Diablo 4 ad in Times Square goes viral amidst Canadian wildfire

"I can't believe that Blizzard set Canada on fire just to advertise their game," joked someone from Reddit after the image went viral.

In any other circumstance, this coincidence would've been a "happy accident" that would've been celebrated across the globe.

What happens when your game's marketing team sells its soul in exchange for the perfect backdrop to punctuate one of gaming's most successful campaigns in recent memory?

The internet is making light of an uncanny alignment of the virtual and real life as Blizzard's much-awaited ARPG Diablo 4 launched to a dark, hazy, and red sky in New York City.

A dramatic billboard, located in Times Square, New York, advertising the game ominously declared, "Welcome to hell, New York," an apt tagline that resonated with the wildfires burning in Canada.

Blizzard's Diablo 4, an innovative live-service take on the age-old franchise, has been showered with immense praise from critics and players alike. The latest installment in the series encourages players to revisit the game through a seasonal system, even after completing the main narrative. To date, multiple seasons are currently in development with at least two story expansions in the works.

The gaming giant hasn't held back on their marketing campaigns. Most recently, Blizzard enlisted Megan Fox to read eulogies for players' worst in-game deaths, ensuring that Diablo 4 makes as much noise as possible.

However, the game's most influential ad campaign comes from an unexpected coincidence - the aforementioned billboard in New York City, featuring the powerful Lilith.

New York City is currently covered in a red and particularly deadly haze that has forced the local government to take action to prevent worse tragedies.

On June 7, the city's skies turned an eerie shade of bloody red, echoing Lilith's fiery portrayal on the billboard and in the game. This wasn't a special effects extravaganza by Blizzard, but a result of the devastating wildfires in Canada. Nonetheless, the Internet couldn't resist making light of this situation, crediting Blizzard's relentless marketing efforts. This has resulted in a wave of humorous commentary and, thus, a unique, unplanned viral marketing campaign.

The red skies are far from a laughable matter. They serve as a grim reminder of the hundreds of wildfires currently ravaging Canada, drastically impacting air quality across the United States.

New York City, in particular, is currently enveloped in smoke, with hazardous levels of "fine particular matter," resulting in a severe air quality index of 218. Authorities are urging residents to stay indoors, and all outdoor activities, including the New York City Marathon, have been put on hold.

Diablo 4 is the culmination of a decades' worth of effort for Blizzard Entertainment.

Roughly around 414 active wildfires have been reported in Canada, over half of which are classified as out of control, causing health risks for millions of residents. The heavy smoke is expected to affect the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and Carolinas for several days.

Wildfire smoke is particularly dangerous to people with asthma, heart disease, and other respiratory complications. Given this, authorities are recommending that people stay indoors during high pollution episodes to monitor their health for any developing symptoms.

Amidst this serious environmental and health crisis, the release of Diablo 4 and its coincidental alignment with the red skies made for a memorable marketing spectacle, albeit unintentional and inopportune.

Blizzard Entertainment is best letting this ad play out naturally and not taking advantage of the situation for their gain.

While the game's launch mid be lauded for its perfect, if unintentional, timing, it's also a stark reminder of the severity of the wildfires plaguing the second-largest country in the world.

Whether the event is a boon for Blizzard's marketing campaign, which has already paid dividends commercially and critically, or an ill-timed coincidence, is subjective. However, the reality remains that the Canadian wildfires represent a grim situation that calls for global attention and efforts toward mitigation.

As players traverse the hellish landscapes of Diablo 4, one can only hope for those affected to see the dawn of better days sooner than later.

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Ray Ampoloquio

Ray Ampoloquio // Articles: 5853

Ray is a lifelong gamer with a nose for keeping up with the latest news in and out of the gaming industry. When he's not reading, writing, editing, and playing video games, he builds and repairs computers in his spare time. You can find Ray on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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