Blizzcon 2019: Blizzard Redeemed?
Remember Blizzcon 2018? Blizzard was kind of teasing Diablo 4, but just announced a mobile Diablo, developed by a Chinese studio, which mostly releases free-to-play titles. Needless to say that the community wasn't happy. I was really surprised that Blizzard was doing this, they should know how critical their customers are, just look back at 2008, when Diablo 3 was announced: the last update in the franchise was released in 2001 (Diablo II: Lord of Destruction) and the action-RPG genre was going through some sort of dry spell during that period (Hellgate London was released during that period, even though I really loved it, unfourtunately it didn't really catch on). When Diablo 3 was first announced, fans were incredibly happy, but that excitement didn't last long, soon after people were complaining about the game looking too cartoonish. Nowadays the action-RPG genre is strong and typical Diablo mechanics like looting also spread to other genres, so in my opinion, people aren't as hungry for a new Diablo, as they were back in the day.
Considering that, it is very surprising that Blizzard announced a mobile Diablo. It went bad, really bad, in fact so bad, that one of the poor guys presenting Diablo Immortal dropped the infamous line "don't you guys have phones", which became a meme. Blizzard should have known what they were putting themselves into and I think they did. Allen Adham, one of Blizzards co-founders said, that this kind of reaction was anticipated, but "not to this degree". I think that they also anticipated it to this degree, but back then they just couldn't show Diablo 4. Blizzard is known to make very polished games, and I assume that one year ago, Diablo 4 wasn't in a state to be revealed to the public. Instead, they were showing the next best thing in their portfolio, which unfortunately was a mobile game. I'm not sure, if just announcing Diablo 4 would have been the better option, since there was no real new game announced (only a remastered version of Warcraft 3), and fans would have preferred to see an unpolished game instead of a mobile one.
So this year it was all about making up for last year. And oh boy, did they make up for last year: Not only was Diablo 4 announced, also Overwatch 2 was announced, a new expansion for World of Warcraft and Hearthstone gets a new expansion.
Overwatch 2 will offer PvE and will be integrated with its predecessor, meaning Overwatch is not going to die because of Overwatch. The new expansion for World of Warcraft will be called "Shadowlands" and will open a new chapter in WoW's story. Hearthstone will get an autobattler.
While this is all quite nice, Diablo 4 is in my opinion the biggest news. It seems like Blizzard is creating a successor to Diablo 2, not Diablo 3. Don't get me wrong, I liked Diablo 3 and played it quite a bit, but it did digress a lot from Diablo 2 and unfortunately not all the changes were an improvement. So far three character classes were announced: Barbarian, Sorceress and Druid and Runewords will be back (in my opinion there are such a brilliant idea, that I don't understand, why they were not picked up by more developers). The game world will be much bigger and it will be a shared world, similar to Destiny. Because of that there also will be horses, to traverse it faster. Skill trees will also have a comeback. And just look at the gameplay footage, it screems "Diablo 2" in every pixel!
In my opinion Blizzard knew that last year's Blizzcon was a borderline disaster and now they made up for it big time. I for one am very happy that Diablo 4 was announced and I'm looking forward to it. The only downside is, that there is no release date yet, knowing how much time Blizzard spends on polishing, it could be awhile until it gets released. A Blizzard designer said that "it won't be released soon, not even Blizzard soon", so it could be a couple of years, until it is finally out. But personally I prefer to wait longer for a game and everything works well, instead of it being a buggy mess.