When is the Diablo 4 release date? It may well have moved up to 2023
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. But the latest earnings call gives us some new hints on the release date with the news that the game is in internal testing.
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.
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?
All of my previous estimations on when we’d get to see Diablo 4 were based on the state of the game as I saw in 2019, and the shakeups to the D4 team we saw at the mid point of 2021. A lot of key people had left, and it was unsure how close the game was to anything like a beta test. And while it’s still unsure, the fact that Activision Blizzard mentioned that Diablo 4 is in company wide internal testing on the Q1 2022 earnings call is a big step forward towards a potential Friends and Family test, which would lead potentially to a closed beta, and from there even an open beta is a possibility. We’ve seen recently that Diablo Immortal will not only get a full mobile release in June of 2022, but it will also be entering a beta test for a PC version of the game, something we had absolutely no reason to expect.
Considering that the Microsoft purchase of Activision Blizzard is still slated for the end of 2023, it feels to me that this new information from the Q1 2022 call makes it almost a certainty that we will see Diablo 4 before the end of 2023. And considering the original Diablo‘s launch date, I’m starting to feel optimistic that we will see Diablo 4 launch on December 31, 2023.
Originally published 5/28/2020, updated 4/25/2022
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