The case for a Diablo 3 expansion
I have in the past been very committed to the idea of Diablo 4. That’s because I very much want a Diablo 4, a new game in the series that will take all that they learned making D3 and take a leap forward both in gameplay and storytelling. I think it’s time for a Diablo game that actually makes the story as important a part of the game as going around massacring wave after wave of demons.
But while I want a Diablo 4, I often wonder if we really need one.
Back in November of 2018, our own Anna Bell talked about a supposed leak from ex-Blizzard employees discussing various concerns about the company. One of those concerns was the way the Diablo team ended up having to axe a second Diablo 3 expansion after Reaper of Souls due to investor anxiety about the rocky launch of Diablo 3 and the assumption that RoS was going to be a disaster. Instead, it sold 2.7 million copies in its first week and has moved 20 million across all platforms since.
This is the definition of not a failure, and if the rumors from the leakers are true, it means that the investors have literally thrown away money that would have been generated by the second expansion.
Some of the content of that expansion has since come out, such as the Rise of the Necromancer pack. But in general, while we’re told in that leak that Diablo 4 is in production and was almost revealed at last year’s BlizzCon, we still in 2019 have no real information on when that game will be announced.
A Less Than Modest Proposal
First off, let me say that I don’t think this will happen, but if I were in charge over at Blizzard… well, the company would probably fall apart. I have no experience. I write about games, I don’t make games. I mean, I’ve done some freelance table top RPG design, but that’s it. But if I were somehow given the ability to make decisions, what I’d do is put a team on a Diablo 3 expansion.
Well, for starters, you’ve got a built in market for it. Diablo 3 is on PC and consoles, it’s shipped millions of units, people are playing it right now. Instead of making a new game, why not sell more content to people who have demonstrated that they will buy and play the game you already have? It’s safer from an investment standpoint and it means you don’t have to spend development time designing a new game from scratch. I’m not saying a new Diablo 3 expansion wouldn’t require significant work — you’d likely need to bump the level cap to 80, design a new series of zones to carve through and come up with a story that works as a continuation of what we’ve seen before. But I think that might well be exactly what the entire Diablo franchise needs.
Story wise, Diablo 3 left a lot of stuff up in the air. Rather than bog down the eventual Diablo 4 with all of it or just ignoring it, why not let Diablo 3 be the place that resolves all of its own dangling plot hooks? Work out what the deal with Dirgest is. Finally resolve the ultimate fate of Leah — can her soul be saved? Where is it, did Diablo consume it? Are the Greater and Lesser Evils free, or do they remain trapped within a Diablo who is all seven at once, and if the latter where is he hiding? Why is he hiding, when he was more powerful than the entire Angiris Council combined? Is the Nephalem that frightening? Reaper of Souls ends with Tyrael finally realizing that a being as powerful as the Nephalem could well be a problem, what did he do with that realization?
A proper Diablo 3 expansion dealing with some or all of these concepts could well serve as an excellent bridge to future games.
This is not saying don’t make Diablo 4
Like I’ve said before, I really want a Diablo 4, but I honestly feel like there’s still enough life in D3 that you could easily justify going back to that well at least one more time. Doing a big wrap-up to the game, maybe bring in playable Druids or Assassins or Amazons, give us an extra 10 levels and a lot of new gear to play with — it could serve both to remind people of just how good D3 is after Reaper of Souls fixed almost all of its launch problems and to get folks hyped up for a new game. It would also be Diablo gameplay for the traditional audience of PC and console players who seem so put off by Diablo Immortal.
I really have no inside knowledge. For all I know, Diablo 4 is already to a point where there’s simply no way to justify making a Diablo 3 expansion and we’re going to finally get that Diablo 4 announcement at BlizzCon. If that’s the case, I’d be as thrilled as anyone. But I do honestly believe there are good reasons to focus on Diablo 3 — it’s a proven game, it’s got a wide reach, there are millions of people who’ve bought it on a variety of platforms. Its systems are by this point very robust. A new chunk of story for this game would sell, especially if it also contained new classes, levels and gear. People want to play more Diablo, to the point where the Action RPG field is growing and branching out into big multiplayer worlds. I think putting out an expansion to the current king of that particular hill would be an excellent way to get people both excited for the future and less irritated that it hasn’t come yet.
I am aware it likely is too late, and won’t happen. But I do think there was definitely a market for it, and it should have happened. In some ways, I feel like Diablo 3 could have become like World of Warcraft — instead of being replaced by a new game, it could have just kept getting expansions. We could well be on expansion #3 by now, and perhaps we should have been.
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