Blizzard Entertainment doesn’t release very many games. They still have only a handful of franchises to their name, and half of them have “craft” in the title. Blizzard has abstained from releasing yearly entries in its popular franchises like many big gaming companies do, instead releasing just one or two games a year total, then giving players years’ worth of post-game updates, improvements, support, and the occasional paid expansion.
Blizzard’s successful approach to mainstream gaming and commitment to their games has never been more apparent than with Diablo 3. Originally released in 2012, an agonizingly long 12 years after Diablo 2, the latest entry made the surprising changes of breaking and reconstructing many of the series’ (and the whole genre’s) beloved systems. And fans were not happy.
Skill points were completely scratched, the game instead rewarding everyone with the same skills and skill-runes every level. The art style was bemoaned as being far too bright and cartoony compared to the series’ former Gothic, sinister tones. An auction house, at which you could buy other players’ in-game items and sell your own, destroyed the exhilaration of finding your own loot, and a real money store—where you simply paid the developer for stuff—threatened the game’s basic integrity.
Then there was the infamously derided always-online component, which forced even those that just wanted to play by themselves to sign into Blizzard’s servers, at the constant mercy of their internet connection. On launch day players who simply couldn’t play the game they had just purchased spewed enough bile to fill a Grotesque.
Many purists and diehards of the genre quickly dismissed Diablo 3 in 2012. But then a funny thing happened. You see, underneath all these derided changes beat the demonic soulstone of a solid action-role-playing game. The desire to swiftly kill things to get more powerful and get fancy loot so that you can then kill more things is still a winning formula. Its near universal popularity has been co-opted by shooters and action games like Borderlands and Destiny, and is particularly adept at bringing friends together in a more relaxed, cooperative environment.