The following post is from a sponsor.
People who play Path of Exile get miffed when their beloved game gets compared and unfairly accused of ripping off the Diablo franchise. But that’s not why RedditorZeinredirected what was going to be a Diablo-dedicated site to Path of Exile. Rather, he just wanted to be funny. Unfortunately, aside from the laughs, he got himself into quite a bit of a tangled mess.
Who Started A Joke, Zein or Blizzard?
Zein started the joke at the time Blizzard announced that they are going to release a switch port for Diablo 3. His plan was to buy the playdiablo4.com URL from GoDaddy and then redirect it to the Path of Exile. It goes without saying that what he did caused a stir, and it doesn’t help that his elaborate prank coincided with a gigantic Diablo fiasco.
In case you’ve been sleeping on gaming news ever since November last year, what happened is that in Blizzcon 2018, the official gaming convention of the company in question, there was an announcement about the next Diablo game. Was it the much-anticipated Diablo 4? Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Instead, what players got was Diablo Immortal, a mobile game.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, a lot of justifiably angered fans speculated that it was merely a Diablo re-skin of a free-to-play but pay-to-win Chinese mobile MMO called Endless of God. This is because Diablo Immortal is going to be developed by NetEase, a Chinese game development company notorious for games that employ exactly that kind of business model. While some have been debunking this claim by saying that the control scheme is just the best practice for the platform, the character movements when using skills as seen on Diablo Immortal’s gameplay video strikes more than just a passing resemblance of that of Endless of God.
All of those things, plus the burgeoning rumors about how Blizzard hasn’t started working on Diablo 4 yet have definitely made the timing of Zein’s little joke perfect. A little too perfect, perhaps, as lots of Diablo fans that are irate, no longer fans, or both saw Zein’s site. Without a doubt, almost all were probably hysterical about the fact that the site redirects to Path of Exile, Diablo III’s direct competitor!
Some even went as far as assuming that what Zein did was an act of defiance, sticking it to an AAA gaming mega-corporation and showing them what they did wrong. It’s not only gamers who saw Zein’s act in this light, but also gaming journalists. That, however, is a misrepresentation. He had no plans of “sticking it to the man”; it was just a joke that he happened to pull off coincidentally at the moment the Diablo Immortal issue was hot. In fact, he bought the site way before anybody had an idea that Blizzard would finally go the mobile gaming route.
With his humorous stunt blowing up, it was only a matter of time before Blizzard took notice. While the legal team found the joke funny, that didn’t stop them from telling Zein that he was cybersquatting and bordering on trademark infringement for buying a domain related to a licensed intellectual property for purposes other than commercial. And obviously, he can’t use that site for commercial purposes.
All the Legal Troubles
On top of all that, the redirect towards Path of Exile, Diablo III’s de facto rival, was another legally problematic hiccup he committed. And no, he can’t use it to trade PoE currency and engage in POE trading. To ensure he didn’t get into any more corporate trouble than he was already in, he stopped the site from redirecting to the Path of Exile website.
But although Zein isn’t an anti-big gaming corporate activist or hardcore troll, he’s no sellout either. The site no longer brings people to Path of Exile, but it brings people to the Google images search result for the word “phone”. It’s a rather creative way to poke fun at Blizzard’s faux-pas of reminding players that they have phones for the new Diablo game–a telltale sign that they have missed the mark. Plus, Zein has no plans of handing the site to Blizzard until he gets amply paid for it. After all, he bought it; that’s just how capitalism works.
Nevertheless, despite everything that’s happened, he wishes that players would stop hating on Blizzard for what they did to him. Aside from the fact that the legal team was nice (or maybe he’s just saying that) and they were just doing their job, he’s also repeated that he’s not dying on the hill he accidentally chose to be on. Thankfully, people have been listening to him and have stopped giving Blizzard flak for what is considered standard procedure in dealing with the likes of Zein. They still pretty much hate the company for Diablo Immortal though.
Sometimes the perfect internet storm is all about controversy, timing, and creativity. Zein managed to get all three so he inadvertently got his fifteen minutes of fame. Now, with Diablo Immortal not yet out and Diablo 4 still so far away, we’re bound to have another Blizzard joke that will snowball.