six years of waiting, the fans are not greeted with news of a new game or even a remaster of an old one … no, they’re greeted with the horrific trend that is making knockoff mobile games out of major series.
The announcement proceeds with the announcer saying the word ‘mobile’ so many times that drinking game fanatics would quiver at the thought of a potential last hurrah. Alright, mobile games aren’t all that bad, however, that’s not the problem with the situation. The problem lies with the fact that after waiting six years, these diehard gamers were greeted with a mobile game that is almost identical in material to the previous game, Diablo III, as if to pawn off the previous game as a brand new game by changing its platform and putting dodgy controls on it. This would be like having the next Uncharted game being ported as a cheap Jungle Run knockoff; and this let the fans down.
What is even worse is that the company that the game had been outsourced to, was a Chinese company that had produced another game recently that had an identical interface and system. Suggesting that this “NEWTM” Diablo game is simply a reskin of old elements taken from the previous game which was then applied to the Chinese company’s game. The mobile game is the equivalent of Diablo 3 but with ‘made in China’ slapped onto the back of it, as a form of off-brand knock off. But this isn’t even the worst part of the announcement.
The Q and A was the pinnacle of how not to answer questions from the audience. In some hackjob version of Jedi Mind tricks, the announcers diverted most of the questions of the audience, providing little to no answer other than “play the demo”; when they did answer questions … well, things didn’t go very well. Initially some of their responses were just bad; when asked if they had a time frame for when consumers will see the mobile game, the announcer replied “uh, when it’s ready”. I know, such a brilliant answer! The multi-layered complexity of it had me taken aback as well.
When asked whether there were any plans to make the mobile game playable on PC, the announcers used their mighty intellectual prowess to tell the audience that the plan is to have it on IOS and Android, as if that wasn’t (fucking) apparent enough at this point. They then proceeded to state that there were no plans to ever have it on PC, this was immediately met by boos from the audience. They had an opportunity to comfort the audience here, but decided to blame the fans instead by sarcastically saying, “do you guys not have phones?” which was similarly parroted by the other announcers … the stage couldn’t contain such genius in that single moment.
But then, a legend stepped up to the mic, voicing the thoughts many had in their mind at that moment, “Is this an out of season April Fools Joke?”. Which is met by more more applause than the announcement trailer got. The announcers replied and stated that it wasn’t a joke whilst giving another spiel about how the game is on mobile, as if the first forty time weren’t enough to hemorrhage it into your brain. It’s abundantly clear the disconnect between what the audience wants and what the panellists thinks is best, as they state that the reason why Diablo is going mobile is to appeal to a wider audience, and get more people invested in the Blizzard community; they said this whilst isolating their diehard PC and console fanbase.
The announcers then attempted to cheer up the audience by telling them how great modern technology is, how their phones are so powerful and are more suitable for the game than their £1000+ gaming rigs. I seriously question whoever thought this was a good idea. For all these mentions of going mobile they clearly weren’t getting any connection.
The calamity doesn’t end there. The Diablo online announcement video got immediately bombarded with dislikes, but Blizzard’s PR team, in all their bright mind glory, decided to remove 100k dislikes from the video. But it gets better, after realising that their audience must be wrong in their views, after the video getting even more dislikes, they deleted and re uploaded the video to reset the like/dislike bar … this caused an even harsher bombardment of dislikes. You’d think this would be the end of it, right?
Nope, in what seemed to be an interesting PR stunt gaming news feeds were suddenly covered in news that Diablo 4 was going to be announced but was abruptly cancelled at the last minute, which was then reported to be false according to Blizzard. But something doesn’t quite seem right, almost suspicious. Some of these gaming news sites were of good reputation and unlikely to make such a fuss out of a rumour, unless told by an official source. From the great minds that brought you deleting and re-uploading the Diablo announcement, I give you the possibility that the PR team may have had a hand in this, in an attempt to mop up the mess that had been made. I mean surely something must have gone right during this announcement? I mean … nope, I don’t have anything for this. And that my dear reader, is the story of the dumpster fire that was, Blizzcon 2018’s Diablo announcement.