Hey there Blizzard, why don’t you have a seat over there. Fox, you too. In fact, can every big gaming company just have a seat for a second. We need to talk. Look, I get it. Mobile gaming is where the money is at right now. Chinese citizens and whales of all nationalities are throwing money at their phones like they’re lives depended on it, and you wanna catch some of it. That’s fine. Release your mobile adaptation, spinoff, re-skin, whatever. A Diablo game on smartphones doesn’t diminish my life in any significant way. What I’m here to ask you to do is stop hyping all of us up before you make your announcement.
Don’t tweet cryptic messages that allow fans to speculate wildly. Don’t make a big fuss at a major event.
The most recent example of this is Alien: Blackout a non-sequel to the extremely well received 2016 first-person horror title, Alien: Isolation. Ever since the credits rolled on Isolation fans have been begging for a true sequel that continues the adventure of Amanda Ripley. Of course, part of that desire was to also continue the style and atmosphere of that original. Featuring solid horror elements that center around the titular Alien creature, fans were exuberant at the final results, which perfectly emulated the feeling of the 1979 Ridley Scott classic.
We aren’t getting that sequel though, we’re getting a mobile game that seems to take more from Five Nights at Freddy’s than it does anything in the Alien universe. Will the game be good? Maybe. Who knows? I’m not here to call Fox out for producing a bad game. I’m here because thousands, perhaps millions of fans like myself got our hopes up. Hopes that were quickly dashed when the real announcement was made.
“But it’s your fault for getting your hopes so high,” I hear you saying. And sure, maybe I should have kept my calm cynicism, instead of giving myself over to hype. But the hype was there, and it was coming from the official Alien/Fox accounts. And it’d be one thing if this was an isolated incident, but Blizzard just went through almost the exact same thing.
Sure, they tried desperately to lower expectations before their epic failure of a Diablo Immortal announcement at Blizzcon. Of course, that last part is where they went wrong. Blizzcon is an event for die hard Blizzard fans. My Mom isn’t tuning into the stream to see the latest on all things Diablo, so why is your announcement of a mobile game taking center stage there? The result was one of the biggest PR disasters in gaming history, with fans even asking if the company was joking with them.
This followed EA doing pretty much the exact same thing at E3 with Command & Conquer: Rivals at E3. No one in that audience was excited to be hearing about a mobile game like that, especially for so long. Why was it announced at E3 (or EA Play to be specific)? Why was so much time spent on it? Probably because the suits behind the scenes saw that a mobile release could make more while costing less and decided to make a big deal about it. The result was a complete internet revolt of epic proportions.
What makes this all so baffling is that it is easily avoided, and easily predicted. Mobile gaming is certainly a viable path to take with your projects, even if they tie to a major franchise. However, the longtime fans of these series don’t look to mobile for their latest fix. They want a PC or console release that lives up to predecessors while presenting something big and new. Mobile titles are lesser by their very nature, and their presentation and announcement should follow suit.
To see how it should be done, just look to another company with recent PR troubles: Bethesda. Fallout Shelter has been a massive hit and fans were never against its release, unlike Diablo Immortal and Alien: Blackout. Why is that? Because Bethesda knew how to announce the game. Surprising fans with a free game that hit that night was cool, but if they hadn’t also followed it up with one of the best game announcements in recent memory, it very well could have failed.
Hitting us with Fallout Shelter could have been a massive disaster, but anyone who would have been upset was immediately calmed by the Fallout 4 reveal. This is how things should be done. If you want to make a big fuss about Diablo and Alien on mobile, you need to also have the big AAA release that the more dedicated fans expect coming right afterward (Fox is hinting at an MMO FPS release as well, which is a whole other can of worms). If you don’t have that in the works, then you should rethink your announcement plans.
Don’t tweet cryptic messages that allow fans to speculate wildly. Don’t make a big fuss at a major event. Pop the game up on the various app stores for pre-registration and shoot off a press release. That’s how you not only get word out, but also save your fans from some truly damaging disappointment. You’ll still make millions from mobile gamers, just without pissing off the people that helped make these franchises so big in the first place.