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Blizzard launched Diablo Immortal earlier this summer to a chorus of mediocre reviews and howls of anger from gamers. The mobile-optimized Diablo is free to download, but it’s overflowing with in-app purchases. That hasn’t stopped it from becoming a huge money-maker for the company, and it’s about to rake in even more cash. Blizzard and its Chinese partners have reportedly been given permission to launch Immortal in China, which is the largest gaming market in the world.
The game launched in most of the world on June 2nd, save for several European countries where loot box mechanics are effectively banned. It was supposed to arrive in China on June 23rd, but Blizzard announced a last-minute postponement. At the time, it claimed the delay was to optimize game content for China. Now, Bloomberg reports that all systems are go for a launch on July 25th (probably).
Blizzard’s explanation for the delay never sat right with us, and reports at the time posited a much more plausible explanation: an official Blizzard account on the Chinese social network Weibo posted what appeared to be criticism of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The comment translated as either “Why hasn’t the bear stepped down?” or “What do you think about the bear?” This would seem to be a reference to Xi’s resemblance to Winnie the Pooh, a comparison the Chinese government hates.
Bloomberg reports that Blizzard and its Chinese partner Tencent have smoothed over the issues. While there could still be additional delays, even down to the last minute, the company expects it will be allowed to release the game, and it’s going to be a big one. Chinese regulators are notoriously strict about when and how games are allowed to launch in China. Fewer games have been approved this year, and China has also imposed limits on how long teenagers are allowed to play online games.
The relative dearth of new titles could be a good thing for Diablo Immortal, which was created in partnership with Chinese developer NetEase. As previously mentioned, the game is crawling with microtransactions that gate your progress. The first 20 or so character levels feel like the Diablo of old, but then you’re going to have to farm legendary gems in the game’s Elder Rifts, which are essentially loot boxes dressed up like small dungeons. The game earned $49 million in its first month of availability without China. The sky’s the limit on July 25th.