Blizzcon Survey Results

By Shamus Posted Sunday Nov 18, 2018

Filed under: Video Games 60 comments

Last week I ran a poll asking people how they thought Blizzard would respond to the recent controversy. Too late I realized I’d conflated two different ideas:

1) How will Blizzard handle this short-term PR problem?
2) How will they change their behavior in the future?

As a result, the answers were muddled. Here’s the chart:

I wanted to stop at 666 responses, but it got stuck at 665 for most of the evening and then jumped to 672 the next time I checked. Oh well.
I wanted to stop at 666 responses, but it got stuck at 665 for most of the evening and then jumped to 672 the next time I checked. Oh well.

Ugh. Stupid google forms leaving all that whitespace and then truncating the answers. Obnoxious. For the record, the original questions were:

  • Nothing. They wait for all of this to blow over, then proceed with business as usual. Future mobile projects won’t get the spotlight at Blizzcon.
  • Nothing. They wait for this to blow over because they don’t care about the PC and this is the first step in a company-wide pivot.
  • They issue a non-apology, make vague promises that they still love their PC fans, then pretend the whole thing never happened.
  • They take whatever Diablo 4 assets are available and quickly mash them into a teaser trailer just to show fans it’s being worked on.
  • They over-correct and announce every PC-based project they have in the pipeline.
  • They misjudge their mistake, and try to placate fans by porting Diablo Immortal to the PC.
  • They double down and announce their other mobile projects soon, before any further reveals for PC games.
  • They double down and treat it like a joke, putting meme-ish references to it into their games and portraying their displeased fans like entitled babies.
  • I don’t know or care about this, but I feel compelled to vote anyway.

The only two important ones are the “non-apology” and the “Wait for this to blow over”.

Thinking about this more, I think this should actually be broken into three questions:

  1. What caused this mistake? (Activision meddling, miscalculation of the market, change in company priorities, insanity, etc.)
  2. How will Blizzard handle this short-term PR problem? (Groveling, Non-apology, silence, etc.)
  3. How will they change their behavior in the future to avoid this? (No change, no more Blizzcon, no more mobile stuff at Blizzcon, etc.)

Or maybe trying to track this in survey form was an inherently bad idea because the situation is too complex. I don’t know. Making a good survey that yields interesting trivia is hard.

Also, I left the survey open for write-in answers. Most of these were combinations of the existing options, underscoring how poorly I’d constructed the survey. However the whole thing was worth it for this answer:

They fully embrace the darkness, using the next Blizzcon as a mass sacrifice to open a rift into Hell itself and summon forth the Lord of Terror and his hordes of demonic minions, bringing a thousand years of darkness to the Earth. Centuries from now, the historical video game depicting the event will be an Ouya exclusive.

This is so obvious I’m embarrassed I didn’t think of it myself.


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60 thoughts on “Blizzcon Survey Results

  1. Narkis says:

    They fully embrace the darkness, using the next Blizzcon as a mass sacrifice to open a rift into Hell itself and summon forth the Lord of Terror and his hordes of demonic minions, bringing a thousand years of darkness to the Earth. Centuries from now, the historical video game depicting the event will be an Ouya exclusive.

    This whole Blizzcon fiasco was worth it for this.

    That, and for the “out of season April Fool’s joke.

    1. guy says:

      That was funny even before I learned that Diablo on mobile was a real Blizzard April Fools joke.

      1. Kdansky says:

        That’s not the first one which became reality.

        There are multiple times where Blizzard made an April Fool’s joke, but then a decade later different people thought it was a good idea.

        1. guy says:

          I know about the Pandarians, but the thing about that is that it slowly seeped into being reality. They were a running side joke throughout Warcraft III and the Frozen Throne and I saw that I could get a secret hero the PANDARIAN BREWMASTER and I laughed and I got him and he was a panda and he drank a lot and he could breathe fire and he joined Kael’Thas and Lady Vasha during the mission to rescue Illiadin. I am not joking; he is the reward for beating the secret tower defense mission you can unlock in the dungeons of Dalaran.

          Then later I heard that the next WoW expansion was going to be Mists Of Pandaria and I said to myself, “Well I guess they have officially run out of good ideas” and I stopped paying attention so much I don’t actually remember the names of any of the later expansions but when I stumble across WoW people talking about them the general impression I get is that Blizzard did indeed run out of good ideas but they’re still making WoW. And while it is still a moneymaker its playerbase has been trending downwards.

          Then Blizzard announced overwatch and I saw Tracer’s blink teleport and I was reassured that Blizzard hadn’t run out of any good ideas, just good ideas for WoW expansions.

          Also, the reason the Pandarians were such a hit as an april fools joke is that pandas as a Warcraft 3 faction is inherently funny while the joke with the Diablo mobile game was that it was a dumb idea that sounded like something idiots would do. Admittedly that was because they dialed it up to 11, but I still don’t think it’s really a great use of Diablo’s IP and announcing it when Diablo 4 is in development hell at Blizzcon was a straight-up error even though it might do well in the vast market of “people who do not care about Blizzcon”.

  2. Chris says:

    As a colorblind person the different shades of blue are just impossible to read.

    But yeah, I dont think blizzard will change, Im sure somewhere in some basement they have a few dedicated people cooking up some PC game. But the sausage factory will focus on easy mobile money. Just look at their release sequel. Sure, older games are less intensive to make. But even if diablo and warcraft need 5 years of work (which I think is a reasonable time to make a polished AAA game in the current era, correct me if i’m wrong) then they could release a game every 2.5 years. But other than WOW xpacks they are not even getting close.

    1. Lanthanide says:

      You might be interested in EnChroma glasses which fix colourblindness for most sufferers:

      1. CoyoteSans says:

        Those have, unfortunately, been proven to be bunk.

        1. No they haven’t. They do exactly what they say they do, which is to help the brain of a person with a *specific form* of color-blindness tell the difference between the colors, so that they “see” a richer spectrum.

          It’s the reverse of the effect with certain color-based illusions where your brain is tricked by visual context into thinking that two different colors are the same color. It’s basically a way of turning up the saturation so that your color receptors fire more strongly.

          Do the glasses magically produce color receptivity that the person does not already have? No. Nor do they claim to do so. They merely enhance the signal so that your BRAIN can sort the visuals into DIFFERENT trays instead of putting everything in the SAME tray.

          The discovery of the effect of the glasses on the color-blind was actually an *accident*. They were initially meant to be sunglasses, but employees at the company started wearing them all the time because they found the glasses added a pleasing sharpness to their vision.

  3. Thomas says:

    People make these survey mistakes in real life all the time.

    1. Nick Powell says:

      This is real life!

      1. Gresman says:

        Dang, I thought that was a fantasy.

        1. armagrodden says:

          Now you’re caught in a landslide.

          1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

            Well, we are here to escape from reality.

            1. Thomas says:

              Thanks, you’ve opened my eyes, I look up to the dice and see

              1. Agammamon says:

                I’m just a poor boy – donate to my Steam wallet. Toooo me.

                1. BlueHorus says:

                  Mama, I messed up the poll.
                  People think it’s rather droll,
                  But these jokes they take their toll.

                  Mamaaa, ooooOOOOOOooo,
                  Ddin’t mean to get it wrong,
                  But I can try a different poll, tomorrow!
                  Carry, on, carry on
                  It’s not like it really matters…

  4. Gresman says:

    I watched a lot of Blizzcon in the last two weeks.
    It was interesting. There is definitely something being worked on in the background. A lot of folks were introduced with statements like “This is X, the lead programmer on a new project.” This strengthens my assumption that this year was another off-year Blizzcon, where there is no big announcement. There was Warcraft Reforged and new stuff for Heroes, Hearthstone and Overwatch.
    To me the Diablo thing felt a bit like paying lipservice to the franchise.
    It was mishandled. The Diablo padding slot could have been filled with other Diablo news like “Diablo is on Switch now”. In my eyes it would have gone over way better if the had announced Immortal at Gamescon and did the follow-up with more information at Blizzcon. Especially given that the game feels as if it were built to introduce newer players to the franchise. Attendees at Blizzcon,who were able to play Immortal seemed to be intrigued by the game.

    I personally am a bit disappointed but not enraged or anything like that. I can not see the game being what I want. If I want Diable while travelling. There is the Switch version. Immortal just feels schizophrenic to me. Action MMO on a phone does not work well given the battery life and session times on the platform.

    We will see what will come of this. Possibly a case of trying to fill the schedule and misjudging the initial response. But given Blizzard’s trackrecord in reacting to outcry there is a chance of something happening. It just might take a bit to manifest itself.

    1. guy says:

      Remember that Starcraft 2 was in development for like half a decade before the “Hell, it’s about time.” trailer. There is something going on in the background. Probably one of Starcraft 3, Warcraft 4, or Diablo 4, but it could also be a new IP. Also they have said they’ll do World Of Starcraft if they can invent another kind of MMO, so maybe they have.

      Given that they pulled the Diablo 3 auction house eventually I think they have thought through their monatization scheme and if it’s lootboxes they’re not planning to sell to Blizzcon attendees. They’re planning to sell to people who spend half an hour reading about Blizzcon on a review website. That’s a considerable demographic and that’s why forum response is not a reliable measure for sales.

      1. Lars says:

        World of Hearthstone
        An Activision cooperation “Call of Lost Vikings”
        Warcraft Adventure Remastered
        A Jailbreak/Heist Hero-game: Under Watch
        A SiFi-survival game: Star Craft

        Any more ideas?

        1. Guy says:

          I would totally play Star Craft where you have to establish a stable community on Char Sara after the Protoss glassed it while dealing with periodic zerg attacks from deep burrows, occasional raiders, and the fact that everything is ashen wasteland.

  5. guy says:

    For reference, it’s at least strongly rumored (dunno if this is accurate) that they’ve been working on Diablo 4 for four years by now but they keep having the same kinds of problems that afflicted Destiny. Serious theory is that they started hinting at Diablo 4, then they hit a roadblock and dropped it from the lineup at the last minute.

    If you’re thinking “normally a company would put up a teaser”, well, normally a company doesn’t make World of Warcraft either. Blizzard is very cagey about when they announce things because it is their PR strategy to never make promises they won’t keep.

    Hence me expecting they’ll change nothing pending seeing how this impacts sales; they knew the Diablo Immortal announcement was at best going to result in a long pause and then the audience getting up and going home, so they haven’t actually learned anything yet. They’ll wait to see how many mobile gamers take to Diablo Immortal vs. How many PC gamers refuse to buy Diablo 4 in protest and then they’ll decide what to do next time.

    1. Sartharina says:

      Does Blizzard really get any shit about Starcraft: Ghost?

      1. guy says:

        No, but they also got only muted interest. That’s probably why they ditched the game and then put the protagonist in Starcraft 2. I think the reaction this time was so bad not because of Diablo Immortal itself but because Blizzard’s core fanboys are the people who hate lootboxes so damn much they skipped AC:Oddessy entirely because it had lootboxes. Which includes me.

        “But they can’t make enough money otherwise!”

        Not my problem. I’ll just go play more Spider-man and they can go out of buisness for all I care.

        1. Thomas says:

          That last paragraph is all I want to see in discussion of videogame megacorps.

          1. guy says:

            Well, I do think it’s worth talking about the overall economics, but they’re companies trying to make money, but as I say elsewhere in this thread the free market is a cruel and unforgiving god.

            I work at a company too, but we have a more immediate understanding of this fact, so when a client demands we do something, then we maybe try to talk them out of it but they’re the customer.

            The customer is always right.

    2. Lanthanide says:

      > Serious theory is that they started hinting at Diablo 4, then they hit a roadblock and dropped it from the lineup at the last minute.

      This has been debunked.

      1. guy says:

        Yeah, that doesn’t actually change my mind any. That is just pointing out that Kotaku’s article was based on anomoyous sources and we don’t know who they are, but I have sufficent confidence in Kotaku that I’m not certain their article is correct but I am certain “sources” means at a minimum “The marketing team’s coffee boy” and at a maximum “Allen Adham on the condition they say ‘sources’ and not ‘Blizzard co-founder Allen Adham'”. As opposed to “Some guy in a pub”.

        The fact that it’s from Kotaku is why I say ‘serious theory’ and not ‘wild and insane speculation’. If you click through to the IGN article Kotaku did comment and say that it is possible that the announcement they heard about from their sources wasn’t intended for Blizzcon or was never added to the schedule, which was one of the possibilities I considered when I saw the Kotaku article to begin with.


  6. TylerDurd0n says:

    This is one of those instances where I’m happy I left the industry. The fan reaction was as predictable as it was annoying – judging by all those posts on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and reactions at BlizzCon itself, gamers (and especially PC gamers) believe to have all the answers, know anything and us stupid devs are just too ignorant to listen to their amazing ideas.

    While in reality most gamers are absolutely clueless about how a dev house or publisher is and has to be run to keep people employed and how diverse the player base (and thus “true” fan reaction) actually is – which is fine if it weren’t the same “fans” who then go on to tell “us” how to run the business. If it were up to them, they’d pay 50 quid some time and receive full support, additional content and then some in perpetuity. How this one time investment should pay for employees, development, upkeep of infrastructure? That’s our problem, not theirs..

    So Diablo: Immortal is not their cherished Diablo 4. Blizzard told their audience before that it won’t be. So why the disappointment? If you went to BlizzCon expecting anything related to Diablo 4 you have only yourself to blame. But noooo – it’s always somebody else’s fault.

    Also: China is a massive market and Blizzard (as in Activision Blizzard) owes it to their shareholders to grow revenue when opportunities arise – especially when Diablo-style games are already an established presence in the market. In that situation Blizzard has to go in and launch “the real thing” before it’s too late (as in: Before the Chinese clones actually establish a presence in the western markets).

    And anyone arguing how Diablo isn’t a good fit for mobile phones (and then listing all those reasons why it wouldn’t work) – seems to work pretty well for the clones in Asia already doesn’t it? Besides, Gameloft and others have made a huge business out of “cloning” Diablo, Need for Speed, Call of Duty and even Uncharted for mobile before the slumbering AAA-publishers have considered mobile gaming. Now Gameloft’s IPs are the established ones, while EA and others struggle with their products (Ubisoft being the exception as Gameloft is more or less a sister-studio).

    So Blizzard is the studio playing catch-up here and they have been for quite a while. Only after the Titan shelving did it wake up and finally caught up with the world around them: Thus Hearthstone, HOTS and Overwatch (and their monetization schemes) were born. Thus the focus on eSports. Thus the focus on their launcher. You could probably throw their gear store on that pile as well. The only physical things are supposed to be merch and collectibles, with the games staying ephemeral digital “services”.

    I do wonder if Diablo 3 has ever achieved its financial goals, especially with the auction house gone. WoW has its slew of services, the token and its yearly expansions. All other games (except D3) have proper micro transactions. So however Diablo 4 will look like, I’d be really surprised if it doesn’t have game loops that will drive micro transactions as well. If you think the storm in a teacup about Immortal is bad, wait until gamers realize that D4 will have loot boxes. And is probably released on console as well. Because either Blizzard comes up with an amazing new type of revenue stream for D4 or they’ll continue with what they have very successfully done since Hearthstone.

    So “gamers” can lament all they want, but games have fortunately become more accessible to less entrenched audiences and those audiences don’t care about purity of their games as much. These audiences are willing to spend some money here and there and pay for skins. Doesn’t mean that loot boxes are necessarily “ok”, but if they weren’t profitable and accepted by a majority of consumers, they wouldn’t be in the games.. ¯\_(?)_/¯

    (And I bet if Battlefront 2 weren’t a Disney property and EA at danger of losing the license, they wouldn’t have been so lenient on removing the loot boxes in that game either).

    1. TylerDurd0n says:

      One quick follow-up to something Shamus mentions in his piece:

      Both are groups of people who enjoy games, but they’re still two entirely different groups. Blizzard was marketing a mobile game to people largely uninterested in freemium mobile gaming.

      As someone who worked on mobile games and is an avid gamer myself, I have to disagree: These two groups aren’t mutually exclusive, haven’t been for quite some time and the overlap is getting bigger each year. Mobile gaming itself enjoys quite a wide variety of games where Candy Crush is actually on the very casual side of it.

      The sentiment that people either play games on PC or consoles and are not interested in mobile titles is not true and also not represented in the data that shows a growing amount of time spent on mobile devices and thus mobile games. Which is the reason why game-streaming services enjoy something of a second coming. And also while even established publishers embrace freemium game design strategies: People have fixed time budgets and the more the mobile phone establishes its presence, the less time is left for PCs and consoles. This is a very real concern to all “legacy” media (consoles, TV, cinema, etc.).

      Also with Blizzard’s continued emphasis on the “Virtual Ticket holders” and the “people watching from home”, it’s obvious that the audience that travels there – while cherished – is not their only concern anymore.

      1. Redrock says:

        I don’t think it’s necessary to ratchet up the narrative that “silly angry core gamers are against poor developers and journalists”. True or not, it’s certainly not helpful. The way I see it, mobile Diablo itself wasn’t the problem. Announcing it at Blizzcon in the manner it was announced was. The fact that Blizzard led people to believe that something Diablo 4 related was coming was also at least partly their fault. This was a situation where this whole negativity could be avoided if they had just taken a page out of Bethesda’s book and shown a short teaser with a title card for Diablo 4. That’s it. But they did miscalculate and failed to understand their audience, which couldn’t not backfire.

      2. Geebs says:

        That last bit about “virtual” ticket holders for Blizzcon is kinda defending ActiBlizz from accusations of being greedy on the basis that they’re actually rapacious.

        So they sell some more tickets to reel in the suckers who aren’t quite whale enough to actually go someplace in person to be advertised to? They’re still monetising an internet stream of an advertisement. I doubt anybody who has held their audience in such low esteem and repeatedly proven themselves to be correct really cares what anybody else thinks.

        1. guy says:

          Well, I think the reason that people pay to watch Blizzcon is because Blizzard knows their audience is generally aware that the purpose of Blizzcon is to sell games.

          And the reason I think the backlash is so brutal is quite simply that this is the first time I’ve felt like Blizzard treated the audience like idiots.

          Now all the other companies who think their customers are idiots shrug and say this won’t matter because hey people complained about Starcraft 2 being three parts these sheep will buy anything let’s chop our game up into six parts.

          But, uh, no, the reason we bought Starcraft 2 was not that we’re idiots, it is that Blizzard just said “yeah it’s basically three games. Don’t worry; each campaign is thirty missions long and we’ll throw in a couple new units for multiplayer.”

          And a good number of people complained, and some of them weren’t willing to buy it and some wanted to convince Blizzard to knock off a third of the price tag so it’d be $40 but Blizzard’s analysts aren’t idiots so presumably they looked at this, they worked their arcane sorceries, and they decided that’s actually only 10-20% of the customer base, it’s just that the people who weren’t mad just kinda nodded.

          Because my reaction was “well, yeah, I see your point. However, I play campaign mode so this sounds like Starcraft 2 is $60 and then it will have $60 expansion packs.” And then I said to myself “well I would like all that for $60 but I would also like it for free” and then I preordered each segment at $60 because Blizzard’s release date is “when it’s done” so I know it’ll be polished on launch day and then it’ll get more patches because Blizzard thinks this floor isn’t polished enough until it’s suitable for a makeup mirror.

          And then all the other companies think I’m an idiot so I like the sound of AC Oddessy until I hear it has microtransactions, and I hear everyone tell me it’s great and they aren’t a problem, and that fails to reassure me because I was in the minority about Shadow Of War. And sure, maybe AC Oddessy is better but I don’t want to spend $60 to find out.

          And when Blizzard announces Diablo Immortal absolutely no one doubts it’ll be monatized. So I’m so incredulous that Blizzard would think they could trick us this transparently that I assume that PR dropped the ball due to basically an Act Of God. And the Blizzcon audience thinks that this is a sign it’s now truly Activision-Blizzard, and these guys didn’t like Activision and they feel like they’ve been insulted and the marketers think they’re too dumb to notice. And, uh, no. No one is that dumb.

    2. guy says:

      So Diablo: Immortal is not their cherished Diablo 4. Blizzard told their audience before that it won’t be. So why the disappointment? If you went to BlizzCon expecting anything related to Diablo 4 you have only yourself to blame. But noooo – it’s always somebody else’s fault.

      That is because Blizzard had been building up expectation by deliberately hinting that there would be Diablo news as the capstone news to end Blizzcon. So fans were expecting that maybe they’d announce Diablo 4 anyways (that’s honestly something Blizzard might do) or failing that some cool new PC spinoff like Melee Overwatch Diablo Style and then Blizzard came out and said “HEY PC GUYS WHO HATE MOBILE GAMES WITH LOOTBOXES! LOOK AT THIS MOBILE GAME THAT MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE LOOTBOXES!”

      Seriously, the best outcome of doing that is the audience stares at them in confusion for several minutes then stands up and goes home. For the free market is a cruel and unforgiving god and the audience doesn’t actually care how much money a company is making.

      Also Diablo 3 had a real money auction house and gamers went nuts and eventually Diablo 3 did not have a real money auction house anymore. It turns out that just because some people buy lootboxes doesn’t mean different people buy lootboxes.

      1. TylerDurd0n says:

        So fans were expecting that maybe they’d announce Diablo 4 anyways

        Which is why they only have themselves to blame. But a bit of introspection is too much to ask from entrenched fanbases.

        Also Diablo 3 had a real money auction house and gamers went nuts and eventually Diablo 3 did not have a real money auction house anymore. It turns out that just because some people buy lootboxes doesn’t mean different people buy lootboxes.

        True, hence me wondering if D3 ever met its financial expectations (which probably included the auction house revenue and had to be adjusted – the Necromancer DLC being one try to squeeze some more money out of that costly experiment). My worry is that D4 will need to step up its monetization game and with the Diablo audience apparently most unwelcoming of any change that is not for them, this will be a very bumpy ride.

        It is my expectation that fans and fan reaction can slow down the pace of change, but they won’t be able to reverse the clock. With multiple mobile games in development, this “outrage” was bound to happen anyway. Blizzard apparently chose the franchise that was least damaging to their financials.

        Now that I think about it, it could be that the fans’ reaction about the auction house (and Blizzard removing it) could’ve been the one thing that made the franchise the least “interesting” for Blizzard. If fans had been more welcoming of it, they might have seen more content and more Diablo “stuff”. But that’s pure conjecture on my part now..

        1. guy says:

          Well, maybe, but you know, I don’t care. If the next blizzard game has lootboxes I’ll just not buy it.

          I play exactly one freemium game. It is Fate Grand Order. I have spent money on it a couple times but if I didn’t have a massive set of good Servants from free draws I’d have thrown my phone across the room then uninstalled it.

          1. TylerDurd0n says:

            See, that’s why they are always super-generous with new players. Have some free gems. Buy something in the store. As this is your first time, this purchase is on us. Oh here’s some more free gems. Why don’t you skip or insta-win this bit? Good job – here, let us refund the gems.

            Once you’re hooked and you spent enough time in the game, most are too invested to throw their phone away. Also as your every move is being recorded and analyzed, they can adjust the payout from rolls/draws if your overall stats put you in the “might leave soon” basket, so you’ll stay longer.

            Also it’s surprising (not really) how “one time offers” are actually offered multiple times, sometimes with bonuses increasing the longer you choose to ignore them. ;) Loot box systems are the quite transparent by comparison.

            1. guy says:

              Look, it turns out gamers are not actually idiots and I have been playing Fate:Grand Order for two years running and I know all of that. I play it. I will not play any other gatcha games because their “welfare 4*” will not be Shiki Ryougi.

              The reason Blizzard was able to get so much money off WoW is that at that time they understood gamers weren’t idiots.

              1. guy says:

                Oh, also the significance of me saying “welfare 4*” is that it’s actually standard terminology. When there’s an event they put in a 5* for the paying players in the gatcha and we free players save up our Saint Quartz, but this is a Japanese mobile game and they have actual laws so we look at the announcement and we see that we have 1.00% odds of getting it so we pretty much know we aren’t.

                But we’re excited for new events anyways because the makers of Fate Grand Order realize we aren’t idiots and can’t fiddle with the drop odds because in 2012 this was restricted under a legal opinion based off the Law for Preventing Unjustifiable Extras or Unexpected Benefit and Misleading Representation so they keep us happy by having a welfare 4*, which isn’t what they call it but is what we call it. So for their first Christmas event the welfare 4* was the franchise poster girl Saber’s evil clone version and she is dressed in a black santa outfit and she has her black sword in one hand and a bag of presents in the other and when she uses her Noble Phantasm and blasts the enemy “Jingle Bells” starts playing. And you get her by just going through the event. And it’s a year later and Santa Alter is still part of my main lineup.

                And that is why I play Fate Grand Order and probably if you told me what games your company makes I wouldn’t have even heard of them because I don’t care to play a lootbox game made by a company that thinks I’m an idiot.

    3. Chris_ANG says:

      The unfortunate flip side of the profit motive argument, though, is that fans *should* pitch as big a fit as possible when a company does something they don’t like, since absent huge PR blowback the company has no reason to change course. That’s a rough place for the market to be for all involved, but the D3 auction house and BF2 both seem like good examples of this dynamic in action.

      I’m not sure where this is going long-term, since this equilibrium doesn’t seem very stable. My opinion is that loot boxes and similar mechanics should be recognized as (being closely akin to) gambling, and banned or heavily regulated by legislation, but that’s *way* down my personal list of priorities and absent that I doubt companies will stop using them :/. The video game industry is still very young, though, so perhaps things will move to a more stable equilibrium over time, especially as game-players come to make up more and more of the population.

      1. TylerDurd0n says:

        Having worked for two companies – one who transitioned from a more idealistic approach to – doing freemium games, I became convinced that consumers have a large role to play in those changes, but unfortunately it’s not the consumers you or I would like to have such influence.

        The reason why freemium became so dominant in the mobile market was because people were not willing to spend good money (i.e. the price of a latte) on good games. Even 2-3 dollars was “too much”, so we had the race to the bottom where free became the only viable option.

        But free products don’t pay for anything so the “market” forced most studios to come up with something. And some of the same people who weren’t willing to spend a coffee’s worth of money on the game in the first place had less issues paying for some expensive bundles if you advertised them enough (sometimes promising them huge bonuses – artificial as they were – was enough).

        So if you have the choice between being an idealist and looking for another job as your games don’t make any money and pivoting to freemium with all the psychological issues that come with it but keep the lights on and people employed, it’s not a real choice after all.

        The unfortunate side-effect is that small mobile game studios did the homework for big publishers like EA who just swoop in, poach the game designers from those little studios and set them to work on the big franchises. And that’s just pure stakeholder-driven portfolio management. Yet I also believe they are testing the waters, because that’s what you also do in freemium:

        You introduce something that is so egregious and greedy only to backpedal and half-arse it later. But you planned for this. The first try was egregious on purpose. And now you can do PR about listening to your consumers and being a good steward for the franchise, yet keep the tuned-down monetization in the game (but planned to have anyway).

        Fun times.

        1. guy says:

          I know that’s a theory, but Battlefront 2 demonstrates it’s not always a great idea because sometimes the gamers get so mad Disney starts hinting that if you don’t back off they will be altering the deal and legislators start talking about banning lootboxes, and you back down and gamers stop complaining so loudly but they don’t actually forgive you and legislators start talking about making lootboxes subject to gambling laws.

          Just because everyone is doing it, that doesn’t actually mean it’s necessarily a good idea. Especially if your core audience is people who don’t play freemium games because they hate freemium games. If you want to change your audience maybe don’t do it in the way that will most piss off your existing audience.

          Also on a personal level, I’d not have done it because however it worked out long-term I’d half expect the board of directors to meet next week and call the CEO and yell “Bring us the head of the marketing director!” Because if I were on the board of directors and I wanted to pivot to mobile and this happened I would want the marketing director’s head on my desk as an example to the others.

    4. Fon says:

      You guys predicted this kind of reaction, but you let it happen anyway? Okay, I know you aren’t with them, but if this kind of reaction was within prediction, then they should have taken more precaution. From what you say, they did try to let the people know that it won’t be Diablo 4, but if they have taken this precaution, then they shouldn’t be predicting this kind of reaction anymore… or do they knew that it wouldn’t be enough, hence the prediction was still the same? (But they still went through with it even when they knew it wouldn’t be enough?) Or it’s you who predicted this, and not the Blizzard people?

      What I’m trying to say is, I don’t think it’s the fan’s fault. It’s just that they (Blizzard) either:
      1. Don’t understand their fan (didn’t predict this), or
      2. Didn’t take enough precautions, such as forging the right expectations (to prevent this prediction).

      If they did take precautions… well, it obviously wasn’t enough.

      If you want to say no amount of precaution is enough for these fans… well, I’m still optimistic and think that applying enough precaution/communication will work.

      But then again, I don’t work there, so what do I know? Still, just so you know, blaming the fans is just as cliche as blaming the developers. In actuality, things are always more complicated than that.

      1. guy says:

        Yeah, there is a reason I suspected the plan was Diablo 4 and something went wrong when they weren’t able to reschedule. I mean, they ran their Diablo 4 playbook perfectly right up to when they told us it was a mobile game.

        Basically the inviolate truth is that some Blizzard fans just hate mobile games period and you will never sell them on Diablo Immortal. The EA playbook is to decide those fans don’t matter, so this is how EA does things because there’s also a contingent that dislikes mobile games in general but might play one if you dangle the right bait, yet will still be mad it’s not a PC game instead.

        The Blizzard playbook is to actively extend an olive branch so that those people aren’t mad, just disappointed, so they won’t refuse to buy another PC game out of spite. Which I actually did to EA with CnC4; I thought the core gameplay was neat, but I could tell they thought I was some dumbass who’d whine about DRM or lootboxes but really they just had to dangle CnC in front of me and I’d buy anything. And, uh, that’s the reason I prefer Valve. Yeah Origin and Steam have the same sort of DRM, but Valve basically says “um, sorry, would a 75% discount be a good apology?” where EA says “Hahaha, screw you, we know you’re an idiot! You’ll do anything for ME Andromeda! Dance, puppet, dance!”

        So I install origin so I can play Dragon Age and Mass Effect and literally nothing else, and I have hundreds of Steam games I never played. And EA still thinks I’m an idiot because I gave in at all.

  7. Hal says:

    What caused this mistake? (Activision meddling, miscalculation of the market, change in company priorities, insanity, etc.)

    I had a thought about the market part of this.

    Everyone mentions how big the mobile gaming market is in China. Mobile gaming in America must look like untapped potential. The vast majority of Americans own a smart phone, and a great number of them will play games on that phone or a tablet. One of the biggest criticisms you can level at the mobile gaming market, aside from the reliance on microtransactions, is the quality. It’s largely shovelware out there.

    Compare it to Nintendo, for example. Nintendo has had a problem with most of its modern platforms that their game libraries are largely shovelware, not terribly appealing to the larger gaming audience. So when a big name franchise or a Nintendo-exclusive property comes out, it’s a big deal. I’m thinking, for example, of the hype whenever a new Pokemon game comes out; Pokemon Go also turned out to be a big deal when it came out as well.

    I’m wondering if Blizzard didn’t think it might go along those lines. Having a Diablo game available on the mobile market would be an indicator of a “serious” game for the platform, or at least something of reasonable quality compared to much of what else is out there. And, unfortunately, the backlash might look to Blizzard that their audience doesn’t think about phones/tablets as a “serious” gaming platform.

    1. Gautsu says:

      If I understand my studies correctly mobile gaming accounts for as much of the marketplace as all versions of pc gaming and console gaming do. And the idea that only half assed titles come out for mobile is bullshit too, you just have to search. Considering how many squenix games I have on my phone right now, and some of the unreal 4 titles I have played recently, coupled with the increased processing power of the new generation of phones, publishers have to be looking to expand their approach to the business.

      But yes, the location and timing of the Diablo Immortal announcement was a mistake that anyone with sense should have seen coming

      1. Hal says:

        And the idea that only half assed titles come out for mobile is bullshit too, you just have to search.

        Perhaps I should have phrased my argument better. It isn’t that there are no good games available on the mobile market, but they would certainly be needles in the haystack. You do have to search for the good games, and you need to know how to find the diamonds in the rough. And given the nature of the platform and the market there, I think we often accept a lower quality of game as better than they really are.

        For example, I played Final Fantasy Record Keeper on my phone for a while. I gave it up once I concluded I’d seen all there was to see there. There was no interesting story to see there; it was a treadmill, nothing more.

        Which is not to say that every game is like that, but I played that game for a good while; I wouldn’t have tolerated that model on any other platform, but I was willing to accept it on my phone for the sake of having something to play.

        1. Gautsu says:

          Sorry, man, the bullshit part of the comment wasn’t directed at you, but at the general consensus that mobile as a platform is a joke.

          1. Hal says:

            No, it’s a fair question. Especially because one of my favorite games is . . . a mobile game! I play Sentinels of the Multiverse all the time, and while it’s on Steam, I play it on Android, so it’s fair to point out that the number of good mobile games is non-zero.

          2. guy says:

            Well, I have my sleep-deprived Shintoism metaphor in the next comment, but the short of it is that mobile is not inherently a joke, but if the audience is the people who make jokes about mobile and you’ve been hyping them up for Diablo 4* for three days straight and you run your badass Diablo IP trailer to build their excitement to a fever pitch and the glorious moment arrives and… you tell them Diablo is going to mobile, well, uh, basically this.

            If you’re very lucky they walk up to the mike and ask if this is an April Fools joke. If you are less lucky but still kind of lucky they have a blog post about how bad you screwed up followed by a poll about how you’ll screw up next, and really most people are going to tell you to go fuck yourself.

            It turns out marketing is a legitimate career too and if you fuck it up this bad that’s like if you program Big Rigs Over The Road Racing.

            And if they’d just hyped the hell out of Warcraft Remastered instead I think that Diablo Immortal would have a shot at being “that rare mobile game that doesn’t suck”. I mean sure anything about Diablo 4 would’ve been even better, but Blizzard’s PR strategy is to be very careful about what they promise so when they make a promise we’ll know they deliver, and Diablo 4 apparently is trapped in the ninth circle of Development Hell so Blizzard’s playbook says it’s not time to even throw up a logo yet so they don’t end up letting fans down. They’ll want to be able to repeat “Hell, it’s about time” and then deliver within four years tops.

            So Warcraft 3 remastered is basically a safe punt because it’s Warcraft 3 except better. It won’t get a standing ovation but also Warcraft fans will not be furious; they’ll say “eh, Warcraft 4 would’ve been better but I do like this.”

            *Yeah see above for the argument about how that’s the audience’s fault. There is a reason “the customer is always right”, which is that actually the company secretly has zero leverage so if we’re wrong , well, we’ll listen if you explain, sure, but if you’re rude about it we basically say “well fuck you too, I’m going to go to Nintendo instead because they can explain things politely”

        2. CoyoteSans says:

          I’d add that, on Android’s Play Store anyway, shovelware games are much more of a minefield than traditional consoles. A bad game on the Switch is just a bad game, a bad game on Android might be harvesting tons of your personal data and sending it back to a server in China somewhere. Apple’s App Store is more tightly controlled, but even then a stinker or two slips through the cracks every once in a blue moon.

          Point is, the price for “choosing poorly” can be higher on mobile than it might be on dedicated game hardware.

    2. guy says:

      The short of it is that I think the game is a sensible move and I’d consider playing it.

      I think the error is literally that they put it in Diablo 4’s slot. Even granted that it is reasonably likely they decided Diablo 4 will be a no-show, the reason people were expecting Diablo 4 was because it was Diablo and it was in the slot where Diablo 4 goes. It is the place you put your biggest and best thing because Blizzcon’s purpose is advertising but the audience thinks of it as a concert that sells merchandise. And when the concert is Vocaloid, well, they know what a concert audience wants, so they close with their triumphant new Miku solo Sand Planet and “the crowd goes wild!” And we’re happy and so we buy one of the Miku shirts because it is a shirt and it has Miku on it and we love Miku.

      So when you’ve got nothing big and you can put either Diablo Immortal or Warcraft 3 remastered in the grand finale, you put Warcraft 3 remastered in the grand finale. The audience is riding high and they’re primed to cheer and be happy, so basically just don’t piss them off and you’ll bring it home. So you put Diablo Immortal earlier when the audience mutters that it’s not that exciting but they “know” the grand finale will bring down the house. Which is why when Vocaloid concerts have this problem they shrug and stick “World Is Mine” last and then all us old hands who have heard it over and over again are on our feet chanting “Sekai de Ichiban himesama!” Because we know the chorus to World Is Mine by heart and we are here so that we can chant along at a live Vocaloid concert. And then someone records this on their phone and they post it on youtube, and it gets hundreds of thousands of views and the entheusiasm is infectious.

      So what I guess I’d say is that if Blizzard didn’t already know this was a mistake they won’t learn, for they don’t have the core principle of Japanese corporate culture down: Customers are gods.

      And we are Shinto gods; we have odd preferences and require strange rites to appease us. In this metaphor, E3 and Blizzcon and Pax and live concerts and all the rest are rituals. And lots of companies cargo-cult the trappings and we shrug because it’s not quite right but oh well and we toss them something. And then we bless Blizzard lavishly because they get it right.

      So we’re not mad our favorite priest is beseeching us to favor their mobile game, we’re mad they fucked up the ritual so we get pissed off and curse their mobile game instead.

      If Activision-Blizzard didn’t already know this, then they won’t learn and they’ll keep cargo-culting and they’ll probably not fuck up this badly next time so they’ll think we were bluffing when we forgive them and then they’ll wonder why we’re blessing Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Heroes more and then they’ll conclude freemium is dead.

      But the reason is that Nintendo does the “Presentation of the new game” ritual dead perfect so they tell us Fire Emblem is coming to mobile and we go nuts. And then FEH has a good gatcha so we like it and we gripe a bit so Nintendo makes the free gatcha better and we are appeased and blow a hundred dollars not getting Lucina and we say “it can’t be helped”.

      Then Activision-Blizzard fucks it up worse than I have literally ever seen because even EA knows we will tolerate substituting in new Madden if “it can’t be helped” and then they wonder why someone who “dolphins” Fate Grand Order and isn’t mad about spending 100 dollars not getting Evil Zombie Joan Of Arc because a bunch of my friends list will loan me one and hey Euryale is a 3* who is dedicated to smashing male Sabers so we’re not mad about Gawain being a badass because level 70 Euryale wrecks the everloving hell out of his bossfight so we just warn people to get Euryale to level 70.

      Then they fuck up Lancelot:

      “This doesn’t work on Lancelot since he has Ruler defenses and is immune to charm because fuck you that’s why

      But to keep me intermittently dolphining they let us bring a loaner from basically anyone, so the very next line is:

      (bring JAlter)

      Also they had a paid only Thanksgiving ten-draw with a guaranteed 5* and I wish I’d gotten the special headliner but I got Alien Space Goddess Attila The Hun so I basically don’t care.

      Also no you cannot get my attention just by dangling the idea of a lottery in front of me. I light money on fire chasing the grand prize when it’s Evil Zombie Joan Of Arc and the consolation prizes are cool too. The IP might be interchangable to you but I am a polite but picky god so you bring exactly the IP i want or I just walk away and bless TYPE-MOON again because they know if it has Saber on the cover in her full battle armor looking like a total badass I will buy basically anything as long as you tell me I get Saber Lily guaranteed.

      1. guy says:

        Also this is why Marvel paid the late Stan Lee so much to spend thirty seconds on screen. Because we know Stan Lee didn’t need money. And we like his past work.

        So when he’s in a Marvel movie just for fun and he’s having the time of his life that isn’t just a trivial matter. It tells us Stan Lee thinks this movie is awesome. And while it is awesome there’s a reason the scene where Stan Lee is a bus driver and he delivers a one-liner is the moment that never fails to get cheers.

        Which is, on some level, why I think Andromeda has plot holes but that doesn’t matter. If SAM were voiced by Jennifer Hale and every line sounds like she’s having a blast, then as long as they don’t fuck up the ending again we’d be having the same kind of conversations we do about ME2. Because, you know, we’re paying to have fun. So we don’t really care about the plotholes; we argue about them for fun.

        1. MechaCrash says:

          Your metaphor wandered to and fro quite a bit, but the point did eventually get across. However, I believe I have a more concise version.

          Japanese companies have learned “don’t piss off your dedicated hardcore fans to chase a trend, because the hardcore fans are a reliable revenue stream and the trend people aren’t.” Nintendo had to learn this first hand. Sure, their “blue ocean” strategy worked great in the short term, but the idea was “instead of catering to ‘core gamers’ we’ll try to lure Grandma to the Marios.” Except that didn’t work, because Grandma moved on to other platforms, and the core gamers turned their noses up at “waggle bullshit” and left, and didn’t come back for the Wii U. (The Wii U had a lot of other problems, of course, but that was a factor.)

          1. guy says:

            You are the second person to notice I’m babbling disconnectedly and my metaphors are about Shintoism when I’m trying to explain things to Americans.

            Yeah, I’ve been having insomnia problems so I’m about 40 hours behind on sleep over the past week and I forget that I’m talking to people who haven’t read the Kokiji.

            Basically yes. “Customers are gods” is a stock phrase in Japan and when Nintendo is recovering from a screwup they basically have their CEO go on stage and tell him if he wants to have a job tomorrow he needs to turn in an Oscar-worthy performance of “a priest has screwed up and needs to get his kind but stern war goddess to stop filling the village with a million venomous snakes”. Seriously, if you want to know what that looks like watch a video where Nintendo is apologizing for a screwup and just imagine instead of suits they are in their finest priestly garmets.

            So Nintendo didn’t learn this metaphor, they learned that if their gimmick is a thing that does not allow couch multiplayer their core audience decides it’s snake plague time. So they apologize profusely and they promise their next gimmick is a thing you can carry around but also plug into your TV. And then I forgive them and I buy a WiiU because it has the Fire Emblem/SMT crossover. And obviously I know they made that game to make money, but it’s also everything I wanted out of that crossover so shut up and take my money! And that is why Nintendo frequently stumbles but always manages to recover: they actually understood why I was mad. And while lots of people aren’t interested in X, few people stay bitter about an X from Nintendo enough to refuse to buy the next X out of spite.

            You can see this in the big wave of anger about only ever having male protagonists. That wasn’t new when Ubisoft screwed up AC:Unity, it’s just that they were a bit too dismissive and that was the last straw. Meanwhile Fire Emblem had seen this coming and had gender-selectable protagonists for two games already and Lucina is basically just Chrom except female and a time traveller so people weren’t as mad at them. And then when they added both Robins to Super Smash Brothers they announced it was both and immediately made fun of Ubisoft, so everyone who was furious at Ubisoft laughed. And then Fates’s cast is split right down the middle on gender, it eliminates the last gender lock on a class archetype by letting boys be Pegasus Knights too. They’d eliminated every archetype lock restricting girls as of Awakening because they knew I was a bit exasperated but girls who wanted to have a girl self-insert avatar who wore a pretty dress and hit people with an axe were pretty angry by now and about ready to give up on Fire Emblem so Awakening has Lissa. And they’re ahead of the game on LGBT because they already have one of each of the letters in Awakening and now I’m mildly exasperated that the cool openly bisexual girl who beats monsters with her flashing swordplay and then promptly hits on the nearest female spectator in her introduction is not the lesbian romance option for no clear reason. Also gay romances obviously have no kids so I’m mildly exasperated they haven’t yet come up with some “Time bullshit!” handwave to allow you to have Kana anyways because Kana is Best Daughter/Son.

            So I think at this rate in maybe 2021 Ubisoft is going to be blindsided by furious demands they add more gay couples, and then the angry people will turn to Nintendo and say “Oh also we would like more and please add a ‘Time Bullshit!’ handwave so they get to have kids too.” And then Nintendo will listen politely and they’ll go and tell the Fire Emblem developers to make sure to mock Ubisoft in the dialogue about the ‘Time Bullshit!’ Handwave.

            And that’s why Nintendo hasn’t gone the way of Atari.

            1. Mousazz says:

              Your ramblings are very interesting to read, guy.

              1. Guy says:

                Having recovered from my breakdown, I can now summarize: there is a very, very large demographic of players who put up with things but don’t like everything about a given game. And they aren’t that loud on forums because they don’t enjoy getting into fights when they think the game is a solid 8.5, so people, including publishers, basically just assume they’ll mindlessly buy anything and their complaints can be safely ignored.

                However, Nintendo and at least until just now Blizzard have understood that just because they aren’t grumbling very loudly, that doesn’t mean they can be safely ignored. To the Board Of Directors Blizzcon is just an ad show people pay to attend. But to gamers, it’s a party. One with presents. Those presents are game advertisements, because they want to know what games Blizzard is going to sell them.

                Now, by itself, Diablo Immortal is just a dull and uninteresting present, but it’s important to get the media to cover it so it does need to go at Blizzcon. Somewhere. Like mid-lunch-hour when only the reporters are paying attention.

                Instead they gave it pride of place, making it the big present everyone had been looking forward to opening, because it’s something to do with Diablo. Diablo 4? Well, assuming they meant it when they said it wasn’t, maybe a Diablo RTS? Maybe Star Diablo like Drox Operative? It could be anything!

                And then it’s a mobile game. Now, it’s true that no one who plays PC games will buy a mob- wait no it isn’t I am literally playing a lootbox mobile game as I type this.

                So stripped of the rambling Shinto metaphors, the reason we’re so furious at them is because they put a mobile game front-and-center and then expected applause for the concept of a Diablo mobile game. Because it’s a way to make a lot of money off “whales” so of course we’d be excited. Wherapon we dolphins sigh heavily and go back to spending objectively excessive amounts of money trying to get Lucina or Ishtar. Because Fire Emblem Heroes and Fate Grand Order are level with us; they tell us the odds in exacting detail, they tell us how the odds go up on repeat spins, and they give out decent consolation prizes.

                Meanwhile Mobile Game Captain Ahab is chasing a whale ’round perdition’s flames and the whale is ignoring him because the whale wants five copies of Ishtar to max out her Noble Phantasm. Because it turns out what people actually like about lootboxes is mostly that moment of eager anticipation as the box is opened to reveal… well, probably not what you wanted but at least something nice.

                Now I am going to consider whether I’m willing to blow enough money for three ten-draws with a 1% chance of getting Ishtar. Probably not; the price point is a little steep for my tastes.

          2. guy says:

            Japanese companies have learned “don’t piss off your dedicated hardcore fans to chase a trend, because the hardcore fans are a reliable revenue stream and the trend people aren’t.” Nintendo had to learn this first hand. Sure, their “blue ocean” strategy worked great in the short term, but the idea was “instead of catering to ‘core gamers’ we’ll try to lure Grandma to the Marios.” Except that didn’t work, because Grandma moved on to other platforms, and the core gamers turned their noses up at “waggle bullshit” and left, and didn’t come back for the Wii U. (The Wii U had a lot of other problems, of course, but that was a factor.)

            So the reason I’m using Nintendo as an example and going off on a bizarre Shintoism metaphor is because “customers are gods” is the Japanese version of “the customer is always right.” And I think Nintendo’s secret is that no actually while you are correct about core gamers Nintendo actually never really cared about the “core gamers”. Nintendo’s actual target demographic is the 6-14 age range. The Wii was aimed right at them and I think it hit the mark. Grandma was a bonus and I’m not so sure that she’d turn her nose up at the Switch.

            Nintendo didn’t think core gamers were going to be interested in the WiiU in the first place. What they screwed up with the WiiU is that its neat gimmick for young kids to love and play at parties because hey it’s not very deep but everyone enjoys Super Smash Bros. only allowed one special shiny controller and not four and they didn’t just lean all the way in and have the new SMB put a mode front and center where three people fight and a fourth holds the controller and they have some points mechanics where they get to have fun dropping items and triggering environmental hazards but only every so often so it doesn’t ruin the game for the other three.

            In this Shintoism metaphor Core Gamer is one of the Eight Million Gods and he’s not nearly as important as the supreme deity Child Who Games With Friends On The Couch so he doesn’t get to have the big shrine in the center of the village, but since Shintoism is about all Eight Million Gods he gets a branch shrine and a part-time shrine maiden who makes sure it’s well-maintained and occasionally does minor rituals flawlessly, because he does give blessings sometimes and it’s cheaper to not piss him off than to hold a big grand ritual to Child Who Games With Friends On The Couch to come over and lift the curse Core Gamer has placed on the village.

            And then you go over to the West and The Customer Is GOD. And Candy Crush’s devs worshiped Busy Commuter With A Phone exclusively and that paid off for them. But when you’re the cult of Core Gamer, well, that’s a strategy with a future as long as you do the correct rites. Like the rite of Blizzcon; do it well and you are blessed greatly. Just don’t fuck it up.

            If this metaphor has lost you go play KoDP a bunch and then think of Blizzcon as a Heroquest. Then go into Orlanth and Aroka with a quester who isn’t Orlanthi and has Fair in Combat and then go pick all the options you would if you were going in with a Heroic Combat Orlanthi and you’d pulled out all the stops making preparations. So basically go try to stab Drought to death so it’ll start raining and you get a cool sword fast.

            If you are pressed for time, basically if you make the preparations I mentioned second you can sometimes successfully stab Drought to death so it’ll start raining. If you go in fat dumb and happy with the initial set this plan is exactly as incredibly terrible as it sounds. Diablo Immortal tried what Diablo 4 would have a difficult time doing, and this is the result.

  8. RCN says:

    I gave up on Blizzard when it was bought by Activision.

    Shamus says that there were two separate entities, Activision and Blizzard, but from the start I knew Activision was the dominant personality. The very first thing they did was introduce micro-transactions to WoW, a game where you already have to pay for it again every month. But the Fanboys said it was just making more revenue from those that could pay more.

    Then Starcraft 2 came and it proved Blizzard was completely incapable of doing something new. They just uplifted the late-late-90s strategy game they had made to the 2010s. Nothing more, nothing less. It was still the exact same game, but with better graphics and a few new units that could have been introduced just as effectively with more expansions to the original and new functionality that could just as easily be modded into the original. But fans argued that starcraft was already the perfect RTS, so why try anything different when they already perfected it? (If that’s the case, why make a new Starcraft game at all? Just call it Starcraft HD and make more money. Oh, wait, they’re ALSO doing that.)

    Then Diablo 3 proved for good that Blizzard didn’t have the touch anymore for games. If it wasn’t for the Diablo tag in it, people wouldn’t have given it a second glance. Real money auctionhouse? That you were REQUIRED to engage with because useable gear for you class literally almost NEVER dropped? Complete departure of the tone and themes of the originals in favor of trying to, I can only guess, lure WoW players in? No builds? No real progression other than loot? Powers that are designed more for their meme potential than actually making in-world sense? And, worst offender (especially because while other things got straightened out eventually, this is still there) ALWAYS ONLINE? You always have to wait response from the server for everything you do making the game a sluggish mess? Shamus should have shamed it at inception just as much as he deservedly shamed Simcity.

    Overwatch at least proved that Blizzard at least has potential to branch off as an animation studio, but several issues remain. They completely forgot how to balance things (balance was right along polish as the thing that defined Blizzard) and they jumped in waist-deep again into micro-transaction territory (EXPENSIVE micro-transactions, I might add) for a PAID GAME. Ushering a new age of AAA paid titles with micro-transactions because hey, if Blizzard does it, we can too, right?

    Diablo Immortal was an inevitability of Activision. They never actually allowed Blizzard to innovate, only to iterate on what was already successful.

    1. guy says:

      Well, essentially I have a very similar understanding of what actions Activision-Blizzard took but I don’t mind that Starcraft 2 was just an upgraded version of Starcraft 1 because that is what I wanted anyways. And as far as I’m concerned Starcraft 1 and Brood War are basically sixty campaign missions across two games. So, you know, Blizzard split up Starcraft 2 into three games to make more money, but the reason I wasn’t mad isn’t because I didn’t realize that, it is because when they told me they had split it into three parts so each campaign was its own game, they immediately said each campaign was 30 missions.

      So when I think of Starcraft 2, I do not think it is one game that costs $180. As far as I’m concerned it’s the Starcraft 2 trilogy. So I didn’t even blink, because to me Wings Of Liberty was one $60 game and Heart Of The Swarm was a $60 game and Legacy Of The Void was a $60 game and I preordered them at full price and I played through their campaigns, and I felt like I got my money’s worth.

      I did have some story complaints, but mostly about the execution and also the fact that Blizzard has literally never managed to introduce something new without contradicting existing lore since Brood War. Where they introduced the new Terran units and the UED, but that’s fine because last we heard of Earth it had some crazy dictatorship that basically packed everyone who would end up founding the existing human factions into FTL ships that were supposed to land in Space Australia a year’s journey away but instead they just went in a straight line for 30 years and essentially Mass Effect Andromeda If There Aren’t Any Active Spacefaring Civilizations. So who the hell knows what Earth’s been up to. And they introduced the new mechanics as being fancy UED tech and justified everything else being the same by saying they picked up a bunch of the same things. And they scrupulously avoided any ludonarrative dissonance to the point that the climatic final missions is against three factions: Protoss, Dominion, and UED. And the Dominion is big on marines and siege tanks and nukes, and the UED has medics and valkyries and goliths with the new Golith upgrade that moved them from kind of all right to my default solution for mobile AA because that is new super UED tech so the Dominion does not have any of it.

      The point here is that to me that’s the crowning capstone of Starcraft and the only reason I can’t tell you how I beat it is that I didn’t. My dad played that level religiously until he managed it, though. So Starcraft 2’s new campaign with branching paths and persistent upgrades and fancier levels is basically all I imagined the moment I saw the reveal trailer except I figured it’d be one game with shorter campaigns. And my gripes about mechanical issues is that after Wings Of Liberty they gave up on making finely tuned and enjoyable campaign maps that worked when you had air transport and so they just took away your air transports and they made any wall you weren’t supposed to go past too tall to jump. Which I hated with a firey passion because the first time I got to do an evolution mission that provided a short and incredibly fun test drive for Zergling upgrades I reflected on how they felt and I decided I liked having Zerglings that could jump cliffs more than ones that spawned three to an egg instead of two to an egg and took 1/3rd of a supply unit instead of 1/2th. So I spent my entire first playthrough swearing every time I saw a problem where if this were a jumpable cliff I could skip battering through the traditional siege tank+bunkers with marines and a firebat+missile turret Terran fortress line and just send forty zerglings pouring over this cliff and directly into the enemy’s main mineral cluster and then there are forty zerglings and twenty SCVs and the reason Raptors aren’t in multiplayer is because the Terran player would be furious. Then I won and I started a new game and I played through the evolution mission and I picked Swarmlings instead because they are just better zerglings so I can send sixty zerglings to swarm over twenty zealots for the price of forty zerglings. And if Blizzard had ended Blizzcon this year with the Starcraft 3 teaser trailer I would just yell SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

      I never played Diablo 2 because I played Depths Of Peril first and I decided that my Diablo-style franchise was going to be Depths Of Peril and I played its spinoff and then its first sequel was innovative but not quite as satisfying. Then I heard that the next game was Zombisite and it is Depths Of Peril except that the Dark Elves fucked up with necromancy again and this time instead of creating Orcs they accidentally turned zombies from the zombies in a fantasy game to the zombies in a zombie apocalypse movie. And then I asked if nonhumans could be turned into zombies and I was told that just about everything could be turned into zombies. And then I asked if Orcs couldn’t be turned into zombies because I loved that the plot of the first game was that an Orc warlord and a necromancer teamed up, and then the necromancer launched the inevitable betrayal where he kills a bunch of orcs in a sneak attack and he raises them as zombies, and I just have to imagine that when he attempted step 2 there was a long awkward pause and then the Orc warlord said, “oh, by the way I forgot to mention this, but Orcs are the result of a botched necromancy experiment on elves who weren’t quite dead yet. It made them green and aggressive and tough and fast breeding and made it impossible to raise them as zombies.” And the developer said yes of course and one of the random NPC faction types is a bunch of Orcs who are doing so well because they’re immune to the zombie plague and I stopped asking questions because I didn’t have any more questions.

      I didn’t buy Overwatch only because I’ve switched teams to Grand Strategy from FPSes, but I did play the demo and I just played Tracer because I don’t really care what it does to competitive balance I could run out around a corner and shoot people and teleport away before they retaliate all day. That is a character concept I love and Blizzard made it into an FPS character and as far as I could tell it was perfect.

      And my initial response to Diablo Immortal was basically “meh. I play Fate Grand Order and Six Ages Ride Like The Wind and those are the only two mobile games I need. And by the time it’s out I’ll be bored of Six Ages Ride Like The Wind but I hear Six Ages Lights Going Out is probably going to let me play the ancestors of the KoDP clan in a similar way to KoDP but Rituals are Heroquests but better and I’m not totally lost on whether this treasure is the best in the game or literally useless and the ending is going to be the I Fought We Won battle and we’re probably going to sacrifice to strengthen Elmal until Wakaboth The Devil kills him and then we throw in with literally everyone in the world to back Urox The Storm Bull, strongest god with the Eternal Battle rune, when he battles and defeats Wakaboth The Devil but dies too so he follows Wakaboth The Devil down into hell to meet up with all the dead gods and invent linear time and undo the fact that Orlanth killed the Sun and was surprised that it got dark oh my god now I understand why literally everyone thinks Orlanthi are hotheaded dumbasses”

      And then I heard that this was how they ended Blizzcon and I watched the video and I facepalmed and I watched the video of the guy asking if this was an out-of-season April Fools joke and then the PR guy gave literally any response other than “YEP. Okay, here’s the REAL reveal” and then played the Starcraft 3 reveal trailer, and now I’m basically waiting to see if they fuck up this hard next Blizzcon too, and if not then we never speak of Blizzcon 2018 again and I preorder Starcraft 3 on launch day, and if they do I will swear off Blizzard and then I will go make myself feel better by playing Legacy Of The Void again and grumbling that Wings Of Liberty and Heart Of The Swarm were foreshadowing Selendis being the protagonist and okay she does a pitch-perfect Vessel Of The Awakening God but I still would’ve liked it if she was the one major Khalai Protoss who Zeratul was able to free instead.

      And I assume a bunch of people are dissastisfied about Robot Doppleganger Fenix, but

      A) I think he’s cool and
      B) I never cared about WoW so I didn’t have to actually sit through the endless parade of this because when you need to keep making new raids forever eventually you run out of good ideas and then someone says “okay, let’s actually make the next major expansion about pandas instead of just maintaining this decade-long running gag about how making a Warcraft 3 faction be pandas is inherently funny”. That’s when I stopped caring enough to pay attention to the lore at all; with Illadin and Kael’thas and Arthas and Deathwing and an Old God dealt with and a Titan visiting all the plots I’d been interested in when I won The Frozen Throne had been wrapped up, and when their idea for a new grand dramatic plotline was Pandas I pretty much knew none of the later expansions would be any good
      C) Yes they did the plot where he died and came back stronger already and then they killed him again. Normally that would make me annoyed, but Fenix is named Fenix because it sounds like Phoenix. So he is the one character who can die and come back stronger forever because he is a Phoenix. He’s allowed.

      And yes I know the whole deinfest Kerrigan at the end of the first game so she can be reinfested in the next game is both a bit dumb when you put it like that and a trick they’ve pulled in WoW too much, but as far as I’m concerned Zeratul’s questline firmly established that we really needed to deinfest Kerrigan to free her from Amon’s control and then reinfest her so she could be the Queen Of Blades and the Protoss and Terrans and Zerg can launch a joint offensive against Amon. And the way this was established is that Amon spends the capstone mission of the mini-campaign taunting the Protoss that if they hadn’t killed Kerrigan they wouldn’t be rallying the tattered remaints of their great fleets and all their heroes to buy time to seal away an archive in case maybe there’s a new species later somehow and then basically take as many Zerg and Hybrids to hell with them as they can. And I still think that one mission is the single best thing about Wings Of Liberty, and while I felt Heart Of The Swarm bungled things by not making it a grand quest with help from Zeratul and Selendis dropping in and instead having Kerrigan just decide to be the Queen Of Blades again. But my proposed fix would be that you move the mission where Kerrigan goes into the pool on Zeerus to be the precondition to allow you to go to Korhal, and instead of it being about going to Zeerus to become the Primal Queen Of Blades, the MacGuffin is Protoss and Zerg dna samples from each Broodmother and each of Khalai and Dark Templar and Tal’Darim and when Kerrigan emerges from the pool she is the Hybrid Queen Of Blades.

      The reason I’m so stunned and incredulous about this isn’t that I’m surprised Activision-Blizzard wants to make a mobile game, it’s that from my perspective this is the first time the Blizzard side has decided to appeal to a particular market rather than their core games and then failed spectacularly. I probably wouldn’t ever play any Diablo mobile game, but if they hadn’t botched this so hard someone in the audience asked if it was a joke because they could not possibly have expected this to go over well I’d maybe download it and play it for a couple hours and then probably decide that Fate Grand Order is the only Gatcha Game I need. But if they’re this incompetent at PR it’s not going to occur to them that maybe they should just straight copy the way Fate Grand Order and Fire Emblem Heroes got me to “dolphin” because screw hunting dolphins we’re after a whale and we’ll chase him across the oceans and around the cape of good hope and around perditions flames before we give him up.

      And yes I was referencing something and it was a quote from Moby Dick that Khan quoted in The Wrath Of Khan. Because I think this isn’t a sign of slow rot, it is a sign that either someone slipped up or a sign that sometime last year Blizzard’s PC marketing director was replaced with Mobile Game Captain Ahab and if it’s the latter we all know how this story ends.

  9. guy says:

    Um, if you noticed I was rambling and incoherently using Shinto metaphors as though you all knew them, that is because I was up forty hours past my bedtime. I will hopefully be better enough by Saturday to explain the symbolism.

    See the Experienced Points thread for details, I’m still a little fragile so don’t ask for more details.

    The point of my long rambling Shinto metaphors was that I forgive Blizzard for not being perfect because they nail what I want so I don’t mind they screw up as long as they say “sorry, we do have to make money”

    I didn’t lose my shit over Diablo Immortal existing, I lost my shit because they gave it pride of place and then people told me that I’m not going to buy it anyways so this was not a mistake.

    Yeah no putting Diablo Immortal at the end instead of in the middle was a PR fuckup of such enormous proportions it’s made me wonder if I should even care when they announce Starcraft 3 because if they can fuck up Blizzcon this badly I don’t trust them to give me 90 excellent single player missions for $180, they will give me 10 shit custom map missions and call it a campaign and wonder why I’m upset because really the Esports are what’s important.

    The key part of the metaphor was that if the customers are the Eight Million Gods, pick a set and appease them properly and most of them will grumble your offering will be better. However in my loopy total nutcase breakdown I said I am Amaterasu-no-Okami and I am the important god and if I tell you my tea is two degrees colder than I like very politely apologize that the teamaker is meant for people who like their tea two degrees warmer and I will indulgently nod and sip my tea. If you tell me everyone likes this temperature and I will too, eventually I will go sulk in my room.

    If this sounds about the same as what I’d been saying, um, basically I was so out of if that I was yelling that I am “the great and mighty spirit Heavens Shining” and you do exactly as I say or I will leave and then you will all freeze to death because I am the Sun and you need the sun.

    I was yelling at the bartender that he couldn’t cut me off because I’m the Sun Goddess and this is the Land of the Rising Sun and I’ll tell him when I’ve had enough. Except that it was very polite because it would be beneath the dignity of Amaterasu-no-Okami to even acknowledge an insult had occurred.

    I am 90% recovered by now.

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