Last weekend saw the reveal of Diablo Immortal, a brand new game in Blizzard’s long-running series. Unfortunately, it was met with overwhelming negative reception upon its reveal by fans, as it was for iOS and Android and announced when fans were expecting a Diablo remaster or the next main entry in the franchise, Diablo 4. As Diablo Immortal doesn’t even look that bad, the negative response to it highlights a larger recurring problem with hype culture and how it can prevent fans from seeing the bigger picture or giving something potentially good a chance.
Diablo Immortal is just the latest case of this as well. Games like Metroid Prime: Federation Force, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and Command and Conquer: Rivals all suffered similar fates in the past few years. That’s not to say companies like Activision Blizzard, Nintendo, and EA were entirely innocent in these situations either, but the toxic responses to these titles show how fan excitement and dedication can quickly turn into anger and disdain.
That cinematic trailer, which was used to announce Diablo Immortal, has quickly racked up over 216,000 dislikes on YouTube at the time of this writing. It isn’t a bad trailer: the production quality is fairly high and on par with previous Diablo game trailers, but it’s the game concept that viewers hate. The first gameplay trailer for Diablo Immortal has received around 63,000 dislikes as well. Prior to this year’s BlizzCon, avid fans saw that Diablo had the first What’s Next? presentation and speculation went wild, so much so that Blizzard tried to quell expectations about what it was going to announce.
It has been several years since the initial release of Diablo III, so fans were expecting to see a continuation of the main franchise; instead, they got something unexpected and did not take it well. The Diablo series is one of the most well-respected PC franchises, so it was a prime candidate for being one of the first steps of a larger mobile gaming initiative for Blizzard. That information, along with the fact that is being developed alongside Chinese mobile game developer NetEase, caused fans to write Diablo Immortal off fairly quickly.
It’s a bit weird to see fans support Diablo III: Eternal Collection for Nintendo Switch for its portability while berating Diablo Immortal for attempting to fill the same void. Mobile gaming is a huge, untapped market for the series, and could bring its popularity to new heights. The mobile game also seems to adapt the typical Diablo formula in a way that benefits portability too. DualShockers‘ own Zack Potter pointed this out in his preview:
“To my surprise, I walked away more pleased than disappointed. The game seems to sidestep the long dungeon crawl for a much shorter experience–which is a design choice that makes sense for a phone game.”
While Diablo Immortal may not be what fans wanted from this BlizzCon, that doesn’t have to mean the game has to be labeled as bad. It was simply the Diablo project that was ready to be shown first. Blizzard has stated multiple times that there’s more than one Diablo project currently in development. Fans seem to have interpreted Diablo Immortal‘s announcement as a sign that Blizzard is turning away from the series’ roots by just focusing on microtransaction-filled mobile titles and nothing else, though that’s not really the case.
We don’t even know how microtransactions are being handled in Diablo Immortal, yet a cursory glance at NetEase’s library and general negative stigma toward mobile games made people assume the worst from the start. If some fans just stepped back and took in the bigger picture–the fact that Diablo Immortal is likely a supplementary release preceding more hardcore player-skewed Diablo titles in a couple years–the response may not have been as negative.
Nintendo’s Metroid Prime: Federation Force found itself in a similar situation due to bad announcement timing. There was a drought of Metroid games between 2011 and 2015, and fans were bloodthirsty for a new Metroid game, Prime or not. At E3 2015, Metroid Prime: Federation Force was revealed; unfortunately, it was a multiplayer-focused shooter, something the series’ fans weren’t yearning for. After so many years without a mainline Metroid game, many fans saw this multiplayer-focused spin-off as a slap in the face.
It was met with lukewarm sales and reception for those reasons. That being said, Metroid Prime: Federation Force wasn’t really a bad game. Traditional Metroid it was not, but it was fun for what it was and handled by talented developer Next Level Games. DualShockers gave the game a 7, and while we conceded that it wasn’t really for Metroid fans, it was a competent game in its own right. Fans also weren’t aware of the fact that two other Metroid games were in development at the same time: Metroid: Samus Returns and Metroid Prime 4.
One of the main causalities of toxic reactions is poor timing, something Diablo Immortal and Metroid Prime: Federation Force–as well as titles I haven’t even touched on like Command and Conquer: Rivals and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare–suffer from. If these games were revealed alongside other titles from the same series, reception would be more kind. Unfortunately, both games look considerably worse when they are the only new things fans think they have to look forward to, hence their negative reception.
It also must be very demotivating for developers, putting years into a project only to have it belittled and spat on by fans upon its announcement. They aren’t always the victims though; in fact, these kinds of negative reactions often blow up due to how poorly their announcement is handled by the developers. In Metroid Prime: Federation Force‘s case, it came at a notable low-point for Nintendo’s popularity and was also the first time that Nintendo had acknowledged the beloved franchise in years, which made them look oblivious to what fans wanted.
Blizzard, on the other had, made a poor choice in unveiling Diablo Immortal all on its own. As I’ve mentioned, the game would’ve been received by fans better if it had come alongside the announcement of another mainline Diablo project, even if they just had a logo or brief cinematic reveal trailer to show for it. Hype culture will be satiated by just the confirmation of something, and while Blizzard probably had good reasons for not showing off their other project, how they’ve gone about announcing Diablo Immortal has permanently damaged public perception of it.
Bethesda recently demonstrated how to properly unveil a mobile game from a popular franchise at E3. The Elder Scrolls: Blades and The Elder Scrolls VI were revealed alongside each other during Bethesda’s E3 conference. While The Elder Scrolls VI just had a logo to show, the pure confirmation that a game with that title was coming pleased fans of the franchise, and worked significantly more than revealing The Elder Scrolls: Blades on its own probably would have. If the announcement of Diablo Immortal had just been timed better, we would probably be looking at a much happier Diablo fanbase right now.
Blizzard’s damage control of the situation has also been horrible. Instead of sticking to their guns while also taking fan feedback into account, they supposedly started deleting negative YouTube comments and dislikes, leading to even more negative coverage and comments. Attempting to silence fan frustration is one of the worst things a company can do, even if that initial response is toxic.
“While Blizzard probably had good reasons for not showing off their other project, how they’ve gone about announcing Diablo Immortal has permanently damaged public perception of it.”
Both sides should be ashamed of their actions in Diablo Immortal‘s case. The fans dismissed years of hard work by developers and a potentially interesting game on ignorant assumptions and reveal timing alone, while Blizzard decided to play coy with their plans for the Diablo franchise and attempted to silence fan complaints in the worst way possible. In the end, these actions mostly stem from toxic hype culture.
Fans of franchises have every right to be excited for upcoming titles or critique something they aren’t happy with, but in Diablo Immortal and Metroid Prime: Federation Force’s cases, fans were way too quick to pick up their pitchforks and complain without truly analyzing the games and looking at them under their own merits. Hindsight is 20/20, so this is definitely an argument and game I’d like to revisit in a few years once we know how Diablo Immortal turned out, and what’s coming up next for the Diablo franchise.