The release of Diablo Immortal in China has been postponed only days before its scheduled launch, and less than a week after the RPG’s official Weibo account was banned for making derisive comments about the country’s leadership.
Diablo Immortal’s delay was announced by Blizzard in a blog post. The publisher gave no specific reason why the RPG’s launch has been postponed from July 23, nor suggested when it expects the game will be released in China.
It will be using the time to make “a number of optimization adjustments to the game: support for a wider range of models and devices, the highest quality rendering on more models, a lot of experience, network and performance optimizations, and more”, according to the blog post, (translated using Google Translate).
“We believe that the game experience in the official online version will become smoother and bring better game content to everyone.”
However, the delay of Diablo Immortal comes days after the game’s official account on Weibo – a popular Chinese social media platform – was banned from publishing new posts. As the Financial Times reports, the ban appears to have been made after the Diablo Immortal account released a post that read: “Why hasn’t the bear stepped down”.
The mention of a bear led readers to suspect the post was aimed toward China’s President Xi Jinping, who is often compared to the fictional children’s character Winnie the Pooh by his detractors. Chinese censors have cracked down on those using Winnie the Pooh to make critical comments and memes about the country’s president for years, even going so far as to ban the release of the 2018 film Christopher Robin.
The FT reports that all discussions and comments relating to the remark were removed from Weibo. The South China Morning Post says Weibo did not state a precise reason for the Diablo Immortal account’s ban, although a screenshot circulating Reddit appears to show the Weibo post making reference to Winnie the Pooh. The blog post on Blizzard’s site doesn’t mention the social media post or ban.
The launch of Diablo Immortal has not gone smoothly. Players and critics were quick to lambast the game’s aggressive monetization systems and expensive microtransactions. Others were disappointed with the hidden progression caps that punish free-to-play players by arbitrarily lowering their grinding rewards.
The game is no commercial flop, however. Diablo Immortal has already generated $24 million through its in-game microtransactions, with the majority of that revenue coming from US and South Korean players. But Blizzard will likely be keen to launch the game in China to expand that figure. Over 15 million players in the country already pre-registering for the game – a large share of the total 35 million players who preregistered across the globe.
This isn’t the first launch disruption Diablo Immortal has received. The game has already been banned in two countries after falling foul of European gambling laws.