Diablo Immortal, which was supposed to be released in the Chinese mainland on June 23, has been withheld indefinitely — much to the disappointment of the gaming community. The last-minute delay, announced on June 19, was, in the developers’ words“to optimize the gaming experience.”
But there is more to this story than meets the eye. Some have speculated that this claim is doubtful and that the game’s release has been suspended to punish Diablo‘s development team for posting sensitive material alluding to China’s president on the microblogging platform Weibo back in May.
“熊怎么还不下台？” (Why hasn’t the bear stepped down?)
🇨🇳 NetEase has fallen foul of China’s censors over this May 22 post — suspected of alluding to Winnie the Pooh, a popular way to derisively refer to Xi Jinping — from the official Weibo account of “Diablo Immortal”.
— Byron Wan (@Byron_Wan) June 21, 2022
The account is currently banned from publishing new posts due to the “violation of relevant laws and regulations.”
“There is lots of speculation about the political reasons [for the postponement],” says a game marketing specialist who has requested anonymity. “When we reached out to them [NetEase Games]they were afraid of commenting [on the situation].”
Co-developed by NetEase Games and Blizzard Entertainment, the online multiplayer action role-playing game is the newest addition to the Diablo franchise. Since the first installment in the game series was released in 1997, Diablo has remained popular and economically successful. The game has seen multiple sequels and expansion packs.
Evil is everywhere.
Diablo Immortal is out now.
Free to download on iOS, Android, and PC Open Beta.
🔥 https://t.co/XW0n8lUJ3z pic.twitter.com/TmJiZgRNXx
— Diablo Immortal (@DiabloImmortal) June 2, 2022
Diablo Immortal, which was created specifically to be mobile-device-oriented, has been the talk of the town for months. As far back as January, the game’s mainland server had already reached 10 million pre-registered users. The game, which made its worldwide release on June 2, reaped $24 million in its first two weeks alone.
The suspension is a massive blow for NetEase Games, which has invested much time and effort in the highly anticipated project. According to Bloombergthe Chinese gaming giant’s shares are currently at their lowest in the past nine months.
China’s gaming industry is just getting back on its feet after the facelift of a ban on new games. Nevertheless, the undecided fate of Diablo Immortal suggests that video game companies are still stumbling around in the dark in a strained system.
Cover image via Twitter