A look at Blizzard’s most successful new game launch ever, the history leading up to it, and what the future holds for the game’s live service and monetization ambitions.
The gates of Hell have reopened.
Earlier this month, Blizzard launched Diablo IV, the latest entry in the iconic ARPG franchise, to rave reviews and much fanfare. After a couple of open beta releases earlier in the year, the game was released to Digital Deluxe and Ultimate Edition holders on June 1st before launching worldwide on June 6th.
Despite some minor PR mishaps in the leadup, Diablo IV has had a relatively smooth launch for Blizzard, especially compared to Overwatch 2. Though there were some reports of technical difficulties on PlayStation — this was the franchise’s first simultaneous cross-platform launch, covering PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, and PS5 — it seemed like any negative backlash was quickly tamped down by the overwhelmingly positive player reception.
Of course, as with most tentpole releases these days — and particularly in the case of Blizzard products — monetization and live service plans will ultimately determine player reception in the long run and in large part the product’s lasting success or failure. While some fans are undoubtedly miffed at the $70 price tag, Diablo IV’s additional in-app purchase offerings will draw the most scrutiny. We’ll unpack that in greater detail below.
Diablo IV has been a long time in the making. Blizzard President Mike Ybarra stated that the game has been in development for more than six years, implying a kickoff sometime around 2017. The game was first revealed to the public at BlizzCon 2019. However, as many will remember, it was widely expected at the prior year’s event, only to be preempted by the ill-fated Diablo Immortal reveal.
Thus far, early returns have been promising for Activision Blizzard. In its Q1 earnings report (announced at the end of April), the company noted that Diablo’s pre-sales figures were “strong.” Just hours after the game’s launch, Blizzard confirmed as much in a press release, stating that Diablo IV was already the company’s “fastest-selling game of all time, with Blizzard’s highest pre-launch unit sales ever on both console and PC.”