When is the Diablo 4 release date? Probably not until 2024 at the earliest
We once thought we would be playing Diablo 4 by 2022, but now it looks like the game is unlikely to arrive for another year or two. So what happened? Life happened, my friends. When I first started speculating on the Diablo 4 release date it was May 2020, which now seems like a halcyon time before revelations about poor working conditions at Blizzard, parent company Activision Blizzard, and the entire video game industry. Since then the company has wrangled with the consequences, and it’s cut some key members of the Diablo 4 team who were implicated in the sexual harassment scandal. Combined with employee walkouts and talk of unionization, and the world of game development is looking different these days, which means our favorite games may take more time.
Activision Blizzard tacitly acknowledged that the leadership shuffle might push things back in its November 2021 earnings call, saying Diablo 4 would “benefit from more development time to reach its full potential.” No specifics were given, but the game did drop Game Director Luis Barriga and Lead Designer Jesse McCree last summer so it’s not surprising that the developers need time to get things back on course. Blizzard had already warned us that Diablo 4 wasn’t coming soon, but now Blizzard has said the game will get “a later launch… than originally envisaged.”
The bottom line is that we won’t be getting Diablo 4 in 2022… and maybe not 2023, either. So when is the Diablo 4 release date? We can make some guesses, but all we know for certain is that we’re still a long way from playing Diablo 4.
Can we find clues to the Diablo 4 release date in Diablo’s past?
The original Diablo came out on December 31st, 1996. The sequel, Diablo 2, came out on June 29th, 2000. That’s about three years of development between the two — and apparently the sequel was originally intended to be released even sooner. Blizzard wanted to launch Diablo 2 after two years, in 1999. But Diablo 2 was made by Blizzard North, and the company that created and published that game doesn’t really exist anymore. It’s been more than 20 years and Blizzard Entertainment is a wholly different animal than it was in the late 90’s, so we can’t directly draw much grist for the speculation mill from that.
Still, one thing we can learn is that Diablo 2 took longer than they expected to complete and release, so this cycle of delays is nothing new.
Looking back even farther to Diablo is even less helpful. The game was originally conceived in 1995 by Condor Games, the studio that would become Blizzard North and was later absorbed into Blizzard Entertainment — which was, at that time, Silicon and Synapse — and it took barely a year to go from the original conception to a shipped game. But Diablo 1 was released 25 years ago. The game industry was different, and the demands on game publishing were different, and we already know we’re unlikely to see the speedy release cycle from Diablo 1 ever again.
But some of these significant dates could hold a clue.
Diablo 3’s long development cycle may offer a realistic estimate
So let’s go more modern and look at Diablo 3. The game was announced in 2008, nearly a decade after Diablo 2 was released. And after that announcement, we had to wait another four years to play Diablo 3, which was released in 2012.
But Diablo 3 was in continuous development at Blizzard between 2001 and 2008. It was even in development when Blizzard North was still a thing, and went through multiple versions and redesigns before the announcement in 2008. That’s seven years of scrapped designs and new approaches before Blizzard finally found a game it was happy with. That means Diablo 3 was in development for 11 years before it finally shipped in 2012.
Is Diablo 4, which was announced at BlizzCon 2019, in the “ready to show” category that took Diablo 3 seven years to reach? That would mean that it took them roughly five years — from 2014 when Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls was released to 2019 when Diablo 4 was announced — to reach that stage. That’s slightly faster than it took to get Diablo 3 ready… but it feels like Diablo 4 may be in the earlier stages of development, particularly after last year’s leadership shakeup. Between losing Game Director Luis Barriga and Lead Game Designer Jesse McCree, the game may have headed back to the drawing board as new leadership stepped in and re-evaluated the game. We see regular quarterly reports on the state of the game, but very little that looks ready for release… or even close.
The Diablo 4 release date is completely up in the air
If at all possible, I believe Blizzard will want to release Diablo 4 on a significant date, just as they did when they released World of Warcraft on the same date as the original Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. Originally, I had expected Blizzard to target either December 31st or June 29th, which mark significant anniversaries for the original games, as potential release dates for Diablo 4. But those dates have come and gone more than once, and now we know 2022 is off the table entirely. Does Blizzard intend to hold out for one of those meaningful dates, or will we simply see the game whenever it’s ready?
Because while we don’t know much about Diablo 4, we do know that it isn’t ready. Diablo 4 as we’ve seen in the quarterly developer updates looks like an intriguing, even revolutionary game with interesting new ideas about gameplay and power escalation. At BlizzCon we saw stunning visuals and customization options never before seen in a Diablo game, a design choice that pushes the whole endeavor closer to being an RPG. And all of this excites and interests me greatly. Diablo 4 could be a fantastic game, But it’s hardly ready for release.
We know we won’t get a Diablo 4 release date in 2022, and with the current state of the game, I doubt we’ll see it before the very end of 2023 — perhaps with a December 31, 2023 release date that lines up with Diablo 1. But I think it’s more likely to be pushed back to 2024.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s just so much the development team has to do to get a great Diablo game ready to go. I say let them take all the time they need to get it right.
Originally published 5/28/2020, updated 1/11/2022
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