The reaction to the BlizzCon unveiling of “Diablo Immortal” was “muted,” according to Activision Blizzard president and chief operating officer Coddy Johnson. But Blizzard president J. Allen Brack was a bit more blunt with his assessment of the game reveal over the weekend, which sparked anger among some of Diablo’s biggest fans.
“So we’ve seen some interesting reaction to the announcement,” Brack said during the Activision Blizzard third-quarter earnings call. “I think that it’s clear that there are a lot of players who are eager for more Diablo PC and console content. I think that came through loud and clear from BlizzCon. And frankly, we feel fortunate to have a community that cares so much about that franchise. The commitment and the engagement of our community is, I think, one of the things that makes Blizzard very special. It’s something that we really appreciate, and we like to hear the things that they articulate as to what they want to hear next and what we can do better, frankly.”
The opening ceremony of BlizzCon, a livestreamed event always replete with news and unveilings, concluded with Diablo. While Blizzard had warned in the weeks leading up to the show that there would be no major Diablo news, some fans were hoping for news of “Diablo 4.” Instead, the company announced a smartphone version of the game in development with Netease. Reaction, by some, ranged from anger to disbelief, with one fan asking in the live session if the unveiling was an early April Fool’s Day joke and those online saying the game would simply be a reskin of an existing Netease title. In a follow-up interview with Variety, Blizzard said the game was being built from scratch and not using any existing mobile title. The company also confirmed it was actively working on other Diablo games, but would not say if any were the anticipated “Diablo 4.”
During the earning’s analyst call, Johnson mentioned the game while discussing Activision Blizzard’s continued push into mobile.
“Mobile remains the largest and fastest growing platform for gaming in the world,” Johnson said. “And while King is a clear leader in mobile, we’re still investing in Activision and Blizzard franchises for mobile releases. For example, Activision is collaborating with Tencent on Call of Duty Mobile, taking the biggest action franchise of the last two decades to the largest gaming market in the world, and of course also to western audiences where, as Bobby pointed out, Call of Duty is already one of the most successful entertainment franchises in history.
“And last week, Blizzard announced Diablo Immortal, which will bring this tenfold franchise to a mobile audience in both the east and the west. While fan reaction was muted to the announcement, players’ hands-on experience … confirmed what we believe, which is that Diablo mobile will be a very well received game when it releases, and players around the world will love it.
“These are just two of the many mobile initiatives underway across Activision and Blizzard. And King mobile expertise is now being shared throughout the company so our beloved PC and console franchises can expand their reach.”
Later in the call, an analyst asked for more comment on the BlizzCon reveal and on “Diablo Immortal” itself.
“Diablo is an important tent-pole franchise for Blizzard Entertainment, and we have multiple teams working on multiple different projects for the Diablo community,” Brack said. “We feel that ‘Diablo Immortal’ is going to deliver a very authentic Diablo experience, and we’re not going to compromise on that mission. Launching the game is only going to be the beginning. There’s going to be ongoing support, and we’re only going to release the game when we feel like it is meeting the community’s very high standards. In the end, ‘Diablo Immortal’ is going to fulfill that, and we think that people are going to experience it, and we think that they’re going to love it.”
Brack went on to say that he believes mobile is a significant opportunity for the Diablo franchise.
“Mobile is the biggest platform in gaming today,” he said. “And taking a game like mobile onto that platform in a way that is really reflecting our quality standards I think can really open a lot of – it can open that franchise and other franchises to a global audience, including people who don’t have PCs, or especially in China where Blizzard is a very, very strong western brand.”