While we knew that Diablo 4 was leaning more into being a live service than past installments, and that it had already planned more than one expansion, now they’re spelling it out. Blizzard has confirmed that Diablo 4 is doing the exact same model as Destiny 2, not just new seasons every three months, but also an annual expansion in perpetuity.
This comes from Diablo GM Rod Fergusson in an interview with Dextero:
“When you look at the launch of the game and this first season, we see that as building a foundation on which we can build for the future. So, as we look at our quarterly seasons, and we look at our annual expansions, those are the things that we’re really focused on for our live service.”
I’ve been wondering a bit what exactly Blizzard is doing from here, post-Microsoft acquisition, as the company is now essentially just supporting Overwatch 2, and now supporting Diablo 4 as endless, live offerings. But they have a lot riding on Diablo 4 specifically if they want to build it into a Destiny-style live service behemoth.
This is a break from past Diablo games, where Diablo 2 only had one expansion, Lord of Destruction, and so did Diablo 3, Reaper of Souls. For reasons that remain somewhat inexplicable to me, a second Diablo 3 expansion was scrapped and pieces of it were released separately, like a few new zones and the Necromancer class.
Here, with annual expansions, these are the ones that are supposed to move the main narrative of the series forward after the Lilith/Inarius events of the main game. This contrasts with seasons which Blizzard says are self-contained narratives, like this season’s guy who has to kill his former master as a basis for the Malignant Heart seasonal mechanic. Next season is about vampire hunting.
In season 1 at least here, Diablo has struggled to put the “live” into “live service.” It was easy to clear all the story content and the entire battle pass in 1-2 weeks. The rest was just leveling like normal with the addition of three bonus hearts for extra skills. There’s just no reason to keep returning. Monetization is also poor, as the game continues to lean heavily on ultra-pricey cosmetic shop armor sets, while the game itself received zero new armor or weapon cosmetics for playing the season.
As for expansions, these will no doubt be priced higher, and at the very least, should be held to the quality and volume standard of LoD or RoS, even if they’re annual now. Without question, we should be getting one new character class per expansion, and everyone predicts Paladin/Crusader is probably going to be the first one.
If this is the schedule, we should see the first Diablo 4 expansion next summer, a year after the game launched. Before that, more seasons, though I’m still not quite clear on if a season and an expansion launch at the same time, as Blizzard hasn’t answered that yet.
Diablo 4 has a lot of work to do to engage players over the long term, and I don’t think they’re there yet. The Destiny model is hard, as the pace is grueling, and we’ll see if they can keep up.