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DiscussionFeb 27, 2024 8:00 am CT

What impact do you think the Microsoft acquisition had on the launch of Diablo 4?

Microsoft recently announced that Diablo 4 is coming to the Xbox Game Pass in 2024, which will put the game in front of a wider audience. Diablo 4 was Blizzard’s fastest-selling game at launch, reaching 12 million players within its first month. Despite one of the highest Metacritic ratings of any game in the Diablo franchise, the sales figures have dropped off precipitously since launch, as players got to end game and found very little there. (For comparison, Diablo 3 has lifetime sales of closer to 30 million units, and still has a significant, active player base.)

Mergers and acquisitions take a long time behind the scenes; from the first overtures, to the due diligence, to the negotiations, and all the way to the regulatory approvals. This deal was literally years in the making. Game development is also a long and drawn-out process. It was expected to be formally announced at BlizzCon in 2018, but instead Diablo: Immortal was announced with the infamous “Don’t you have phones” line from a harried Wyatt Cheng, who bore the brunt of the fan disappointment. It was widely reported at the time that there were plans to showcase the Diablo 4 progress but it was pulled at the last minute, a claim that was disputed by Blizzard. Ultimately, Diablo 4 was showcased at BlizzCon 2019 — but we still had another 4 years to wait before we would get our hands on the game.

The Microsoft acquisition of ABK was announced publicly in January 2022, with Diablo 4’s release date announced almost a year later in December 2022 at The Game Awards, following a limited beta period. Around that time, Overwatch 2’s launch had gone poorly, with players upset at the last-minute cutting of the PVE mode which had been pitched as a major feature of the new version. The (now canceled) unnamed survival game was obviously not on track for release, and World of Warcraft was doing its thing, but its usual release cycle meant an expansion would be close to two years away. They needed a big sales event, and Diablo 4 was the next one on the schedule.

How much of Diablo 4’s current state do you think was due to pressure to have a big launch on the books for the acquisition? How much do you think is due to other factors? It had certainly been in development a long enough time that several important decisions regarding direction could’ve been made and unmade repeatedly over its development. Does choosing to put it on Game Pass show that they will continue to invest in the game and the franchise long term?

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