from the the-devil's-work dept
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a flurry of activity centering around video game emulation. Much of that has been focused on how a few companies, namely Nintendo, have reacted to emulation sites. Almost universally, these companies see emulation as a threat and try to get them shut down. Often times those same companies use the market demand in the public that those emulation sites created to sell inferior versions of these older or emulatable games. In other words, the lesson learned here is that the default gaming industry position on emulation is that it must be destroyed so that the company’s wares can only be bought and used in the manner in which that company desires, market demand be damned.
Blizzard, in the middle of its acquisition by Microsoft, found itself staring down emulation of a slightly different kind recently. In 2018, Blizzard announced Diablo Immortal, a game specifically designed with touch controls for iOS and Android devices. The company recently announced that the game would be released in June, but suddenly had updated the public as well that a full PC version would also be released. Part of the reasoning for that was simply to reach the widest audience… but part of it was also a realization that mobile device emulation exists.
Blizzard also realized a lot of people would just use something like the free Android emulator BlueStacks to play Diablo Immortal on their PCs anyway. That experience would be inferior to a custom-built, native PC app, one which Blizzard would have more control over. While both the mobile versions of the game and the PC port will be out on June 2 for free, Blizzard is calling the PC version an “experiment,” and as such the game will launch on PC in a beta state and will be updated and improved as Blizzard receives feedback.
There’s almost certainly more to this than mere quality control, but that’s an important aspect of this. If the company believed fans would emulate the mobile game out of a desire to play it on their PC screens, well, that’s market demand. Blizzard deciding to meet that demand officially makes all the sense in the world.
But it’s almost certainly the case that a concern over piracy is part of this as well. Once the game is out, it will likely be easy to go find pirated versions of mobile game on the internet and then use an emulator to play it. What Blizzard has decided to do by releasing a PC version to combat that is to do what we’ve long advocated: compete with piracy.
And there’s an actual reason to buy, too! Sure, the public can still go out and pirate an .apk and slap it onto an Android emulator. But I can pretty much guarantee you that the native PC version will play better and be more stable.
So good on Blizzard for seeing emulation as something to compete with rather than something to be disappeared.