It wasn't just fans who were gearing up for Diablo 4. Grinding Gear Games, the developers of Path of Exile and one of Diablo's most direct competitors, went into Blizzcon waiting for the demonic shoe to drop. It didn't, of course, and the Kiwi developers have some interesting thoughts about why that is.
In the latest episode of the Front Seat Cast podcast, which is put together by developers at Grinding Gear Games, GGG co-founder Jonathan Rogers said the Path of Exile studio was fully expecting Diablo 4 to drop. Rogers was also surprised at the degree to which the Diablo Immortal outrage had spread into the real-world.
But the theory posited by Rogers from 37 minutes in, which referenced some of our previous reporting on Diablo 4, is that Blizzard hasn't officially announced the game - because they may still be in the position where they need the ability to cancel the project outright, as they did with Titan.
"The thing that I find interesting about it ... why would you not just say you're working on Diablo 4? The only reason I can see is that they actually don't want to commit to making it," Rogers said. "And that implies that they're not sure if they're ever going to release it. But the thing is, you hear that and you're like, 'That can't be true, that cannot be true.' But I guess, you know, that sort of implies a certain amount of turmoil in it's development."
Rogers added that he hasn't heard anything personally to verify that, but he noted - as did the other Grinding Gears employees on the podcast - that he'd seen multiple high-level job postings for the Diablo team. "It kind of makes you just wonder, could there be so much turmoil there that they don't want to even announce they're working on it in case it gets cancelled?"
"The other thing that I also realise is that even if that's not the case, imagine if they announced they're working on D4 this Blizzcon. And then next Blizzcon comes along and they didn't have a proper announcement. That would be a really bad thing. So the implication then there, are they maybe not sure they could reach an announcement a year from now? And that would be the concern that would lead to them not wanting to announcement? Because otherwise you would think they would just say, we're working on this."
Rogers said GGG was "absolutely operating under the assumption" that Blizzard would announce Diablo 4 this Blizzcon, up until the recent blog post. "Path of Exile patch] 4.0.0 is designed to go up against D4, absolutely: we're operating under the assumption that we were going to have to bring our A-game with 4.0.0, because Blizzard would be announcing that."
As I noted at the time, the debacle around Blizzcon has stirred up an intriguing discussion not just about the franchise, but how developers discuss and announce games in general. For their part, and as someone operating in the same genre and in the same business more broadly, the Kiwi devs posited that Blizzard had gotten the messaging completely wrong and had lost touch with their fanbase.
"The way the PR has gone after [Diablo Immortal] ... that sort of bothered me a little bit. We all make mistakes about PR, it happens. But it is weird when you double down on that, which to some extent they have," Rogers said.
It's worth remembering, amongst all of this, that Diablo 3 has been insanely successful despite its initial critical failings. It was the 10th best selling video game in 2015, having shipped more than 30 million units, and sits behind Minecraft and PUBG as the third-highest selling game across PC, Mac and Linux at the time of writing (excluding free-to-play titles).
It might not have made more money to date than World of Warcraft, which didn't have the benefit of shipping on consoles, or the rapid popularity of Overwatch. But Diablo is still an enormous pillar for Blizzard symbolically, practically and financially, and what happens to that franchise is of intense interest.
"They're a hair's breadth away from saying it - they just keep saying multiple Diablo projects. Just say the thing! It's fine. If you say the thing, all of this controversy basically goes away. It's so silly to me," Nick Kolan, designer at Grinding Gear Games, said.