In case you haven’t been paying attention to all the post-BlizzCon news the past week or so, Blizzard announced an upcoming Diablo game for mobile phones which caused a lot more harm than good. Gaming fans are mad and feel like it’s a betrayal, while game journalists and the media are championing the idea while also belittling their audience.
Which begs the real question: why would Activision Blizzard go ahead with a mobile version of a Diablo game if it’s going to cause this much backlash? Simple: they get more money out of it and they get more people playing their legacy IP too. In theory, everybody wins. In practice? Well, we won’t know until the game is out and how the reception for it is post-launch (give or take 3 months).
Games like Diablo Eternal are being spearheaded on mobile, and while it’s alright to be very, VERY sceptical about this notion, two factors come into play here.
#1. Mobile Gaming Is Still Big. Really, REALLY Big.
Newzoo recently stated that the mobile gaming market revenue will reach approximately $63.2 billion by the end of 2018. Console game sales wished they had those numbers. Mobile games revenue will only continue to grow, and it is even expected to account for an unbelievable 52 percent of the global games industry revenue by 2021.
In the span of a decade, mobile gaming will have grown from the smallest segment in 2012 to a 100-billion-dollar industry in 2021. Remarkably, the rise of mobile gaming has not significantly cannibalized revenues from PC or console gaming markets. In the coming years, mobile game revenue growth will continue to outpace the overall games market, growing to $106.4 billion in 2021.
So what the heck does this all mean? Simple: as long as there’s money to be made from mobile games thanks to casual and hardcore gamers, publishers will put two and two together and do their best to bring in mothership franchises into the mobile light.
More casual players for your spin-off game equals possible converts. And if you convert more of them into your mothership titles, that means more people actually finding out that there’s more to be had from a console/PC game than a mobile game that relies on portable-friendly and simple mechanics.
Sure, there’s a danger that people may just stick to the simple games because at the end of the day, we can be thrifty. Maybe some of us don’t want to spend US$60 for a full-blown game that may disappoint us. But with the right initiative and push, you’ll have your Diablo Immortal player graduating to a loot-hoarding Nephilim Rift-raiding hardcore player. He/she just needs the right kind of friends to get coaxed into the finer things in life.
We’ve already seen this happening to famous RPG brands like Final Fantasy, Tales of series, and even Nintendo’s first-party titles. Mobile game spin-offs are dime a dozen and are usually designed well within its F2P constraints. Why should this be different for the Diablo franchise? As long as it’s well-made and has long-term appeal beyond a year or two, people will jump on board as long as they keep an open mind.
And when Blizzard is finally done with its other new Diablo project, people new and old are going to jump on board. 10 bucks say that these new folks are the result of Diablo Immortal staying online.
#2. The “Experiment” Already Worked
Fire Emblem is quite a hardcore Nintendo brand: it’s a fun strategy RPG where permadeath is real and character-shipping is even a huge focus (especially in Fire Emblem: Awakening). So to see a Fire Emblem game made into a mobile strategy title might irk some folks, but here are some numbers that may surprise you concerning Fire Emblem Heroes (via Sensor Tower Store Intelligence):
- Fire Emblem Heroes has grossed an estimated $452 million worldwide since its release back in early 2017.
- The mobile game has netted Nintendo nearly US$200 million so far in 2018. Last month, it added another US$12.2 million to that sum.
- Fire Emblem Heroes revenue was up slightly month-over-month, posting a 3.8 percent increase from September’s estimated $16.8 million gross. However, year-over-year revenue compared to October 2017 was down 3.8 percent from approximately $18 million.
So how did Fire Emblem Heroes earn all of this? That’s easy: it did so by being an actual game that isn’t being barricaded by paywalls. The strategy RPG action here is fun-yet-simplified, and its F2P mechanics are fair. The gacha heroes are attractive enough to justify people spending money on the system. And the free resources you get arrive in plentiful droves; kinda like Dragalia Lost.
The heroes you already earn through random rolls with your free money are competent and decent enough to get you through most of the game. Even so, there are a ton of guides on Reddit to help you through the game if you’re stuck with 3-Star heroes. Essentially the game’s community is pretty rich and are generally supportive of the game.
Now, wouldn’t Blizzard and Activision want that sort of money and fanfare? Especially when it means more revenue to make more games its player base wants like oh say another Diablo game exclusively for the PC?
The Bottom Line
Think about it this way: wouldn’t you want MORE people jumping from your mobile spin-off game to the real deal so that more people can keep your favourite game alive? Granted, announcing Diablo Immortal in a hardcore gaming festival and leaving your lead dev out there to the wolves during BlizzCon 2018 opening day may not be a wise decision.
And yes, I did mention earlier on that it’s alright to be sceptical about the mobile transition, especially during the post-launch part. Let’s not forget that the Activision half of Activision-Blizzard is known for money-grubbing stunts like these:
Still, at the end of the day, I do want to be in a world where console, PC, and mobile gaming can work hand-in-hand. I like to be in a world where we can have fair practices in F2P games and microtransactions that can coincide with games that benefit from it.
I believe the first step to this is to make Diablo Immortal what it is: a side game that can bring in newbies into the action RPG fold on their phones that can give them the opportunity to try more hardcore action RPG fares in the future.
Gamers: As a Diablo fan/action RPG fan like myself, let’s welcome Diablo Immortal with open arms while also being cautiously optimistic about it.
Activision-Blizzard & Netease: Let your actions dictate how you will be judged in the next few years. If you do right by us, we’ll shower it with praises and memes aplenty.