What could Blizzard have planned for Diablo?

Blizzard recently unveiled the full schedule for this year’s BlizzCon event, and fans were quick to notice one aspect of the schedule in particular: a panel titled “Diablo: What’s Next.” The panel is scheduled for right after the BlizzCon opening ceremony, leading many to believe this is the year when a new Diablo game will finally be announced.

Granted, there is no guarantee that Blizzard’s plans include an entire new Diablo entry, but given what we currently know, it’s hard to argue against the fans who are already getting their hopes up.

What we know 

The Diablo franchise has lain mostly dormant since the 2012 release of Diablo III, and fans have grown understandably antsy about any potential progress for the franchise. In fact, Blizzard actually made a pre-show statement during last year’s BlizzCon saying that there would be no new Diablo-related announcements, presumably because it knew fans would be expecting one after such a long wait.

Meanwhile, Blizzard job listings and other miscellaneous references from earlier this year have made it quite clear that the studio has some sort of new Diablo-themed project in the works. The day on which BlizzCon 2018 begins, November 2, is also the same day that the Nintendo Switch version of Diablo III will launch, and Blizzard will likely want to capitalize on the Diablo hype that will already be swirling around the showroom floor.

What would a Diablo sequel look like?

Assuming that Blizzard unveils a proper Diablo sequel at BlizzCon 2018, what form could it potentially take? Well, for one, it would undoubtedly include its own version of Diablo III’s ongoing seasons as well as the Adventure Mode feature which was added in the Reaper of Souls expansion. Both Adventure Mode and the seasons system have drastically boosted Diablo III’s replay value, giving dedicated players incentives to not only log in but also play as much as they can during specific time periods.

Sadly, there’s also a good chance that the in-depth story campaigns which defined earlier Diablo titles wouldn’t be as prominent in a potential new game, if one was even present at all. Blizzard is a business after all, and it has shown with games such as Overwatch and Hearthstone that it’s very good at dreaming up ways for players to keep spending money over the long term. I’m not saying I think a new Diablo game would have randomized loot boxes or buyable character skins, but I will be genuinely surprised if it doesn’t have any sort of recurring revenue system.  

What I’d like to see

Even if the idea of a recurring revenue stream in a new Diablo game sounds gross in theory, it could potentially benefit all players regardless of their monetary investment level. Overwatch’s microtransactions allow Blizzard to host seasonal events for free, and I see no reason why a similar format couldn’t be applied to Diablo.

Diablo III’s current seasons system is pretty barebones, with players leveling up fresh seasonal characters as fast as they can so they can earn a new series of cosmetic items and then repeat the process for the next season. Occasionally there’s a minor new content addition but it’s pretty obvious that the game’s development team is just coasting at this point. With that in mind, I’d be willing to endure the presence of microtransactions if it meant more robust seasons complete with new items, areas, gameplay systems, enemy types, and maybe even playable character classes.

Speaking of which, I’d also enjoy seeing a more robust character creation element. Diablo III made some strides by letting players choose their character’s gender, but I certainly wouldn’t object to more detailed customization options. And of course the more playable classes Blizzard can cram in the better.

I also wouldn’t mind a less pronounced story campaign as long as Blizzard ensured the game was as highly replayable as possible. Give players a large selection of activities, make those activities accessible and fun, and funnel it all into a compelling endgame and we’ll let the lack of a large-scale campaign slide. Adventure Mode and seasons are a good place to start, but they should just be the tip of the iceberg.

Also, and I can’t believe that I’m saying this, I think some non-direct competitive multiplayer could help the new Diablo game stand out as well. I’m picturing a twist on Diablo III’s Nephalim Rift system akin to Destiny 2’s recently added Gambit mode where two teams of players would race to see who could clear a procedurally generated rift first. The rift’s layout would be identical for each team, but other than that it would be completely random in layout and enemy composition, ensuring that teams who could think fast and adjust on the fly would be at an advantage.

Dark world, bright future

We still have about a month to go before we find out for ourselves what new Diablo projects Blizzard is working on, but even with what little we know I can’t help but embrace my excitement. Diablo’s emphasis on dungeon crawling and cooperative play has ensured its place as one of my favorite Blizzard IP’s ever since the very first game, and I’m confident Blizzard will once again blow me away come BlizzCon 2018.

Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage once BlizzCon 2018 kicks off on November 2.