“Diablo Immortal,” the smartphone “Diablo” title unveiled at BlizzCon 2018, is an entirely new game developed from the ground up, not a reskinned title or one built on the bones of any existing game, Blizzard told Variety this weekend.
“Blizzard, in partnership with NetEase, has built ‘Diablo Immortal’ from the ground up for iOS/Android,” a Blizzard spokesperson said, noting it is being built from scratch.
The company confirmed that “Diablo Immortal” is an entirely new game in the face of concerns from some fans on Reddit who, in the face of fan backlash surrounding the game, suggested “Diablo Immortals” was simply a reskin of the game “Crusaders of Light.”
In an interview with some of the developers, the team also talked about the reasoning behind creating this smartphone game and other plans for the “Diablo” franchise.
There was a year-long gap in the story between “Diablo” and “Diablo 2,” the gap between “Diablo 2” and “Diablo 3” was much longer with twenty years passing between the two games. That’s the main reason why Blizzard chose to explore Diablo’s forgotten storylines with “Diablo Immortal,” their newly announced mobile game.
“We sort of had a lot of loose ends, and this gives a chance to explore that gap,” said principal game designer Wyatt Cheng. “What happened to Tyrael? That was one of my big questions, at the end of ‘Diablo 2,’ Tyrael is presumed dead. But we see a comet at the beginning of ‘Diablo 3’ and it’s explained that it’s Tyrael. How’d we get there? It’s kind of a big deal.”
“Diablo Immortal” is Diablo’s first foray into the mobile space. It promises a complete Diablo experience on phones with new additions like touch controls and unique stories that haven’t been told before.
While Cheng and Blizzard hoped to discuss the mechanics and story of “Diablo Immortal,” much of the conversation around the game has focused on its shortcomings. A fan actually asked if the announcement was an out-of-season April fools joke at BlizzCon’s Diablo panel and some fans believe they found evidence that points to Immortal being a reskin of an older free-to-play mobile game created by Blizzard’s development partner, NetEase.
“This is a mobile game built from the ground up,” Blizzard senior vice president Allen Adham said in response to questions about the NetEase partnership. “People are very interested in how this partnership came about and how it works. We’ve worked with NetEase for more than a decade now. They are among the best developers in the world when it comes to this.”
Blizzard didn’t have answers for a lot of the questions asked during a group interview that Variety participated in. They wouldn’t confirm whether or not the game would be free-to-play or have microtransactions and they wouldn’t specify the percentage split in development work between them and NetEase. They did later tell Variety that “Immortal” is not a reskin of any other game, adding that it was built from the ground up in partnership with NetEase.
Fans posted a thread on Reddit shortly after the game was announced yesterday, claiming that UI elements, art, and even player skills were incredibly similar to NetEase’s other products. The rumor quickly spread, adding more unrest to the response to the “Diablo Immortal” announcement. Blizzard’s message that “Diablo Immortal” is a full-fledged mobile ARPG experience remained consistent through the fan backlash. Although, they didn’t mince words about their ambitions with the game in China.
“We know how to make ‘Diablo’ play like ‘Diablo,’ and we have a good sense about how to take that to a midcore audience,” Adham said. “NetEase is a big player in China. So the two teams goal is to create a title that’s top ten in more than one region, which is incredibly rare.”
Blizzard didn’t directly mention “Diablo 4” during the interview, but they did point to a blog post they made earlier in October where they said they’d reveal more details about various Diablo projects “when the time is right.”
“We think we know what you’re hoping to see. We want to remind you that we have multiple Diablo teams working on multiple projects,” Adham said, careful not to mention “Diablo 4” specifically, “Good things come to those who wait, but evil things sometimes take longer. We hear the same concerns internally, so we know.”
Even with the backlash they’ve seen from the community, Blizzard insists that Immortal is aimed at their hardcore audience.
“If you look back at when we announced Hearthstone, it was met with questions. People weren’t sure why we were making a collectible card game,” Adham added. “Almost everything we’ve announced, every major new release that was on a new platform or in a completely different genre, were met with questions. This is just another example of that.”
Cheng and Adham emphasized several times throughout the interview that they were early in the development process and much could change before release. As of right now, “Diablo Immortal” has no confirmed release date, just 2019.