The article on ‘How Diablo IV and Overwatch 2 Are Meant To Distract From The Ongoing Blizzard Controversy’ was available a week earlier through the Gamerbraves Newsletter. Sign up for free to gain access to more articles about news and trends in the gaming industry and community.
At the Xbox Showcase it was announced that Overwatch 2 will be released free-to-play this October, and if that’s not enough Diablo IV is launching in 2023 with signs up for the beta launching last week.
What great news! Two of Blizzard’s most popular IPs coming out soon after years of delay. Well, at least it would be if it wasn’t for the fact that these were announced in the very same week that the much controversial “out of season April Fools Joke” Diablo Immortal became the lowest user-rated game on Metacritic, currently sitting at a measly 0.5 of out 10.
Now I usually don’t pay attention to the easily manipulated user-related scores, but then you realize Diablo Immortal asks you to spend an estimated $110,000 or ten years to get enough in-game currency to fully max out your character. Netizens have been accusing it of being everything gamers were afraid it was going to be when it was first poorly announced at Blizzcon 2018: a money-grubbing mobile whaling boat.
But it’s ok because we have Diablo IV, and even just yesterday Blizzard promised that it won’t have the same monetization scheme that Immortal does. Isn’t that nice of them?
This has been a trend Activision Blizzard has been following over the past few years since Diablo Immortal was revealed. Every time they fall under the fire of the public eye, Blizzard tries to shield themselves from controversy under the promise of Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV, the two big-name releases they have left.
It’s a trend that goes right back to both games’ initial reveal at Blizzcon 2019. This was just one year after the fallout of Diablo Immortal’s reveal and a few months after the Blitzchung scandal where Blizzard banned a Hearthstone player and took away their prize money all for his Pro Hong Kong statements. For fans, it felt like any good news surrounding Diablo IV only followed on from bad news about Immortal.
Back then it almost worked. They were making games people actually wanted. The then Blizzard CEO J. Allen Brack gave a half-hearted non-apology about Blitzchung, and for many fans that was enough. It was ok to like Blizzard again and enjoy Tracer’s butt guilt-free.
That became a lot harder when Activision Blizzard was sued and faced protests for sexual harassment charges, allegedly caused a woman to commit suicide and the fact that their CEO Bobby Kotick not only knew about these issues for years but protected known abusers and threatened to have an assistant killed.
Now of course we’re not saying the company created two triple-A video games out of the aether just to look better. It’s certainly an interesting coincidence though. Every time Activision Blizzard comes under fire, they always got an exciting new piece of gaming news to counter the controversy.
This can best be seen in their failed efforts to look ‘progressive’ in the midst of the outrage. For example, a report found that Activision attempting to stop subsidiary Raven Software from unionizing via threats, firings, and transfers.
How did Activision respond? They released a Diversity Space Tool, that is meant to show unconscious bias when creating characters and plots in games.
This ended up backfiring as you can’t really quantify what makes a person “diverse” and many minority groups tend to not like their identities being turned into quantifiable points but that’s beside the point. It really exists because love it or hate it, it’s a distraction from more serious matters. No different from renaming McCree to make up for years of office harassment.
The world has certainly become cold around Blizzard. They were once such as beloved studio, the makers of some of the industry’s best games: Diablo, Warcraft, Overwatch. They want you to remember them that way because the more you remember their great games, the more you don’t think about their recent scandals.
And unfortunately, this is also why this strategy tends to work so well. For every armchair analyst decrying Blizzard’s actions, there are likely five more fans excited for any new information about their most anticipated upcoming games.
The best we can do is not let Blizzard’s recent scandals be forgotten in the hype for their new games. As good as Overwatch and Diablo could be, they shouldn’t hide the fires that Blizzard is currently trying to put out.