Blizzard is facing an unprecedented backlash after it ended its BlizzCon opening ceremony with the announcement of a Diablo mobile game.
Diablo Immortal is a brand new Diablo game set in the Diablo universe and exclusive to mobiles. It's developed by Blizzard in partnership with Chinese video game company NetEase.
The backlash kicked off on social media and websites such as reddit as soon as the announcement was made, with universal criticism of the game and Blizzard from those who were watching online.
But there has also been an outcry at BlizzCon itself, where fans complained about the Diablo mobile game being used as the big finish to an event that charged hundreds of dollars for a ticket.
If there's a focal point for the backlash, then it is a fan who asked Blizzard developers whether Diablo Immortal was "an out of season April Fools' joke" during a Q&A session on mic, on stream and in a crowd of hundreds.
A recording of this awkward exchange has gone viral on social media, and the Diablo community has pounced upon it. r/diablo is currently packed with comments from angry Diablo fans who are hitting out at Blizzard over the existence of Diablo Immortal and the nature of its reveal, and some have accused the game of being a "reskin" of another NetEase mobile game called Crusaders of Light. The video, below, is being used to point out both games have remarkably similar user interfaces.
On YouTube, Blizzard's official cinematic trailer for Diablo Immortal has been "disliked" 184,000 times at the time of publication (expect this number to rise). While it's got some way to matching the 3.7m dislikes the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare reveal trailer suffered, the Diablo Immortal video is off to a very bad start indeed.
The exact same trailer has been re-uploaded to the official Diablo YouTube channel, but left "unlisted". Of course this has been noticed - and met with a similar reaction both in terms of dislikes and comments.
What appears to be at the root of the uproar is a mismanagement of expectations. Ahead of BlizzCon, Blizzard confirmed "multiple Diablo projects" were in the works and "we may have some things to show you later this year".
Later, in a post on the Diablo website, Blizzard tempered speculation by saying: "While we won't be ready to announce all of our projects, we do intend to share some Diablo-related news with you at the show."
Fans had hoped Blizzard would use BlizzCon to reveal everything from a Diablo remaster to Diablo 4. Most hadn't considered a Diablo mobile game built by a third-party developer.
And then there was the nature of the reveal itself, which was broadcast to Blizzard's most hardcore fans and came at the end of the much-hyped opening ceremony. The timing and placement of the reveal rekindled memories of EA's catastrophic announcement of Command & Conquer mobile game Rivals on-stage during a big live event at E3 in June. In hindsight, ending on the Warcraft 3 remaster might have gone down better - or perhaps even saving the reveal of Diablo Immortal for an event in Asia, the game's target market.
Meanwhile, the BlizzCon attendee who asked the April Fools' question has faced criticism himself for publicly embarrassing two Blizzard developers who will have had little to do with the decision to build the Diablo mobile game in the first place.
"I legit wasnt [sic] certain of my question until I stood at the mic," the fan, who goes by the name Dontinquire online, said in a post on reddit.
"I really wanted to say something poignant but pg. I had a lot of other asshole questions in mind. The one I picked sounded best in my head and I knew millions of people would hear it.
"A troll wouldn't have had the response I've gotten on social media. It's obvious I am a true fan of blizzard and just really disappointed."
Dontinquire then defended his actions, responding to concern for Wyatt Cheng, principle designer on Diablo and one of the developers who had to respond to the April Fools' question live on-stage.
"I absolutely feel terrible for Wyatt," Dontinquire said in another post on reddit. "I think he does an excellent job. The issue is that in a large organization, every team member represents the business. I don't want to humiliate any individual developers. I'm a hardcore Blizzard fan for over 20 years. I was just so incredibly disappointed by the way Diablo fans have been treated on all fronts.
"This game should be cancelled and Blizzard should be ashamed of it."
The upshot of all this is Blizzard now faces an uphill challenge convincing its fans to give Diablo Immortal a chance. Given the vociferousness of the reaction, it may be an insurmountable one.