Diablo Immortal: From Booed to Beloved

black and white skull imageDiablo Immortal is a game that evoked a wide range of emotional responses – right from the start. When it was first announced, at BlizzCon 2018, the crowd viewed the game in a very negative way. Over time, people changed their mind about the game and many are looking forward to its official launch on June 2, 2022. 

How did Diablo Immortal go from booed to beloved? To fully understand what changed, you need a little bit of history. At the time, the Diablo community was extremely hopeful that the event would include the announcement of Diablo IV. Rumors started spreading about what what else might be announced.

On October 17, 2018, preceding BlizzCon, Blizzard wrote a post titled “Diablo at Blizzcon 2018”. It stated: “BlizzCon 2018 is almost here and we’ve seen a lot of rumors flying around about our plans for the show.” It continued, “We know what many of you are hoping for and we can only say that ‘good things come to those who wait,’ but evil things often take longer.”

The first Diablo panel was immediately after the opening of BlizzCon 2018. The focus was on a brand new game – Diablo Immortal. There was video of gameplay and a cinematic. Wyatt Cheng was the person who described where Diablo Immortal fits within the Diablo series of games.

A Q&A followed. The most significant part was a question by Lord Fluffy, who asked if there were any plans to make Diablo Immortal playable on PC – or will it be strictly mobile forever. Wyatt Chang responded, “The current plan is to be on mobile, both android and iOS. We don’t have any plans at the moment to do PC.”

That’s when the booing started.

I remember doing a ConBeforeThe Storm podcast with a mixed group of people (each focused on a specific Blizzard game) to talk about what was released. In short, as one of the Diablo-focused people on the podcast, I had to explain why PC players were so upset. They only played on PC, and the majority of them had no interest in mobile gaming. My impression was that this group was feeling very left out.

There was a Technical Alpha of the game in 2020, the Diablo Immortal Closed Alpha was announced in April of 2021. It was for Android – only, and included players from South Korea and Japan, and a few members of the Diablo community. It introduced the Crusader class, new zones and dungeons, and more.

This was the turning point where (at least some) of the disgruntled PC players started to change their mind about Diablo Immortal. The game had evolved into a robust world that felt like a Diablo game. Interest in the mobile game was rising, but there were still some PC players that didn’t want to play it on mobile.

All of this changed on April 25, 2022. There was an announcement video on YouTube about Diablo Immortal. I was among those sitting in the chat before the announcement started, watching people excitedly ask each other what class they were going to play. There was a push to remove the chatters who were asking for the game to be on PC. 

The video started, and it was revealed that Diablo Immortal would not only be on mobile, but also playable on PC. This was completely unexpected, and a wonderful way to make the PC players to feel included. As a result, a sizable portion of the Diablo community is super excited about a game that (some of them) found undesirable when it was announced.

Diablo Immortal, Diversity, and Disability

Diablo Immortal is currently in Closed Alpha. I was fortunate enough to have been given access to this wonderful, creepy, addition to the Diablo game series. There were two things that stood out immediately. This game includes more diversity in character options than previous games. It also provided me, a person with physical disabilities, with a game that feels very accessible.

This version of the Closed Alpha focuses on the newly added Crusader class. The classes that were released in the Technical Alpha are still an option, but it appears that many players picked the Crusader this time around.

In Diablo Immortal, players pick a class and can choose to be either male or female. They then can decide what their character will look like based on three options: Black, White, or Asian. Each version of the female Crusader has scars across their faces (some more subtle than others). These are battle-hardened women who have seen some things and lived to fight another day.

This is noteworthy because it is the only video game I have played where all versions of the female character for a specific class have scars. In general, female characters in video games are designed to be pretty, and often look younger than the male version of the same class.

The other cool thing is that the default option was Black. The Diablo Twitter account featured the female Black Crusader in a video shortly before the Closed Alpha started. I chose to play as the Crusader I saw in that video because, to me, and to the Diablo team, she is the Crusader.

In Diablo III, players also have the option of playing a male or female character for whatever class they pick. There is only one race option per class. Crusaders in Diablo III are White; Wizards are Asian; Witch Doctors have dark skin, and a quick internet search reveals discussions about whether or not that class its portrayed in a racist way. Diablo Immortal provides an improvement by giving three customization options for each class.

Another great thing about Diablo Immortal is that it is very accessible. It is a mobile game, which gives players more options about how and where they play. My disabilities include chronic illnesses that often cause pain and exhaustion. It would be possible for me to play Diablo Immortal while I’m lying down and waiting for my medications to kick in. Mobile games give me the ability to play without having my hands hurt when I’m done.

I’ve noticed that Diablo Immortal has short quest lines (at least at the start) which are easier for people like me to finish in one go. There doesn’t seem to be a penalty for pausing after failing to kill a boss in a dungeon. The game lets you take a break when you need to, and starts you where you left off.