Grinding Gear Games celebrated another year of Path of Exile at ExileCon by taking the opportunity to announce a mobile port of the game was in the works. The reveal trailer clearly lays out a vision for a game that does not compromise on the existing complexity of the PC game. It also pokes fun at Diablo Immortal, though the game is not mentioned by name. Blizzard should certainly be worried, as Path of Exile Mobile looks to obliterate its watered-down Diablo title.
Complexity Or Simplicity – It Depends On Your Audience
One of the reasons that there was such a negative response to the announcement of Diablo Immortal, of which there are a few to choose from, stems from the fact that Diablo 3 has for years already been criticized a being too watered down from the complexity of Diablo 2. The trend continues in Diablo Immortal, with the game made even further simplistic.
Path of Exile, meanwhile, gained popularity and followers because it picked up where Diablo 2 left off, and where Diablo 3 should have picked up. The game has always offered a deep, complex way to customize character builds, and Path of Exile Mobile is confirmed to retain all these same systems. Trevor Gamon from Grinding Gear states that, “Our goal is to bring Path of Exile to mobile with absolutely zero compromise.”
From the perspective of gameplay, Path of Exile Mobile looks to be the superior option to Diablo Immortal in every way. However, details are still scarce as to what exactly Blizzard's game will consist of for long-term play, so this is pure speculation at this point.
Tencent Has A History Of Mobile Success
In 2018, Chinese tech company Tencent became the majority stakeholder for Grinding Gear Games. It is no small player, but rather one of the most important companies in the mobile gaming market. To date it has partial or complete ownership of a broad range of games like League of Legends, the popular MOBA that soon to be released on mobile devices, and other popular titles like Fortnite, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Ring of Elysium.
Looking back at its acquisition of Grinding Gear Games in 2018 now makes much more sense. The intention was likely never to remain solely in the PC market, but to bring the game to the mobile platform where Tencent could capitalize on the massive market of mobile players. In hindsight the move is brilliant, because while there are many ARPGs available on the market already, Path of Exile Mobile is sure to be among the best in terms of game quality.
Timing Is Everything
The announcement of Diablo Immortal at BlizzCon is now infamous, standing out as a major moment in 2018 which Blizzard Entertainment revealed how completely disconnected management truly was to the desires of their consumer base.
The shade thrown at Blizzard was non-stop throughout the trailer and at ExileCon. Chris Wilson, a producer and developer at Grinding Gear Games, stated that the announcement of the mobile game would have been difficult twelve months ago, but that by announcing a sequel first, which it did the same weekend with Path of Exile 2, fans would be nothing but happy at the news.
This is clearly a reference to Blizzard announcing Diablo Immortal instead of Diablo 4, and yet, anyone not familiar with the situation would simply see the statement as common sense. Players will of course be more excited about a sequel than a mobile port of a game, but therein lies the problem with Blizzard. It is more concerned now with quarterly investor calls than with producing games for consumers first. The goal now is to keep players drip fed with content, slowly giving a little bit at a time to ensure they remain for far longer than they should. The old Blizzard is gone, but that is a natural part of any growing company.
Will Superior Gameplay Trump Brand Power?
Ultimately, both games will likely be popular upon release but cater to different crowds. Blizzard has still not revealed the exact monetization method for Diablo Immortal, so speculation is all we have on the matter, whereas Path of Exile Mobile will feature all of the content we know and love for free, with the same cosmetic microtransactions of the PC game.
Diablo Immortal will have its brand and the name of Blizzard behind it, but whether that will be enough for long term engagement and spending will have to be seen. No company is immune from the consequences of using popular brands to make terrible games where greed trumps quality gameplay, as Nintendo has learned through its mobile catastrophe in Mario Kart Tour.
Path of Exile mobile meanwhile has quality at the center of their design, and it may destroy Diablo Immortal as a result.