What Mobile Diablo is going to be like

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/11/21/what-mobile-diablo-is-going-to.html

The mobile games market is bifurcated into big games companies that are chasing after millions of players with games that make you miserable unless you buy lots and lots of IAPs… and small game companies that are interested in making games that are fun to play for a much smaller market of players who are willing to buy the game outright.

I have a simple approach: I don’t download from the first kind of game company if I can possibly avoid it. I have not experienced any kind of shortage of fun games to play.


I have been a life long Blizzard devotee. And I know exactly when things began to change for the worse with them…2008 Vivendi/Activision merger. You just knew that wouldn’t be good for them in the long term.

Wrath of the Lich King was the peak of WoW which has been their flagship game since its release…and they have never gotten that spark back in the WoW expansions since. Every other game is just a mixed bag in crowded marketplaces. The decision to bring another mobile game in and use Diable for the skin is reallynot a good one.

The Blizzard of old “gamers making games for gamers” is gone…they are far more corporatized now than ever before.


though it’s hard to care much when the anger at corporate greed seems inseparable from the other hatreds

Because the positions being articulated are:
“Crass consumerism for everyone - even marginalized people! Everyone has a right to pay us for shitty entertainment.”
“this is so bad. gamer’s rise up. (agaisnt women too)”

Is it just impossible for there to ever be a gamer-friendly left analysis anymore? Has it gone that far? Maybe I’m behind the times.

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Blizzard became just another megacorp developer when the original team left after Diablo II. I haven’t bought anything from them since. The magic was gone.


God, I really miss Offworld :frowning_face:


from that linked tweet:

People that bash on mobile gaming…

This person’s sample population is twitter I take it? I don’t really see folks en masse just gatekeeping-style bashing mobile gaming online. It’s always in relation to pay to win type money grabs or decrying the ads only/can’t buy it model. But I don’t browse twitter.

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Oh FFS, for your own sanity don’t look at the Twitter conversation that followed this.

That’s a pretty reasonable observation. The vast majority of the people that I hear complain about mobile games either don’t play them, or they are hypocrites that accuse all mobile games of being trash, but then play things like Pokemon Go, and “companion” games to things like Titanfall.

A bunch of them are bad, a bunch of them are good but would be much better with a dedicated input device, and some of them are quite brilliant. That has less to do with the platform, and more to do with the fact that there are just so fucking many of them. The PS2, best selling console of all time, had 3,874 official releases and I absolutely defy anyone to tell me that a whole lot of them weren’t hot garbage, and that if things like in-game purchases had existed, they wouldn’t have been there.

For that matter, that criticism doesn’t hold water–I’ve played a bunch of very mainstream, very macho, heavily hyped AAA games that continuously assaulted me with the “lure” of “pay to win” stuff. Ubisoft is among the worst about this, some games you can just buy all, or at least a significant portion, of all the collectible things in the game.

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Well it obviously depends on where you look, and places where I see it such as Twitter and Reddit are pretty toxic all around, but there is definitely a strong negative bias among men toward within a certain age range that I’ve witnessed personally.

Even before that - they shut down Blizzard North (the Diablo guys) in 2005. There seemed to be a trajectory as they got bigger - I’m not sure how much the merger actually impacted things.

Yeah, the shutting down of Blizzard North and the loss of that team was a big mess. (Not that it was entirely Blizzard South’s fault - the management of Blizzard North leaving rather precipitated it.) Friends of mine were part of the original team at Blizzard North, so when they left (or rather, the company they worked for ceased to exist, and they declined to relocate to Southern California to be part of that company), I lost a lot of interest. But it has changed quite a bit, and not just because of lost talent.
Originally, according to what I’ve been told by the people who were there, the companies (North and South) were pretty much ignored by their corporate parent. Which was great for them - they got payroll money and a lot of freedom to do what they wanted. Early successes gave them even more freedom to do what they wanted, and only what they wanted, a pretty rare freedom in the game industry. But by the time they started doing WoW, the games got so big and expensive that the amount of money they have to bring in to keep afloat got to be pretty enormous. So that’s changed the company culture a lot, and made them pretty similar to other studios.


I may be the odd person out, but I prefer to just play games by myself. I like the stand alone campaigns of Diablo and Starcraft. I’d pay for a mobile stand alone campaign of Diablo. But I just don’t need to pay with others when all I was is casual game play.

What I’d be willing to pay is the question.


But that was specifically one team dedicated to a single IP. The other IPs were still awesome and WoW really changed things and even SC2 was an amazing leap back into the RTS field.

But since Wrath for WoW and the SC2 three titles there have been 3 distinctly new IPs for the in Hots, Hearthstone, and Overwatch. All really good titles but not the juggernaut that Diablo, WoW, and Starcraft were.

One could argue it’s that there are also a lot of other awesome titles out there. Between 3 viable platforms, plus PC and Mobile…there is only so much market share to go around.

But for me it’s that Blizzard has really changed what they were about. Top notch gaming before 2010. And post 2010 is about profits.

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If you’re a civ fan the vi port to mobile fits this need. I’m prob killing my eyes playing it on a 5s but if you have something larger I’d say it’s worth the $20

I think something snapped in their brains when Hearthstone came out. It was developed by a small team in a small amount of time and then they just had to open up their sacks and catch the money raining down on them.

Diablo 3 was a blockbuster game years in the making with a massive team behind it. In the end it sold 30M copies probably at a variety of price points, but 12M in the first year at say $60 each is $720M. Pretty good, right?

Hearthstone makes them $400M a year and it was made by 3 people who were accidentally locked in the basement over a weekend (this is a slight exaggeration).

Makes you re-evaluate your worldview.


So much this.

Hearthstone was so cheap to make (relative to their other games) and makes so much more money and is so much more accessible to a larger player base AND they can easily make it work for casuals and hardcore elitists alike without much comingling those pools too badly.

It was very different for them.

As for WoW. Honestly. The lich king was the culmination of the perfect evil villain for everyone to fight. I think they used him too soon and should have maybe waited a couple more xpacs to trot that story line out. I just think the stories since Wrath haven’t been as rewarding or interesting.

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It wasn’t quite so cut-and-dried as that - both North and South did some work and feedback on the other’s games. And they lost a source of creativity that would have contributed more than Diablo to the company (North wasn’t just working on Diablo 3 when they got axed). But yeah, it’s largely a post-WoW phenomenon, as that’s when they started spending crazy amounts of money developing games. (The Diablo, Warcraft and Starcraft series were made with teams that are pretty small by contemporary standards.) When the amount of money you need to bring in just to stay afloat increases by orders of magnitude, it changes things.

The return-on-investment comparison between the two games is even more extreme than that. D3 was playable, albeit not entirely finished when Blizzard North got shut down in 2005. Blizzard South threw out everything they did and started from scratch (even if they eventually implemented some elements of the original design). So it was in development for the better part of 13 years. I don’t think it ever sold for much more than $40, and every retail copy had the retailer’s cut, distributor’s share and manufacturing costs taken out as well (console versions also have the licensing fee), so about half the retail price went to Blizzard. The marketing budget must have been significant as well. Whereas Hearthstone is entirely through their own digital distribution service, so they don’t have to share revenue with anyone.
Anything close to AAA single-player game development generally isn’t terribly profitable. This is why companies like Konami got out of AAA development in favor of things like phone games.

I’d be the first to agree that nostalgia (and the consignment to historical obscurity of a lot of midlevel to serious offenders) has done a great deal to produce the present reputation of ‘real’ games, console or PC; but I think that the focus on game quality neglects a very important point; and one where the platform is absolutely a factor:

It’s true that anyone putting out PS2 shovelware with questionably honest ad campaigns would have loved to add some reocurring revenue to the equation; but the platform didn’t allow it: most of the older consoles were either not networked or had obscure networking options that couldn’t be safely relied on for broad releases; and any attempt to actually sell stuff was plagued by relatively expensive, high-friction(especially for all the sub-18s without plastic) payment processing options. The PC side was slightly better off in terms of connectivity and not having to type your credit card number with a controller; but still limited(and easier for people to just hex edit their way to power ups and such you might otherwise try to sell them: DLC can be lazy trash and sometimes is; but if you are just selling a bit flip or the incrementing of some in game counter a relatively open platform isn’t your friend.)

Mobile games, by contrast were born on a platform where assorted microtransactions and in-app purchases are well supported, low friction; and easy (quite deliberately on the part of the platform vendors: Cook didn’t open the 2012 WWDC by telling everyone about the 400 million accounts with linked credit cards, rather than a new widget, for nothing). This is a platform where you aim to sell to addicts rather than to suckers; and that’s a much bigger and nastier difference than the fact that touchscreen emulation of proper buttons is lousy.

The marketing of bad games to suckers is hardly a bastion of integrity(and not just because it’s a species of marketing, though that too); but it’s bounded by the fact that once the sucker buys that’s it until they eventually get bored and go shopping for something new.

The marketing of games to addicts, though, is all about cultivating that unhealthy relationship in the long term; and rather than being finished with them when they install the game that’s when you are just starting; and the more effective you are at warping their interactions to fit your purposes the greater the gains, up to the limits of what they have to lose.

None of this is to say that PC and console games, now that they do commonly have reliable internet connections and payment mechanisms, aren’t exploring these opportunities; or to deny that there are mobile games that don’t do this; but the mixture of fear and loathing reserved for mobile games(along with massive player bases, of course) seems to me to be much more fundamentally about this than about mobile being ‘unserious’ or touchscreen buttons sucking or whatever(consider the instance of Nintendo, which has a reputation for being somewhat kiddie focused; but is otherwise vastly better regarded than most other players in mobile gaming; and which has been pretty steadfast in remaining with the ‘classic game’ model of fairly expensive discrete purchases, with some limited exceptions through joint ventures).

There’s a big difference between ‘bad game’ as embodied by Superman 64; and ‘bad game’ as a candy coated casino lurking in your pocket and doing its best to poke the same buttons.


plus…as I recall they gave D3 away for free multiple times. I got it with a WoW pac purchase…and it was offered again with the annual pass. Or maybe it was with only one of those.

I never would have purchased it otherwise…I am not a hack n slash game fan.

point is…they had to give it away for free to get people to “buy” it.


Maybe I am old fashioned. The only games I like to play on my phone are brainy ones that do not kill my battery. Wordfeud, Japanese Dungeon.

For more videogamey games I see no reason not to continue rocking my 3DS and PSVita. Lots of games there I have not played much yet.