Before Diablo 4 came out, Blizzard had concerns that their latest ARPG would tank the popularity of their most recent entry in the series, Diablo Immortal, Blizzard’s franchise general manager Rod Fergusson tells RPS. Immortal, which launched last year as a free-to-play MMO game, left quite a bad taste in our mouths when it launched on PC, especially when it came to the prohibitively high cost of its various microtransactions. Despite this, though, the game’s continued to enjoy great success over on mobile, but even Blizzard weren’t sure whether its popularity would last once Diablo 4 arrived.
“One of the things that we were kind of nervous about initially was that when Diablo 4 landed it would sort of cannibalise Immortal, and that everyone was just going to be, ‘Oh we’re just playing Immortal until Diablo 4 comes out’,” Fergusson told me at Gamescom. As it turns out, they needn’t have been so apprehensive. “In fact, it was the opposite,” he says.
“With each beta we did for Diablo 4, the more people started playing Immortal,” Fergusson continues. “Then once D4 launched, the same thing. Immortal continues to be successful, so we found that because that idea of playing on my couch in my living room or at my desk vs I’m playing on my phone in the car or while I’m waiting for my coffee or whatever, there was a place for both games to co-exist and they co-exist well.”
This “clarity of separation” was an important goal for Blizzard in the run-up to Diablo 4’s launch earlier this year, and I ask Fergusson whether there was a feeling that their numbered sequel needed to coming out swinging on PC after Immortal failed to impress.
“No, I don’t think so,” he says. “We talk about ‘different games, different aims’. A free to play mobile game is quite a bit different than a AAA console/PC title, and so what I think you saw is just us lean into our messaging around that. In Diablo 4, there is no pay to win, there is an all-cosmetic battle pass, cosmetic shop and those sorts of things. Diablo Immortal’s been very successful and we’re very proud of that game and it’s very fun to play, and so Diablo 4 was just a different type of Diablo experience.”
Elsewhere in our chat, Fergusson opened up about the hurdles they’ve faced with Diablo 4’s rocky first season, and how it’s been an “educational” experience for the team.
For more of the latest news and previews from Gamescom 2023, head to our Gamescom 2023 hub. You can also find everything announced at Opening Night Live right here.
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