Diablo Immortal, or How to Read a Room

All @s in this pile of puke refer to Twitter handles. I’m not linking them because you can find them yourself. Also, apologies for the gibberish. I’m not going to edit this because I care only marginally more about writing this than Blizzard does about the Diablo franchise.

Maybe Wyatt Cheng woke up the day of BlizzCon fully knowing what was going to happen. Maybe he knew he was about to deliver the dumbest possible news at the dumbest possible place to the worst possible crowd and was OK with it. Maybe he drew the short straw. Maybe Activision reminded Blizzard who wears the bigboypants in the family. Maybe he was proud of what NetEase developed with this totally not a reskin of a bunch of other absolute garbage Chinese crap they’ve shoved into the maw of a slave population. There’s a lot of other “maybes,” so to speak. Though, one of them sticks out —

Maybe he was just doing his job. I don’t THINK BlizzCon is held at Nuremberg, so he’ll probably be OK tomorrow. He did his job and can now add “Official Blizzard Piñata” to his business card. Regardless, I feel bad for the guy. But only a little.

Over the last 24 hours, a not small number of game “journalists” have spent a not small number of words defending Blizzard’s right to do what they want with their properties on whatever platform they so choose. Of course they get to do that. Absolutely no one would argue otherwise. If they want to shove Diablo onto phones and tablets, they 100% get to do that. But I can not think of a worse place than the tail end of a BlizzCon opening ceremony to announce such a thing.

First of all, it’s 2018. Information moves fast. One could say it’s streamed to private chat rooms on Discord as fast as it happens in real life. It took less than two hours for the internet to discover that Blizzard did basically nothing with this title and NetEase just reskinned Endless of God (or one of their fifty other total shit mobile games). Meanwhile, we’ve got this braniac over at IGN (@ThuggnDuggn) who gets an interview with Wyatt and leads it with:

There’s a narrative spinning up on Reddit right now that Diablo: Immortal uhh, is, for lack of a better word, a reskin of previous NetEase Games. Obviously, you’re working with NetEase on this project, do you want to address that or contextualize that <trails off>

An absolutely fine question. One that pretty much everyone in that room wanted to ask. Which, of course, brought us to @Dontinquire asking if this was an off-season April Fool’s Joke.

Wyatt responds with the following:

Oh, we have been working with NetEase Games from the beginning as a partnership to create everything in Diablo: Immortal. We have artists on our side, they have artists on their side and we work together as a team. As a partnership to create everything about Diablo: Immortal. The environments, the characters, the skills, the story. It’s a true partnership between the two companies.

Well, OK. The correct answer is “No.” This is 2018. You can’t spin this up like some political talking point. You don’t get to dance around the issue to defend a bad fucking decision about a video game. They don’t matter. Games just don’t fucking matter. At least, they don’t matter in the way you just pretended they did.

Just for too-many-seconds though, I’d like to take a step away from the actual Diablo Issue and loop back to gaming journalism. I’ve harped on what a miserable crowd of unmarketable assholes is drawn to the industry because they can’t hack it working in the industry, but I’ve never really addressed the elephant in the room.

Gaming journalists are supposed to write for gamers. They shouldn’t act as protectors of gaming companies. They aren’t supposed to be the third party branch of a company’s public relations. They don’t have to rush to their defense and they certainly don’t need PR teams to get their news (or, maybe they do because they’re not journalists?). Hell, I haven’t written about games in just shy of a decade and I still get fed information that would make your eyes roll back in your head.

And yet, for whatever reason, we’ve got a 50 Shades of Gamergate thing going on with some of these folks and I’m really fucking confused.

Will Powers (@WillJPowers) wrote:

Here’s a hot-take:
The people that bash on mobile gaming are an offshoot of toxic masculinity. They get off on hating something they’ve traditionally associated with a heavily female audience.

Well. Goddamn Will. How deep in your ass did you have to reach to find that nugget of utter fucking nonsense? This has quite literally nothing to do with toxic masculinity. Also, invoking that is never a hot take in gaming. It’s the most common way to wave away a group of angry dudes in the industry right now.

Take it from someone who worked in mobile gaming: Just because something makes money doesn’t mean it isn’t garbage. Developers and designers know when they’re working on garbage. Senior management knows when they’re doing something that their core audience is going to fucking hate, but they’re going to do it anyway because money. Is it possible people are bashing on mobile gaming because it is, as a matter of fact, mostly garbage? It’s bad games, Will — and it’s fine that they’re bad games. You don’t shove a beloved member of a development team out there to announce a bad game. Regardless of potential. After all, we can all admit that it makes fucking bank.

The commonality here is that none of these “gamers” even have the courage to represent themselves with their real names and photos. Hiding behind veils of anonymity while taking cheap shots at companies for making something that doesn’t appeal to them.

See my name? Go fuck yourself, you unqualified hack.

David Milner (@DaveMilbo) wrote:

How well did the dev handle it, though! I would have jumped the stage and started kicking people.

Well, Dave. Being a tough guy on the internet is why you’re writing for Game Informer in Australia instead of working at a gaming company. Wyatt didn’t handle it well. He looked like a puppy that had teeth kicked out (which this particular rabid puppy deserved) and proceeded to double down with some half-truths. I’m going to let this go though, as Game Informer is literally just a rag to sell mediocre games to people who can’t make decisions on their own. Keep doing you, down there, with the spiders and drop bears and shit.

Mike Mahardy (@mmahardy) of Gamespot wrote:

“savagery” aka “entitled assholery” aka no one owes you anything bud

A few people, including another in Australia (what the fuck?), went down the “entitlement” path when insulting the fans of Diablo. Look my dudes, no one gives a single solitary fuck about what Blizzard does on mobile. They can make all the mobile games they want. They can get NetEase to reskin some bizarre fucking Chinese MMO that isn’t allowed to have skeletons or some shit with WoW shoulderpads and no one would bat an eye. They just need to not announce it at BlizzCon like it’s some sort of gift. This is an event people pay hundreds of dollars (or thousands, I guess, if you’re flying from Australia? again, what the fuck) to attend and they expect to be treated like the core gamer they are. See how Sony treats their E3 presentations. See how Bethesda softens the blow of silly horseshit with major titles right before they drop the mic, so to speak. See how Steve Jobs makes all the turtlenecks go straight moist when he says “and one more thing.”

Steve Jobs would never have said “and one more thing, we let a Chinese sweatshop take a property that literally built the backbone of our brand and forcefuck it onto our latest iDevice.”

Also, Don’t think for a second I don’t see you Shacknews/Asif Khan spitting out white hot fire (edgelords, nice). I’m simply tired of calling people out on their nonsense.

The one thing every single one of these “journalists” have in common is that they didn’t step back for a second and say “wait a minute, this really does look like Endless of God and Wyatt really didn’t answer the question about why he only said they had artists working on it.” To be fair, it was a very complicated answer for a games “journalist” to grok, as their typical behavior is to Dyson up some PR and regurgitate it out in a pay-per-click economy.

Anyway, James Duggan (again, @thuggnduggn — what the fuck is this handle anyway?) had the PERFECT opportunity to press for a real answer from Wyatt in his interview with him but chose to accept their answer on its face. Just like nearly every other “journalist” in gaming. Guys, Wyatt isn’t Johnny fucking Chan. He doesn’t have a poker face. He lied through his fucking teeth hoping you all would do what you always do, which is be third party PR for the gaming industry. Good job everyone, you delivered. You did it. You did your jobthing. You defended a gaming company from the literal exact group that made Blizzard popular to begin with. Pat yourselves on the back.

Back to the Diablo Issue — the first thing you have to understand is what it’s like to be a true fan of something. You look forward to an event that’s been teased by the company as a big deal fucking endlessly for months. You buy plane tickets. You fly to fucking Anaheim to watch a company reveal to you the next part of a series you literally grew up playing. You get up for the opening ceremony that has a big ol’ chunk carved out for that beloved franchise. You sit through some nonsense for Not-Quite-Team-Fortress and Definitely-Not-Magic and Whoops-Not-Diablo-2-Remaster-But-Surprise-Warcraft and Wyatt Cheng comes out at the end. Wyatt Cheng, the guy that most people credit for literally saving Diablo 3.

Wyatt walks his beloved ass out on stage and waxes on about how Diablo brought millions of players around the world together to slay demons. OK, that’s a little weird, but sure. Diablo 3 did that I guess. We did it for the loot and to make numbers get bigger, but sure — we also slayed demons. Go on, Wyatt. Oh, the modern world is increasingly connected. This is going well. “Our mobile devices keep us closer than ever to our friends, families, and loved ones…” Oh no. Do you feel that? That’s what a tennis ball-sized kidney stone in your heart feels like. Ok, maybe he’ll scale it back. “So we KNEW, WE KNEW we wanted to use mobile devices as platform for a new Diablo game.”

No, you didn’t know that. I’ve seen this song and dance before. NetEase came to you all with this shit. It’s ok, bby. You can admit it. You didn’t come up with this. Had you come up with this, you wouldn’t have shoved Wyatt out there to get eaten by wolves, but rather the lead designer on said team that definitely worked in Anaheim-California-Not-Haidian-District-Beijing-China out on stage. But such a person literally does not exist.

Because Blizzard did not design this game. Blizzard didn’t even want to make new assets for it. I would wager Blizzard leadership, particularly Wyatt, didn’t even want this game to exist. But you know who probably did? Activision.

Strike 0: Putting it on mobile, and announcing it to a group of core PC gamers at your biggest event of the year and not following it up with a real game is just peak stupid. This is the sort of shit that happens behind closed doors with investors because they’re literally the only people in America who get excited about exploiting the population of China with some shovelware.

Strike 1: This game is… canon? Wait. You’re really going to continue the running-gag-of-a-story that is Diablo with a mobile game literally not a single fan of the franchise asked for? But, why?

Strike 2: Claims that this was developed by Blizzard. No, it certainly fucking was not. There is not a single human being at Blizzard that could possibly make that claim with a straight face and it’s why Wyatt, henceforth The Sacrificial Lamb, is dancing around answering this like Michael Flatley.

Strike 3: “Do you guys not have phones?” Do YoU gUyS nOt HaVe PhOnEs? Fuck you, Blizzard. Do you have any idea who comes to BlizzCon? The fuck is wrong with you? Of course we have fucking phones, you goddamn S-Tier morons. Who the fuck are you anyway? Seriously. Fuck you.

It’s just staggering in its stupidity. Could you even imagine if Half-Life 3 were announced as an iOS title? “But we did a great job with the FPS controls on cell phones,” says Gabe Newell to the angry mob. Do you see how stupid that is?

It’s not male toxicity. It’s not entitlement. It’s just something we love. We love making sure our computers can run Diablo. We love taking vacation time to play a new Diablo. We logged thousands of hours in Diablo 3 when it was, you know, a really terrible game. We love min/maxing Diablo. We just love Diablo. But this — this is not Diablo and you all fucking know it. This is some Chinese garbage, and literally anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see that. But, for whatever reason, Blizzard continues to stand by it, furthering a schism that could have been easily repaired in the same presentation it was created. Today, and I quote, Allen Adham said the following:

We have said that we have multiple Diablo teams working on multiple Diablo projects and that remains true, even after releasing [Diablo 3 for Nintendo] Switch and announcing Diablo: Immortal, … We still have multiple Diablo teams working on multiple unannounced Diablo projects. Diablo is a tentpole franchise for us. And it always will be. We love it. We hope our fans understand what we’re saying when we say that.

Well howdy-doo. You have multiple teams working on multiple unannounced Diablo projects. Tell me, who is on the Diablo: Immortal team? Let’s see the credits list.

Also, If Diablo is a tentpole, wouldn’t the play have been to announce something fans wanted (your word, not mine)? These people aren’t investors. They don’t care what you’re doing with China. They don’t give a fuck about mobile phones. You know EXACTLY who they are.

Nah, you went for the Cleveland Steamer. Fuck you, Blizzard.

Learn how to read the room.