Loot action-RPG Diablo IV received glowing previews this week and is expected to appear at the 2022 edition of The Game Awards Thursday night. But some of the game’s developers tell the The Washington Post that production might not wrap in time for a planned June 2023 release date unless they crunch in the months to come.
According to a new investigation by The Washington Post, which includes interviews with 15 current and former developers at Blizzard, Diablo IV’s development has been rocky. It’s included plenty of scrapped work, controversial decisions, and extended overtime, even amid company promises to become a “model” workplace in the games industry as Activision Blizzard fights a 2021 California lawsuit alleging years of widespread sexual harassment and discrimination.
“We’re at the point where they’re not willing to delay the game anymore,” one developer said. “So we all just have to go along and figure out how much we’re willing to hurt ourselves to make sure the game gets released in a good enough state.”
Blizzard did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Kotaku. Spokesperson Andrew Reynolds told The Washington Post the following in response to its investigation:
As you may know, game development in general, and ‘Diablo IV’ specifically, follows an iterative process where the scope evolves over time. Production on the game is going extremely well. Overtime is voluntary and limited to specific teams. We regularly survey the team on their professional well-being, and the latest results are the most positive they’ve been in years.
Read More: The Horrible World Of Video Game Crunch
While overtime is not mandatory, The Washington Post reports that Blizzard is using company stock bonuses and $US25 ($35) DoorDash gift cards to encourage staff to work longer to get the game done. As is common during periods of crunch, some developers say the overtime will continue taking its toll on their health and personal relationships.
Diablo IV’s development has become closely intertwined with a larger games industry workplace reckoning over the past year. As first reported by Kotaku, former director Luis Barriga and lead designer Jesse McCree were fired in August 2021. While Blizzard did not provide a reason why, McCree was one of the developers pictured in a so-called BlizzCon 2013 “Cosby Suite” with former World of Warcraft lead developer, Alex Afrasiabi, who had previously been fired for misconduct.
The game was officially delayed in November 2021, and Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick proceeded to blame that for the company’s plummeting stock price, and not a Wall Street Journal report implicating him in the company’s alleged failures to adequately address misconduct allegations.
Microsoft then swooped in to buy the Call of Duty maker at a big discount, though the Federal Trade Commission is now fighting to prevent the merger. In the meantime, quality assurance developers on Diablo IV at Blizzard Albany just unionized, and will now begin bargaining over things like pay, benefits, and overtime rules as part of a larger labour organising groundswell at the company.
Diablo IV is an especially important game to fans who have been looking forward to the latest game in the series ever since expansions for Diablo III began to wind down. Some developers The Washington Post spoke with were sceptical as to whether the developer could make its latest planned release date of June 2023, but were equally sceptical that management would be willing to delay it yet again. Activision Blizzard’s sale to Microsoft is expected to close the same month.
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