Blizzard hasn’t had the best few years. While the company can list some successes, such as the decently perceived Overwatch 2 tests and the launch of the legacy version of World of Warcraft, in recent times, it’s not considered to be in its heyday. The massive harassment scandal that surfaced last year, oddly political and controversial statements and activities regarding China, losing the position of the MMORPG market leader to Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV, or the “Do you guys not have phones?” remark made by Wyatt Cheng (DI’s game director) when the public didn’t react positively to the reveal of Diablo Immortal, were ones of many mishaps this industry giant had to deal with.
Yeah, Diablo Immortal. A F2P mobile game made by Blizzard in the world of Diablo, their legendary hack & slash series, was quite frowned upon by pretty much all of the stakeholders – fans, other industry professionals, the press, since the beginning. Of course, the game has a lot of problems, such as an unpolished PC port or the infamous harsh monetization policies. Yet, despite that, Blizzard considers the game a success, as it surpassed 30 million downloads and brought more or $100 million in sales during the first two months of the game being on the market. The title also has a decent 3.8/5 rating on Google Play Store – a lot of these reviews are still probably lowering the overall factual score.
This article was primarily written about the methods Blizzard could’ve used to have the public receive the game better. However, taking into consideration how well the game managed in the market, we’ll talk about 3 main factors why it did so well.
A very stable business focus
Heaps of people who play games, and those who make games sometimes too, treat games almost exclusively as a source of fun experiences, a gratifying pastime, whatnot. However, Blizzard are a company. Two primary goals of a company, as per microeconomics are:
- to increase profit,
- to reduce costs.
Thinking of it, making Diablo for mobile platforms was a great business decision. One of the main reasons how companies can realise these two goals mentioned above is by diversifying their portfolio of products and income sources. Blizzard, of course, has at least a couple of them, however the creation of DI was an attempt to introduce a huge franchise of theirs into a very lucrative world of mobile gaming. In spite of the backlash they faced after revealing the title to the public, they knew that this idea could bring a lot of cash. Also, as they already had some income sources established and have been working on new ones, often by expanding their already existing franchises, they also knew that a possible failure of DI would’ve been diminished in the greater scope of things.
What they really nailed, though, was upholding the monetisation policy. I reckon being a community manager for the title must be quite a hellish experience, as the community practically begs for lowering prices and increasing the chances of having good drops and whatnot and it all being most likely “thanked for and being taken into consideration.”. DI is not a labour of love, it isn’t even primarily meant to provide fun. It is meant to earn money and it does it bloody well. People at Blizzard have most likely already been testing multiple monetisation strategies in order to crank the numbers as high as possible while maintaining a healthy playerbase. This is how stuff works in mobile titles – you can probably kick the monetisation features up a notch or have some new ones, you’ll face some backlash and people, most of the time, will probably buy the stuff anyways. However, there are also two other reasons why this worked so well.
Barely any competition
Hack & slash games don’t have a huge presence on the mobile games market. There are a couple of nice old titles that could be considered as games close in the design sense to DI, like Quadropus Rampage or Soul Knight. Then there are big gacha titles like Genshin Impact or Honkai Impact 3rd. There are also some MOBA games that provide a bit of a similar experience, like Arena of Valor.
However, there’s nothing that competes with DI. Blizzard also managed to use this very well-known IP to aid with effective user acquisition campaigns. It was a killer combo.
We also kinda need to talk about Path of Exile. This F2P game, often praised for its gameplay, is what people tend to play on PCs when they feel like going for a nice hack & slash title. PoE is often preferred to the mainline Diablo titles. However, there’s no PoE on mobile devices. The devs currently work on this version of the game and we can’t say whether it will be any good when it rolls out. And pretty much nobody knows when this will happen.
People play DI on mobiles, as they are either not aware of some titles that may scratch the same itch, are not interested in games that are only remotely similar to DI and because the Diablo-killer isn’t present on the platform. What about other games? Can’t people play Asphalt 9, some Angry Birds or Brawl Stars? They can, however, choose not to, as…
It’s a pretty good, both from the gameplay and sales points of view, game
I can’t stress enough that marketing starts even before you create the GDD. Blizzard knows this and they chose a game that:
- occupies an underrepresented niche,
- is easily available, as it’s a F2P mobile title,
- must have a strong gameplay loop, and, most importantly,
- is GOOD.
Let’s be honest – if the game was bad, people wouldn’t waste their time on it. I mentioned that the score on the app store probably doesn’t reflect the actual quality of the game, as it was review-bombed shortly after the release. So while 3.8/5 doesn’t look very impressive on paper, even though it’s merely speculation, I think the actual score would probably be in the 4.3-4.6/5 range if it weren’t bombed earlier. And a game with that kinda score is really good. Blizzard, of course, won’t share their data about how the score changes over time, so we can only surely say that the game has a big playerbase who think well of the title and probably enjoy it while spending a considerable amount of money. And Blizzard will probably do their best to grow the playerbase, optimise the monetisation and keep as many players hooked on the title as possible.
I haven’t played Diablo Immortal myself, so I don’t have a strong opinion on the title. I never doubted it’d be a successful title, mostly due to the reasons mentioned above. Sure, there were many moments when I raised my brow at their communications and practices, however this stuff is kinda normal. There was a report citing that maxing out a character cost something like 118 000 USD. This would net you a used 2 years old BMW M8 convertible. However, this number isn’t that huge compared to some other mobile games. People are startled by something that costs more than a hundred grand, but it’s mostly because they don’t know what kind of money is being tossed around in mobile gaming. Don’t get me wrong, this is a staggering amount of money to be spent in a game, but you can certainly go higher. I don’t know how their monetisation model exactly works, but I can tell you that there are people in this world luckily spending 10s of thousands of dollars monthly on mobile games – I’ve seen that with my own eyes. Companies would be unwise to ignore that fact. And, as we’re speaking about consenting parties, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Thanks for reading this article. Hopefully, you found it interesting. What do you think about how Diablo Immortal managed in the market? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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