Blizzard’s Diablo series has been at the center of a ton of scrutiny since the harsh community backlash to the announcement of mobile game Diablo Immortal at BlizzCon 2018. While I think hype culture is partially to blame, I can still agree that Blizzard probably should have unveiled Diablo Immortal alongside another project, namely Diablo IV, which Kotaku previously claimed was in development.
Following this whirlwind of controversy, Kotaku’s Jason Schreier published The Past, Present, And Future Of Diablo today, giving us an in depth look at the current state of the Diablo series and Team 3 a Blizzard. While he was able to confirm that Diablo IV, currently codenamed Fenrir, does exist, he also interestingly highlighted some notable Diablo-related projects that were canceled at Blizzard over the last five years.
Specifically, he brings up the fact that Diablo III’s second expansion and a Dark Souls like project were canned by Blizzard. When it comes to the canceled Diablo III expansion, an anonymous developer claimed that it was apparently abandoned because the higher-ups at Blizzard had deemed Diablo III a failure before the release of the Reaper of Souls expansion, which many believed revitalized the game:
“What they told the team was, ‘You’ve finished Reaper of Souls, it’s really good. But we think the best thing for the IP is to move to Diablo IV in whatever form that’ll be.’ The overall sense on the team, at least in my impression, was that there was a vote of no confidence from the executives. They thought Diablo III was a giant fuck-up…
The perception overall was that management thought, ‘This team really screwed up’. They could’ve held off a few months and seen how Reaper did, but in their mind [Diablo III] was irredeemable.”
Another anonymous developer pointed out that people at Team 3 were very disappointed by this decision, as a second expansion for Diablo III could’ve honed in on what made the game great:
“A lot of people felt stunned by it. I think a lot of them felt like, ‘We made mistakes on Diablo III, but we learned and we made Reaper to show what we could do. We have fixed it, and Reaper’s really good.’ I think a lot of people felt like we’d figured it out and we know how to do this, and expansion two, whatever it would’ve been, would’ve been the highest expression of that… To have them pull the plug without really seeing how Reaper did really stung.”
According to Kotaku and its sources, after this second expansion was canceled, many developers from Team 3 were scattered to other projects around Blizzard, with a small team coming up with what would be next for the franchise. At this point, development on a project codenamed Hades began, led by Reaper of Souls Director Josh Mosqueira, and it was apparently quite different from what’s come to be expected from the series.
Hades was “a Diablo take on Dark Souls…[and] would use an over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective.” Kotaku even says Blizzard was considering not calling this project Diablo IV due to how different it was. Unfortunately, its development was riddled with problems so the project was scrapped in mid-2016. Afterwards, Blizzard shifted the to work on Rise of the Necromancer for Diablo III as well as what would ultimately become Diablo IV/Project Fenrir.
Ultimately, one veteran Blizzard employee stated how the series would be in a somewhat better, or at least more focused, place right now if Blizzard hadn’t made the decision to cancel that second Diablo III expansion:
“I remember a lot of us looking at each other and saying, ‘Man, if we had just done that second expansion instead of losing half the team as a result of the cancellation, and then all of the personnel changes, management changes, then this walk down the road of Hades… If we hadn’t done any of that and had just focused on doing a solid third act for Diablo, it’d be out by now.”
Meanwhile, Blizzard seems very stoic in response to these canceled projects. In a statement given to Kotaku, they revealed that only about 50% of Blizzard’s projects see the light of day as they only want to put out titles that meet their bar of quality and that many canceled projects end up being canceled or incorporating into other things like Overwatch or World of Warcraft:
“As far as game cancellations, we see that as a strength—a reflection of our commitment to quality, and how we’ve always operated. Historically, we’ve launched about 50% of the total projects we’ve worked on over the past three decades—those are the ones we consider representative of Blizzard quality.
Not shipping a game is never an easy decision to make, but it has always been the right decision for us. Canceling Titan led us to Overwatch, and as another example, canceling Nomad led us to World of Warcraft.”
Whatever you may think about Diablo Immortal, Project Fenrir, or just Blizzard’s business practices in general, it is certainly interesting to get a more in depth glimpse at some interesting Diablo projects that never saw the light of day. Hopefully, Project Fenrir turns out well, even if its a ways off, and pleases fans currently angered by Diablo Immortal.
In the meantime, players can just continue to focus on the complete version of Diablo III that is currently available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.