Diablo Immortal’s announcement at BlizzCon did not go down well with a large section of Blizzard’s fanbase. And though the outrage is something that is a bit of an overreaction, it’s not completely misplaced either. It was a poorly handled, poorly timed announcement for a mobile-exclusive game in what has historically been a PC-exclusive franchise. Dissatisfaction from the fans, then, isn’t something that is hard to sympathize with.
But as it turns out, originally, the game reportedly wasn’t even meant for global audiences. As per a report on Kotaku, soon after Diablo partnered with NetEase for the publishing of Diablo 3 in China, they decided to extend that working relationship. Owing to the high demand of a mobile Diablo game by Chinese audiences, Blizzard decided to work in conjunction with NetEase to start a new project based on those demands, which went on to become Diablo Immortal.
And their original plan, according to the report, was to release it in China only. “Essentially it exists because we’ve heard that China really wants it. It is really for China,” a developer working at Blizzard (who remained anonymous) told Kotaku, being one of three developers who confirmed that Diablo Immortal was originally going to be made available exclusively to Chinese audiences.
Another large part of the reason for that was that Blizzard felt the Chinese market would be a good place to test the game before they released it in the west, owing to what an anonymous Blizzard employee said is a significantly lower bar for quality in the nation. “The quality bar in the Chinese market, especially for framerate, is extremely low,” they said. “You can release something that’d be considered alpha footage here and it’d be a finished game there.”
Eventually, Blizzard did end up deciding that they would polish up the game and just release it worldwide in one go. As per the report, Blizzard were asked to comment, but though they did say that the game was being made for a global audience right now, they did not talk about what the original plan for it had been. “One of our core values is ‘think globally’ and our history has shown that we strive to make our games in as many languages as possible so more players can enjoy them,” a Blizzard spokesperson told Kotaku. “With that in mind, we quickly knew that we wanted to bring Diablo Immortal to the global audience.”
The Diablo franchise is in a state of flux, which is a massive, massive understatement. Even barring the entire drama surrounding Immortal, other new information also emerged from the Kotaku report that suggested that Diablo 3 had a second expansion pack in development, which got cancelled due to a lack of confidence in the game. Additionally, as per the report, Diablo 4 was initially being envisioned as a third person Dark Souls-like RPG, before it, too, got cancelled. Apparently, in its current phase of rebooted development, it’s going to, among other things, try and include Destiny-like social features and light MMO elements.