Diablo Immortal’s release in China has been pushed back, just days before it was due to launch. The official line is that the development team needs more time to optimise the game, but the delay comes in the wake of the banning of Blizzard’s Chinese social media account.
Over the weekend, a new press release on the Chinese Blizzard website explained that the Diablo Immortal development team needs to make a number of optimisation adjustments, including support for a wider range of devices, improving render quality, and other network and performance improvements. No new release date was provided, just the news that Diablo Immortal will not release on June 23.
NetEase, the Chinese gaming giant and co-developer of Diablo Immortal, suffered a 10% drop in stock value the morning following the delay announcement, as reported by the South China Morning Post.
While further development work is the official reason for the delay from NetEase and Blizzard, it hasn’t stopped some from speculating that a recent social media ban is the actual reason behind the changed launch plans. Recently the official Blizzard Weibo account (China’s most prominent social network) for Diablo Immortal allegedly posted a reference to Winnie the Pooh. Following the post, the Weibo account has reportedly been banned for “violation of related laws and regulations”, according to the SCMP.
The fictional bear is often used as a method of being critical of China’s leader, Xi Ping, and just as often met with intervention. Recent examples include video game Devotion, which was pulled from Steam following the discovery of a Winnie the Pooh meme within the game.
The Financial Times reports that NetEase shares also fell following backlash over the Winnie the Pooh post, but currently it’s impossible to know if the social media ban itself is the reasoning for Diablo Immortal’s delay in China.
This isn’t the first time Diablo Immortal has found itself in hot water; despite making $24 million in microtransactions since its main launch, players are very unhappy with Blizzard’s approach to monetisation. And while the game has pulled in reasonable reviews, Diablo Immortal has faced backlash since the day it was announced back in 2018.
Matt Purslow is IGN's UK News and Features Editor.