The Diablo franchise itself for part of a decade has been in decline with the fan base being more irate as time moves forward. The fans have seen it all from Diablo not living up to expectations, massive staff cuts, lack of fresh content, and the franchise trying to go mobile.
The Golden Years
I remember when I was in middle school my friend had this game that was dark, gory, and oh so would not be allowed at my house. I spent quite a few afternoons over there watching and even getting to play Diablo. It was an introduction to me in what ARPG games should and could be.
Years later I enjoyed Diablo II after it had been released. I had still loved the game for what it was. They did not hold back and it felt like it was going go places. I was also still young enough to not quite remember a lot of detail years later. So while I had some expectations I was looking to make new memories when they released the next one
When Diablo III came around I was overhyped. I was finally at a place in my life where I could enjoy a game like what I was hoping it would be. While not worrying about the consequences if I got caught playing it as I was finally old enough. That is also when I noticed it had lost its dark theme for the most part and seemed to just play it safe. Perhaps that thrill of getting caught playing a game I was not supposed to, had a bigger impact but I don’t think so.
They did try and be different and perhaps before their time by having a real-money auction house. This to me was a big part of why I wanted to play the game. It was short-lived and plagued with issues. The very thought of finding an item in a game and selling it for thousands was quite alluring and made me overlook everything I did not like about the game.
I even stickled around in Diablo III for years coming and going when there was a new season to play. I did not know better at the time that a game with a season ladder system could, in fact, have depth and bring in a new experience every time. Unlike a game like Path of Exile that keeps innovating to this day when it comes to legions (seasons.) Diablo III would just change some stats on gear for “balancing” for the most part and you would have felt floored if any major change was brought beyond that without there being a paid DLC.
I even bought the DLCs like Reaper Of Souls and Rise of The Necromancer. Where that last one really felt like they were just trying to milk what player base was remaining. Selling DLCs with a single class and a little extra fluff seemed to be the new business model at the time. One of which I’m thankful they did not bring up again. The downside for them not doing so very little content afterword to follow.
The game always seemed so underfunded. At one point I ever recall reading that staff member where being pulled from the Diablo team to go work on whatever the latest expansion for World of Warcraft was at the time. Now that is just disappointing as the last hope of anything thrilling seemed to have gone with them.
Diablo III also suffered from what I call World of Warcraft (WoW) First Syndrome. Did you want to play Diablo? Well if you come back to WoW we will give you some pet or toy in-game regarding whatever game we are hooking you away from. News about WoW? Well, we just thought since you were a Diablo player you would be interested to know about WoW as well! WoW, and them wanting players to return or play it from other games Blizzard Entertainment had under their belt seemed to always be a constant desire the company had.
Not too long after that, I gave up on the game only returning once a year if that. It failed to remain interesting and there were just lots of amazing ARPG out there on the market at this point like Path of Exile and much later Grim Dawn that had that dark feeling Diablo III was lacking.
It also suffered from not embracing its roots and being dark enough. Sure they tried to cover it in the shell of Diablo wrapper but it was just shallow once you looked in. They seemed more interested in keeping it for the masses and clean. Diehard fans could not run away fast with how dumbed down and “peaceful” it was when looking at the previous games.
Diablo III for many was such a letdown. They either went back to playing I or II or flat out did not accept that it ever existed in the first place. You also had those who abandoned the franchise all together vowing to never return. Which means quite the effort would be needed to get many wanting to give something like Diablo IV a shot.
Diablo Fans were thrilled back in 2018 at first when we finally had something new about Diablo. It happened at a time where many including myself felt like Diablo was just lost and would remain locked up in some dusty drawer forever. Almost anything would be good enough to hold back the horde of players itching for something new.
Oh boy, were we wrong! You would think a game could not possibly botch and alienate its entire player base in one go without ta game first being released but they sure did. Even the fanboys the hardest and longest surviving of them all who had been through so much had no idea the impending doom they were about to suffer from deep within.
Then they announced Diablo Immoral was for mobile gaming. You could not have popped a balloon fast enough for how quickly the mood went from hype to get the heck out what is this trash. Players could not believe a company what they were being told.
The very thing that made so many falls in love with Diablo has been things like it’s darker and gorier theme it has during the early years. Well, when you want to go sell mobile games in China and other markets they are not so into that.
Many have felt and I agree in this opinion that Diablo Immortal will just become a China thing where that game can cater to whatever whims are required to remain in the market. With some overspill to the rest of the world for those who just play mobile games.
It still baffles my mind to this day a gaming company would think it’s a great idea to announce to a room full of PC gamers that their favorite long-neglected game was going mobile. At best at the time the company hinted at a Diablo IV but had nothing to show for it but an empty handshake. That is going be quite the stain to remove from the community after that.
Most of the time the gaming industry has quite short term memory and is willing to forgive. If you have a bad launch or just flat out botch an entire game as long as you had enough money to weather the storm a couple of years later players can’t line up fast enough to get their fix on the newest thing.
As you can tell this is a bit of difference as you have almost a decade of players feeling: let down, negated and even taken advantage of. It’s going have to be one hell of a game to get so many back to the table at this point. You can only burn a customer so many times before they just move on.
Diablo IV's biggest pull is their current moto “return to darkness.” If they seem deadest on just making a clone of the glory days and calling it a day I feel it will be a major flop. ARPGs these days have a highly competitive market where even f2p games are wiping the floor of Diablo. Many Diablo players have aged quite a lot and have moved on.
One thing Blizzard Entertainment has always been good at is making kick-butt trailers. I would not be shocked if that is a major driver in their sales for games. They seem to put a lot of effort, time and money into making them. This is one thing the company has not compromised on over the years and it seemed to have held true for Diablo IV trailer.
They gave us exactly what we wanted to see and hear to the point the video got age-restricted. Dark, grim, gory, bloody and oh so twisted. Even for those who don’t know what Diablo is the trailer was sure a head turner pun intended.
They have also released a little about the game where we get to see three starting classes’ the barbarian, sorceress, and druid. This again seems to be playing into what the players need to be told. We got to see them move from the select screen to in-game for each one. Along with some other stuff but it looks like there was not a lot to truly show.
There is also no ETA last time I checked. Heck, you don’t even see a button from Diablo IV on Blizzard Entertainment's main website under games. They are to busy trying to sell you World of Warcraft Shadowlands. To give them the credit they at least show it on the fourth scroll page at the top so those who don’t know the diablo URL off the top of their head can find it. I understand they have a bunch of new stuff coming to many product lines ups but they still seem quite focused on WoW first.
My biggest fear is outside of a big-budget trailer are they willing to spend to make Diablo great again? They already have Diablo Immortal they are working on and I would not be shocked if it has priority when it comes to spending, talent and anything else it needs to chase after that mobile market. Let’s face it Blizzard Entertainment always going all for WoW first.
They also had next to nothing to show in 2018 with no ETA in 2019. I’m not even sure this thing will be a 2020 launch. It just seems like they would have shown a heck a lot more and take more pride in oversharing. While gamers are more willing to wait for a game to be ready these days it’s also been a long wait already. Where it feels they did not start game development when they should have.
They seem to be very focused on multiplayer along with it being built with PvP in mind. People like me who enjoyed PvP in an ARPG when I was a kid don’t really care for it much anymore. Even a game like Path of Exile who has tried to better embrace PvP and get it more involved has not made much headway with it just being something they drag out from time to time.
Perhaps the element that is missing in a game like Path of Exile is it not being more focused around it and that will be a winner for Diablo. I just hope they look at how few WoW servers are PvP and make sure the PvE players are more than happy. While sure it be fun to collect ears as a pvp kill like they had in old Diablo such nostalgia and novelty won’t last long.
I’m also wondering how they’re going to monetize it. We have seen in the past when they have tried to sell single class DLCs that did not work out so great. Many other Blizzard Entertainment games have massive microtransaction shops, loot boxes, XP boosts, and so on. On top of demanding triple-A pricing to just buy the base game. Outside of cosmetics, bank space and character slots I don’t see it going well.
I’m just hoping the team is willing and permitted to go far enough. You can’t tell me “return to darkness,” show a trailer like that, and not deliver on the goods. If they hold back, plague it with microtransaction, cut corners to save money, and just don’t make it one hell of a game. I see this being it for most the last time they ride Diablo to the theme park in hopes of thrills, guts, and glory. Here is hoping they birth a new monster into the ARPG world that takes this gaming genre to a whole new level.