Warcraft Arclight Rumble seems to have dodged the level of outrage that the last Blizzard mobile game announcement received. Perhaps that’s because, unlike Diablo Immortal, Arclight Rumble wasn’t announced during the same event as Blizzard’s other massive games, and it isn’t striking fans as a replacement for another game that we should have gotten instead. There was no exaggeration around its announcement: it was to be a Warcraft game for mobile. And that’s exactly what we got.
Outside of places like the World of Warcraft subreddit, which is unsurprisingly full of derision for a game that is seen as a mobile cash grab ripoff, people seem willing to give Arclight Rumble a shot. Expectations were low and the game seems to have risen above them, or at least enough for people to quickly understand its fairly modest ambitions: Arclight Rumble isn’t really for PC players in the same way that most Blizzard games are and have been for decades.
“I can’t really bring my PC with me when I go for a sandwich at lunch. But I can absolutely play two or three games of this game, of Arclight, while we’re sitting, waiting for food, and it’s nice to be able to play wherever you are, and then also come back and do PC gaming. I don’t see them as mutually exclusive. I think they can coexist—and do—and it’s great,” associate game director Adam Kugler told me in an interview prior to the game’s announcement.
For most of the world, this is how mobile games are played. That’s why they’re such a huge deal in Asia and continue to grow in North America. Mobile games brought in the most revenue compared to PC and console games in 2020. Phones are the new PC for so many people these days; it’s where you chat with your friends, where you watch Twitch streams, and where you read articles like this one. For Blizzard to design a game that fits with a lifestyle for billions of people makes sense, and the response outside its most hardcore fans reflects that.
“This is basically what I expected,” wrote Reddit user MultiMarcus. “I will definitely try it out and I do appreciate the announcement being very clear that long before today they had stated that this was a mobile game.”
“Honestly this seems like it could be fun. I know everyone loves to be hypercritical of Blizzard nowadays, I am willing to give this a fair shot,” another Reddit user, Bagelstein, wrote.
Blizzard’s ongoing miasma of lawsuits and workplace harassment allegations makes it hard for anyone to rally behind anything it announces right now. A new WoW expansion doesn’t alleviate the ways in which the company routinely has hurt its employees, and neither does Arclight Rumble. It’s probably intentional that the trailer is framed as two developers excitedly chatting about the game as if you passed by them in the office. It shows that, despite everything, there are still people making games that they’re genuinely thrilled about.
Monetization is the only thing that’s caused considerable worry in the reactions to the announcement. It’s always a big question when it comes to mobile games. Arclight Rumble is as much about its mini RTS levels as it is about collecting Warcraft-themed units, or ‘minis’, to deploy. The developers assured me that the campaign will provide you with a constant trickle of experience and minis to use and that the real money transactions are simply to skip having to spend extra time finishing quests. But mobile games are updated constantly and it’s not uncommon for them to get hungrier and hungrier for your money as they go on.
Many people were quick to point out that the game looks like Blizzard’s PvE-focused take on Clash Royale, which is particularly exploitative with its loot box-style monetization system. While I didn’t ask the developers specifically about the similarities, they appear to be very aware of those concerns.
“We’re trying to make it as player choice as possible,” Kugler told me. “There’s no loot box systems, for example. Every single time that you’re presented with something, there’s a choice for what to choose, even in the quest system. When you go fight something, you get to choose what gets experience. So at every step of the way, we want to see if we can put in a way for players to have a choice rather than just a random kind of blind selection.”
There are many people calling the game a complete clone of Clash Royale, but others welcome a Blizzard version of it.
“I guess I’ll be the odd one out and say I’m actually very interested in this. I’ve wanted someone to make a PVE singleplayer/co-op Clash Royale ripoff for years,” Reddit user Kreeztoff wrote.
I remember when Overwatch was announced and people kept calling it a Team Fortress 2 ripoff. It was and it wasn’t. That’s the Blizzard way. The developer has built itself on taking the basic structure of other popular games and hammering it into something more approachable. World of Warcraft borrowed from EverQuest, Heroes of the Storm borrowed from Dota 2 and League of Legends, and Hearthstone borrowed from Magic: The Gathering.
Arclight Rumble isn’t any different, and as someone who has played Blizzard games for years, it feels like yet another way the developer is trying to meet players where they are.