Tobold's Blog
Friday, November 09, 2018
Grumpy old gamers

There have been a couple of events in the past weeks in which I detected a common trend. One was Blizzcon, where the announcement of a mobile version of Diablo evoked an incredibly negative response among the fans. Another was several instances around D&D 5th edition, where as well privately in my role-playing club as publicly on YouTube and similar channels there is a growing discussion about the game evolving away from "real" role-playing. The common thread behind all that is grumpy old gamers being angry about a move of their game towards a broader market.

There is no doubt in my mind that Diablo Immortal will do extremely well and make millions of dollars for Blizzard. That also means that millions of people who haven't played Diablo on PC or consoles will play it on a phone or tablet. And even people who already played one or several versions of Diablo on one or several platforms might be interested in playing it on a more mobile device. The angry people tend to be hardcore fans, who want Diablo 4 on their PC and console, and who feel that Blizzard developing Diablo for a different audience is taking away something from them.

Dungeons & Dragons is 44 years old, and the 4-year old 5th edition has attracted more people to the game than ever. D&D is now all over YouTube, there are celebrities like Vin Diesel playing or talking about D&D on TV, and the game simply isn't considered as "weird" anymore than it was decades ago. The new generation of players grew up with RPG video games, so the very concept of "I play a wizard" is not something completely out of their previous experience, as it was for the first generations of players. But that also has the effect that they often see the game from the point of view of a video gamer, for whom the tabletop RPG is a means to play a game similar to a video game, but with less scripting and restrictions on what their character can do. I find that a very healthy approach, but of course some grumpy old gamers with a very different history and approach feel offended that suddenly there are so many new people playing the game differently than they do.

Basically in both cases it is a small group of grumpy old gamers telling are larger group of new gamers "you are playing it wrong!". And I find that pretty idiotic. While the grumpy old gamers frequently have a very loud voice on the internet, they don't necessarily contribute to the financial well-being to a brand as much as a large influx of new gamers. So companies listening to the grumpy old gamers can actually hurt a brand (something which I feel is the case with the new digital version of Magic the Gathering, Magic Arena, which I think will do less well than the previous, more casual version of Magic Duels). I know old D&D gamers who haven't given any money to Wizards of the Coast since buying a 5E Player's Handbook 4 years ago. Why should a company even listen to those people? Just like religious extremists make religions less attractive, gaming purists make gaming less attractive.

The broadening of the audience for gaming over the last decade has been very good for gaming and for gamers. Today games are cheaper and there are far more of them than a decade ago. That is all good. Yes, sure, some of the new games might not be to your liking, either for game design reasons or for political reasons. But often you can still play the old game: You can still play all of the old versions of Diablo, you can still play all of the editions of D&D. So it is really hard to argue that new games for new players are hurting old players in any way.

It is not a move to a broader market. It is a move to a different market.

Mobile games is a complete different business model, which is currently controversial and under scrutiny of regulators.

I think you are confusing some very different things here, platform and business model. There are a lot of "buy once, play forever" games on mobile platforms. And there are lootboxes in PC games that are under scrutiny of regulators. "Mobile games" is not a business model.

No details on the business model of Diablo Immortal have been released, so it would be premature to presume that it will exploitative. My personal guess would be that you have to buy Diablo Immortal to play, and then the in app purchases will be limited to things like skins, like Blizzard does in Overwatch. In fact Blizzard games are frequently much less Pay2Win than their immediate competition from other companies.
Announcing a mobile only game in front of an audience full of PC gamers is just terrible marketing.

At least give those guys something too.
Gatekeeping is alive and well in gamer space, I see.

I was more amused by the reaction to Blizzard's announcement, because until that point Blizzard had avoided all of the ire in gaming centered around lootboxes and P2W and whatever else is the outrage of the month. I was pretty puzzled by all that, especially given that Blizzard's D3 launch wasn't exactly a smooth one and the real money auction house was a bust. But it seems that Blizz has finally run out of goodwill from some vocal segments of the gamer tribe.

Given that it was 12 years from D2 to D3 release dates, I find it strange that gamers at Blizzcon were expecting a D4 announcement this year. Additionally, if gamers expected Blizz to ignore mobile games and the tendency for Blizz to put out a quality product in whatever segment of gaming it moves into, they were likely ignoring reality.

Finally, Blizzard's audience has evolved far beyond its original PC oriented fanbase. Overwatch and D3 for consoles means that more and more fans from console space are going to be showing up with their own viewpoint on what Blizz should and shouldn't do. The tendency by these groups isn't to grow the reach of Blizz beyond their own fiefdoms but instead to throw up a wall and be concerned only with what they are familiar with. The concept that Blizz wants to conquer new gaming platforms and not just develop for their own is something that Blizz's current fanbase has to get used to.

Well, announcing a mobile game at a game convention is like announcing a new toaster at a game convention. It's a totally different market. They're all "But we don't care about a new toaster! We want a new version of Diablo!"

But it makes sense that AAA games segue to the mobile market. It's just cheaper to develop. Try as you might, even if you HAD a 4K per line display on a phone, you can't see them in game terms like you can on a giant, top of the line PC monitor.

LEt's face it, PC games are AAA-ing themselves out of existence. At some point it will be impossible to pay for their development cost even WITH the exploitation. And that exploitation will likely be rejected, anyway.
Announcing a mobile game to a large crowd of people that are mostly PC gamers, as the big reveal for their franchise was a very dumb idea. I don't know many people that are actually against a mobile version of a Diablo game. If it had been announced in a more minor way it wouldn't have caused the waves it did. The follow on from Blizzard both immediately and in the following days hasn't helped. They keep saying they are working on multiple Diablo projects, which could mean practically anything, while determinedly refusing to confirm that they are working on a PC Diablo game. Instead they've piled on with comments about working on even more mobile games.

I haven't played many mobile games, but the details I've heard for Immortal sounds pretty bad. There are only 12 planned skills for each of the classes they have planned. There are only a dozen or so maps, which are all relatively small and entirely static. The Dungeons are even tinier than the outdoor areas, apparently the size of the Crypts in the Festering Woods of D3. Because the game is an always online deal it won't be playable for me in most of the circumstances where I would bother to drag out my tablet.

In the end it really sounds like they haven't been doing any customer research on their existing fan base and instead just lusting after the mobile market. And that's their prerogative, they don't owe me anything when it comes to new content. But I don't think their going to have much luck using their existing Diablo fan base to spring board their mobile game.
Nice way to construct a straw man to use in your own argument, Tobold. If you care to even watch the videos of the unveiling of the mobile version, the backlash didn't come from "grumpy old gamer's", it came from the younger attendees who made up the largest portion of the audience at Blizz-con. Even a majority of the news and opinion pieces about this issue are focusing on how it was a dumb marketing move. It was a very dumb move, as is pointed out in other comments here, to announce a "mobile version of anything" to a largely PC-Gaming crowd. Blizzard then pulled the dumb ass move of being condescending to the audience with its "everyone has a cellphone?" response rhetoric. This was just a big load of "FAIL" on Blizzards part from a purely marketing standpoint. Nothing more. There was absolutely no need to create a fictitious cabal of "grumpy old gamer's" to make this post.

Know what's funny though? I recently found out that a local role playing club has banned the use of cellphones during sessions. Apparently players have begun using dice rolling apps instead of lugging around their bags of dice. The issues began when players started demanding that the DM use the same apps out in the open instead of being hidden to control "fudging" and increase transparency. Those "young whipper snappers" and their "new technology", how dare they!
In all fairness, Tobold didn't say the "Grumpy old men" and "smart phone gamers" were both at the convention for the unveiling. I think he was more implying the greater market for the game using "grumpy old men" as a metaphor for the more die hard gamers who want PC games, not phone games.

He's not wrong. it's these "grumpy old men" (To use the same metaphor.) who are wrecking the genre, not by demanding PC games with their better controls, but by demanding PC games with their superior (And far more costly to develop) AAA visuals.

Developers simply cannot keep making games for the "Grumpy old men."
A company botching a presentation and getting booed by the audience is one thing. The trailer for Diablo Immortal getting 400k dislikes is a completely different thing. This can't all be people having been at Blizzcon.

There is no doubt in my mind that a mobile version of the game will be wildly successful, but to assume that the backlash is somehow centered around some kind of willful control on the part of PC gamer's is ludicrous. Every gamer that was in attendance(who chose to speak out about the presentation afterwards) have said that the Blizzard presentation was poorly presented. The condescending tone that the presenters used after being questioned about the announcement pretty much sealed the event's fate in the mind of the gamer's present, and it was that condescending tone that pissed off so many people who were either present, or watched via the internet.


With over 10+ million virtual ticket views, 400k dislikes is less than 4% of viewers, and is actually a good representation of the backlash from the condescension on Blizzard's part. But in no way can someone extrapolate from those numbers that PC Gamers are trying to dictate what games Blizzard should make.
But in no way can someone extrapolate from those numbers that PC Gamers are trying to dictate what games Blizzard should make.

I think we can take it as a fact that these were 400k PC Gamers, and not 400k mobile gamers unhappy about Diablo coming their way.
NoGuff says:"...but to assume that the backlash is somehow centered around some kind of willful control on the part of PC gamer's is ludicrous."

What? No! The exact opposite is true... the control is being taken AWAY from the PC gamers and handed to the phone gamers. But that needs to happen as the PC gamers are bleeding the devs dry.

"Basically in both cases it is a small group of grumpy old gamers telling are larger group of new gamers "you are playing it wrong!"

Sorry but that's a bunch of bollocks. The "grumpy old" gamers are hobbyists that have been in the field for literally decades and have poured a ton of money and time into their hobby. Like it or not, they have the power to drive the franchise when they buy Collector's Editions, cosmetics and out of game goods. Indirectly telling them to fuck off because you want to milk the Chinese mobile market can rub people the wrong way.

Secondly, no one is against mobile games, just like no one is a strictly "PC gamer" any more, as people play games on multiple mediums. This isn't the 90s with the console and PC wars. All they had to do is post a teaser trailer in the end of D4 (literally 20 seconds of a cinematic with no in-game footage) and people would be hyped. People were very meh about Elder Scrolls Blades too (the mobile off-shoot of ES) but then Bethesda dropped a 10 second teaser of Elder Scrolls 6 with just mountains and music and people rightfully took it as a sign that the core audience isn't being cast aside. The video for Blades is currently mostly liked too, with only 20-30% of people disliking it. And guess what, Elder Scrolls is the PC gaming franchise.

No one would bat an eyelid if Diablo Immortal had been revealed in PAX or E3 or whatever. But when you hype up the sale of Blizzcon tickets with a "major Diablo announcement on the Main Stage" and then you ignore your core fanbase to promote a mobile game that is produced by NetEase of all things (known for reskinned ripoffs), then yeah. You are getting booed. And entitlement, or PC culture or grumpy old men have nothing to do about it.

How can "we complain because we didn't get what we hoped for" have nothing to do with entitlement? It looks like the definition of entitlement to me.

I don't think mobile gamers are really part of the discussion yet. Once the game actually comes out, I consider it totally possible that mobile gamers will not like it. Either because it is a reskinned version of a previous NetEase game, or because virtual thumbsticks are one of the worst control schemes ever invented. But those mobile gamers didn't buy Blizzcon tickets, why would they? The protests are very much from PC gamers, and they would have complained the same if Blizzard was making an absolutely fabulous mobile game.
I don't think age has much to do with this at all. "Grumpy gamer" doesn't need an old or young appellation attached to it.....the PC master race crosses plenty of age lines.

But yeah, I don't get the outrage. It seems....wasted and misplaced. The game will show up and succeed (or just as likely, fail) on its own merits. But I can't for the life of me imagine why Blizzard thought that making this a major announcement at a primarily PC-gamer-focused convention was a great idea. The one dev getting on stage and asking "Don't you all have cell phones?" was a tone-deaf failure to realize that, for their fan base, a cell phone is not a tool for good gaming. While I don't care about any of this, I definitely fall in the "cell phones are for shitty gaming only" camp.

I'll just wait and patiently hope Diablo Immortal ends up good enough that they port it to the Switch one day.
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