The 12th annual BlizzCon took place over the weekend, in Anaheim, California. A chance for games developer Blizzard to announce new developments for and releases in its biggest franchises, like Warcraft and Overwatch, BlizzCon attracts tens of thousands of fans annually, with many more watching events unfold on the internet.
2018's BlizzCon saw the studio announce a Warcraft III remake, titled Warcraft 3: Reforged, and reveal that World of Warcraft: Classic will be released in the summer of 2019, with a demo available now. There was also time to introduce a new character to Overwatch, in the shape of the gun-toting, (Wild) Western-styled Ashe, and further additions to the playable roster of Heroes of the Storm.
But the real storm didn't start until BlizzCon made its most notable announcement. There is going to be a new Diablo game. But it's not a sequel to the popular Diablo III, recently (successfully, say the reviews) ported to the Nintendo Switch. Fans were hungry for that, but it wasn't to be. Rather, it's a mobile-only title, for smartphones and tablets, called Diablo Immortal.
The game's trailer has (at the time of writing) racked up nearly three million views, but has an astonishing 420,000 dislikes, against only 15,000 likes. And the comments are... not kind.
At BlizzCon itself, developers working on Diablo Immortal were booed by the crowd, during a Q&A (see the video above), when they confirmed that it would only be a mobile title, and not transfer to PC.
Speaking to Kotaku at BlizzCon, Blizzard co-founder Allen Adham remarked that the team was prepared for a backlash to Diablo Immortal being mobile only - and the withholding of any news regarding a fourth Diablo game proper - but "not to this degree". He added: "We know our audience here is passionately PC- and console-focused."
That same audience is making itself heard online - across Twitter, Reddit, YouTube and elsewhere. And the overwhelming verdict is that Immortal is a disappointing move on the part of its makers. Comments on Reddit include fans calling out parent company Activision for being "corrosive on the Blizzard we once knew", and "Never in my life I ever think (sic) of one day they will use a shitty china mobile clone game and slap the tittle (sic) DIABLO on it."
Said Chinese game developer is NetEase, co-developers of Immortal. The company has a regional partnership with Blizzard, operating titles like Overwatch and Diablo III in mainland China. NetEase's own games include the free-to-play battle royale title Rules of Survival and the MMORPG Fantasy Westward Journey.
Adham also spoke with Polygon at BlizzCon, where he explained that mobile was a valuable platform to the company, going forwards: "The world is evolving both geographically and demographically. Younger folks now, many of them, mobile is their primary gaming device. And then around the world in many regions it's their primary gaming device...
"The opportunity to bring this to an all-new audience, or to bring it to players who have shifted their play patterns to mobile, and bring them all together with an authentic Diablo experience, it's super exciting for us."
Adham added that there is a "huge audience around the world that is gonna love" Diablo Immortal. Will you be amongst it? Pre-registration for Diablo Immortal is open now, with its release date simply left as "coming soon", for now.