It’s been close to seven years since the initial release of Diablo 3, so obviously we're expecting that it's only matter of time before we start another monstrous loot hunt through Sanctuary in the inevitable Diablo 4.
While Blizzard Entertainment hasn't actually confirmed that Diablo 4 is in the works, it seems pretty likely. Read between the lines of the company's statements on the topic and it seems fair to suggest that something is definitely on the way, and it definitely seems Diablo shaped.
Following the furore around the disappointing announcement of mobile game Diablo: Immortal at Blizzcon 2018, we're expecting Blizzard won't make the same mistake again at this year's Blizzcon.
Want to know more? Here’s everything to know so far about the development of the long-awaited Diablo 4.
[Update: Don't expect to see Diablo 4 at Gamescom 2019. Read on to find out more.]
- Diablo 3 (Nintendo Switch) review: battling demons, while on the toilet
- Best free Android games / Best free iPhone games
- Diablo Immortal: everything we know about the Diablo game for mobile phones
Cut to the chase: is Diablo 4 coming out?
- What is it? The rumor of another entry into the veteran action-role playing dungeon crawling series.
- When can I play it? With the game yet to be officially revealed, there’s no word on release yet. Evidence suggests so far that it’s at least a couple of years away.
Diablo 4 rumors, development and hires
Tongues started wagging after nine job listings for an "unannounced project" in the Diablo franchise were spotted on the Blizzard Entertainment careers page. The company is looking for key roles, including lead character and concept artists, software engineers, a lead narrative designer and an executive producer.
While it's not certain that the listings are for Diablo 4, the game is unannounced and there's already a confirmed mobile title in the form of Diablo Immortal in the works. These are some essential positions in the development of a game, however, which suggests that if they are for a Diablo 4 project, the game could be some time from completion.
More development focus
Recent reports have stated that Blizzard is no longer working on a StarCraft shooter and has decided to shift development focus over to Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2. This is good news for those waiting with bated breath for Diablo 4 updates as it shows Blizzard is entirely focused on the game. With a larger team behind it could we see more updates soon? Given Blizzard won't be attending Gamescom 2019, it could still be some time.
"As part of a renewed effort this year to maintain our focus on development, for our current games and our future projects, we won’t have a booth at Gamescom 2019," the post reads. "The show is an important one for the European and global gaming community, and we’re going to miss meeting players in Cologne this year.
"We’re also looking forward to sharing more details about the projects we’re currently working on when the time is right."
While the post itself doesn't shed any light on what these projects might be, it does clarify that if we are getting a Diablo 4 announcement this year, it'll likely not be until BlizzCon 2019 (in November).
What we know so far
When Blizzard Entertainment revealed Diablo Immortal at Blizzcon 2018, there was an uproar. Hordes of fans had been hoping for news on Diablo 4, given the length of time since Diablo 3’s release. But instead they were introduced to a mobile-only touchscreen spin-off title. Whether it proves itself to be good or bad was almost irrelevant – fan’s wanted a proper, PC-first numbered entry into the series, and were fearful that Immortal would be a watered down, cynical attempt to draw more money from their pockets.
Blizzard denied that there was anything else ever set for an unveiling at the event, but a post to YouTube back in August suggested otherwise. In it, community manager Brandy "Nevalistis" Camel stated that there were “multiple Diablo projects in the works”:
"The forges here at Blizzard are burning hot. And we have multiple Diablo projects in the works. Some of them are going to take longer than others,” stated Camel.
“But we may have some things to show you later this year. We hope you stay tuned, while we work to bring these Diablo experiences to life. None of this would be possible without the support that you have shown us for over 20 years.
"So whether you first joined us in Diablo 3 or you are a seasoned veteran, thanks you. Diablo is, and always will be, part of Blizzard's identity, and we can't wait for the future."
While we now know that one of those in-development projects is Diablo Immortal, an educated guess would be that one of the other projects could be Diablo 4.
So what’s pointing us towards a Diablo 4 game in production? In a February 2019 earnings call, COO Coddy Johnson stated that Diablo's development headcount “will grow substantially as the teams work on several projects underway for the franchise”.
This followed multiple job listings that pointed towards skills needed for a Diablo title – one was hunting for a “skilled Dungeon Artist” with “a focus on composition, detail and mood, while ensuring that the gameplay space is readable," as well as a technical artist who could "help the environment and prop teams define, create, maintain and streamline the modelling and world-building pipeline and processes to bring to life the world of Sanctuary."
Of course, Diablo 3 remains an active concern at Blizzard, so these roles could be purely for maintaining that existing game. But with the majority of Diablo Immortal’s development being handled by Blizzard’s Chinese partner Tencent, Johnson’s call for a headcount rise would point to something more substantial being in the works. Indeed, back in 2016 Blizzard was on the hunt for a new game director "lead the Diablo series into the future." Such a future-gazing role would almost certainly include a mainline Diablo title.
Works in progress: Diablo Hades and / or Diablo Fenris
Game development is often iterative. Diablo 3 was in the works for many years and prototyped in many different ways before becoming the game we know today – and even then, it’s changed dramatically since its (somewhat shaky) initial launch.
Diablo 4 will likely be no different, and an incredibly interesting report from Kotaku back in 2018 pointed to multiple iterations of Diablo being in the works at Blizzard – one that has now ceased experimentation and has been shelved, the other what is reportedly now the foundation of Diablo 4.
Note that these rumors come from sources we’ve not been able to independently verify, but, working alongside the Kotaku UK team and being able to vouch for their integrity, we’d say there’s legitimate information here that could point to the direction that Diablo 4 is headed towards.
– Hades (or ‘Diablo as Dark Souls’): the first of these projects was codenamed ‘Hades’. Sources speaking to Kotaku described a game not dissimilar in approach to Dark Souls – an over the shoulder, hardcore dungeon crawler. Work on Hades spanned 2014-2016 reportedly, and included top Blizzard talent including Diablo 3 director Josh Mosquiera. Given the popularity of Dark Souls, broadly similar RPG mechanics and the shared gothic aesthetic of the two, this would have been an interesting and fresh direction for the series to take. However, sources state that the game just wasn’t gelling, with the team eventually going on to make the excellent Rise of the Necromancer DLC for Diablo 3.
– Fenris (a return to Diablo 2’s darkness): the second (and reportedly ongoing) effort to make Diablo 4 was codenamed ‘Fenris’, and was worked on by the same team that canned Hades. It would be a more traditional isometric Diablo title, and would see the caricature, colorful aesthetic of Diablo 3 ditched in favor of a darker, grimier, more horrifying look that bring the creepy dread of the first two Diablo games up to date.
"There’s a lot of people who felt like Diablo 3 got away from what made Diablo Diablo in terms of art style and spell effects," one unnamed Blizzard employee told Kotaku. "They want to make [Fenris] gross, make it dark, [get rid of] anything that was considered cartoony in Diablo 3… Make what people were afraid of in Diablo 2, but modern."
Fenris is also discussed in highly social terms, taking cues from the likes of World of Warcraft and Destiny. While it wouldn’t be an MMO, it could well be a ‘live game’, with social areas that players can meet in before heading out into instanced dungeon raids.
Could it be that the Diablo franchise is about to experience a schism? One that sees the more approachable stylings of the Diablo 3 era be carried as the mobile Diablo Immortal experience, freely monetizable away from the ire of the hardcore Diablo fan, while Diablo 4 goes back to the horror-infused roots of the earlier games in the series, as being worked on with the Fenris project? It’s a reasonable idea.
Whatever happens, we’ll have all the most up to date information on Diablo 4 here. So keep checking back as we delve deeper into the growing darkness at the heart of Sanctuary.