Is Blizzard’s mobile market now in danger? After the incident that occurred this week where Blizzard Entertainment banned professional Hearthstone player Ng Wai “blitzchung” Chung, things don’t look good for the publisher. At the moment there is a huge backlash going on in the community and even employees have shown their discomfort with the situation. There are theories that suggest that Blizzard banned the player to stay friends with China, which is not that far fetched.
Blizzard is a PC developer first, but after last year at Blizzcon, we saw their first original game announced for the mobile market with Diablo Immortal. After the convention, they revealed that they want to create a mobile game for each of their franchises. This was a kick in the gut for long lasting PC fans, but a perfectly reasonable idea by Blizzard. Mobile gaming is booming, if we like it or not, and the biggest mobile market is China. People in China commute for an average of 3 hours back and forth to work, since living in the city is way too expensive. During this time, they enjoy their mobile games, and more importantly, spend money on them. The Chinese market is huge, so you don’t want the country to ban your mobile games entirely. Blizzard was probably gonna announce at least one or a couple mobile games that they want to release in the coming years.
At the beginning of January Blizzard extended the contract with Netease, one of the largest gaming companies in China. Together they introduced games such as Overwatch and World of Warcraft to the country. An anonymous developer of the Diablo Immortal team told Gamasutra that: “essentially Diablo Immortal exists because we’ve heard that China really wants it.” Losing support of companies like Netease would hurt Blizzards future endeavors in the country by a lot.
Everything about Diablo Immortal is not going smoothly. Blizzard President J. Allen Brack indicated in an interview with Gamespot that the announcement could be better communicated: “I think the announcement was a poor job or the time when we announced Diablo: Immortal wasn’t contextualizing what we think the future can be and what we think of mobile in particular,” J. Allen Brack said. This incident in China is therefore not something that they want, especially now that Activision is also busy launching Mobile games, which has been very successful so far. Activision’s Call of Duty had 100 million downloads in the first week. Activision is currently busy with the Chinese government to get approval for this.