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Diablo 4: The 3 Player Solution, Part 1

Jenbox360 from Windows Central shares her unique insights about Diablo 4.


Diablo Franchise: Resurrected

The landscape of Diablo gaming is currently undergoing an unprecedented revolution in the history of the franchise. Up until just about a year ago, the game series had been almost completely dominated by players on PC. Virtually all Diablo content in the past, including streaming partners, gameplay videos, and build guides, paid relatively little, or no, attention to console players.

The first, and most obvious, reason behind the imbalance was the fact that Blizzard had always developed Diablo games for PC well before releasing the console versions. That disparity was further compounded by the lack of cross-platform compatibility. Console gaming was also notorious for making it much easier for players to cheat, which frustrated the problem even more.

diablo 4 xbox game passHowever, the launch of Diablo 4 in June 2023 changed much of that history in one fell swoop. The newest addition to the series was developed and released as a live service game for both PC and console simultaneously. That, along with cross-platform compatibility and global servers, blew the doors wide open for legitimate console players. Perhaps the most noteworthy result of all that was Xbox Game Pass becoming the biggest platform for playing Diablo 4 as of just last month. Yes, we’re all aware that the meteoric rise on Xbox occurred well into Season 3 when a lot of PC players had already moved on to other games. Nevertheless, Xbox is still a very large ecosystem in its own right and the raw numbers for Game Pass suggest that this new cohort of Diablo players will comprise a sizeable portion of the overall Diablo community at the start of Season 4.

Nevertheless, most of the recent Developer interviews, in keeping with Diablo gaming tradition, were scored exclusively by PC content creators. However, it seems only fitting that a well-known dignitary from the console community should also get to share some of that limelight. Enter Jennifer Young, a.k.a. Jenbox360, a News Writer for Windows Central, who’s got her finger on the pulse of the growing society of Diablo console gamers. She graciously agreed to sit down with me (from all the way across the pond) and shared her own unique perspective on Diablo 4’s current gaming environment as we eagerly await the release of Loot Reborn.

3 Player Challenge

Gaz: So much of what has been communicated about Diablo 4 over the past year has been related to its framework, core mechanics, itemization, endgame content, difficulty level, class balance, etc. However, it seems to me that all of the chatter that’s been going back and forth between the Diablo community and the Developers can actually be boiled down to just one central issue. Of course, I’m referring to the fact that Diablo 4, like its predecessors, has multiple prominent audiences. In my view, this is the most basic consideration that poses the greatest challenge to the developers of any ARPG, especially now at a time of intense proliferation in both the world of gaming and in social media. You’ve written about this topic in the past as well and I’d like to learn more about your perspective on the issue.

JenX: “I think most people split the Diablo 4 audience into casual and hardcore players, but there’s actually 3 audiences here. It’s not a case of there being just the ‘casual’ audience and the ‘streamer/content creator’ audience. I think the casual audience, itself, can be broken down into at least two more categories. First, you have your ‘super casuals’ who just want to play the game, find great gear, and feel powerful while blasting demons with friends. They may pick up the game on Game Pass and will not really be interested in Seasonal content, or at least not interested in finishing it, as the latter chapters of the Season Journey can be overwhelming.

Season JourneyYou also have your ‘returning casuals’, who I’d say people like ourselves fit into. These are the people who will come back and play each Season and will also want to finish the Season Journey and Battle Pass. Maybe they’ll also level 1 or 2 characters to 100 and will engage with all the endgame content like Masterworking and Tempering and farming Duriel for personal gratification. But then they’ll essentially drop out later in the Season once they’ve achieved their personal goals.

Then you have your hardcore 1%-ers (just in terms of playtime, not the game mode), which are mainly the streamer and content creator guys who will probably power level to 100 within the first 2 to 3 days of the Season and will be dominating the endgame straight away. Before long they’ll be re-rolling stats like a mofo and complaining that the game has gotten dull while trying to create content for their audiences. Blizzard is trying to satisfy all these 3 player camps and, while I think Season 4 is going to make massive strides towards that, I don’t think it’s a silver bullet either. That kind of balance/equilibrium will take time and patience, with patience being something a lot of modern gamers are lacking.”

Blast Off

Gaz: As I mentioned in my recent article, Diablo 4 PTR: Who’s Your Daddy?, the PTR seemed to be geared more towards making the game better for the majority of players who fall into the first two audience groups you described above. At the same time, I made the argument in Diablo 4: The Lowdown on Leaderboards that pro blasters (third audience group) are still an important ingredient when it comes to the long-term development and viability of the game. What’s your overview on the role of the 1%-ers in the development of Diablo 4 right now?

LeaderboardsJenX: “I do watch a bunch of Diablo content creators and look to them as a source of expert knowledge on the endgame systems. By the time I actually get to level 100 and want to perfect my build I’m grateful that guys like Raxx and Wudijo have already figured it all out for me. As a returning casual, their diligence directly benefits me and saves me time. I can watch one of their videos and know exactly what to do to spend my game time more efficiently.

On the other hand, when it comes to watching someone else play Diablo 4, I think the low streaming numbers for that are simply because it’s not a really interesting game to watch right now at this point in its development. At least that’s the case for me, unless we’re talking about legit Hardcore (perma-death) mode. In the past, I’ve enjoyed watching Leviathan push D3 Greater Rifts on a HC character because the stakes there were real (stakes I’m not willing to invest in with my own character and lose progress).”

New Player Wave

Gaz: Last month, Rod Fergusson, General Manager for the Diablo Franchise, appeared on Xbox On’s Twitch stream to talk about what was learned from the PTR as well as the changes coming up in Season 4. In the write-up you did about the stream, you noted the remarkable success of adding Diablo 4 to Game Pass back in March. You also quoted Rod as saying, “I’ve loved watching the Game Pass players coming in and experiencing the story for the first time.” He also mentioned, “how the upcoming changes in May will make the game even more approachable for new players.”

He was clearly referring to audience groups one and two, without much emphasis on group three, which is kind of a paradigm shift compared to the days of Diablo 3. Do you believe that this shift in player demographics had an influence on the Developers’ decision to just flesh out the existing game for Season 4, rather than doing something else like adding more leaderboards, for example?

JenX: “The Devs have said in a few interviews and Campfire Chats now that the purpose of this upcoming Patch is really to get the base game in a better state, and I think that is something that will benefit all 3 demographics. You can’t build your house on sand, and they want Diablo 4 to have a rock-solid foundation before adding all these other things we are clamoring for. There’s no point adding leaderboards if there isn’t a decent endgame to play, to make you want to climb those leaderboard ranks in the first place.

If you’ve noticed, too, that they’ve made levelling and getting to endgame much faster than it was in Season 1. There’s going to be Bonus XP for World Tiers 2 to 4, these new Profane Mindcages in the Helltide, as well as the Helltide being available to World Tiers 1 & 2 now. It seems to me that they’ve made the process of actually getting to endgame content much faster, possibly to encourage the more casual players to embrace the new systems. I know a bunch of people who played the campaign and then decided to put down the game until the expansion, and so they’ve had little to no interest in Seasons at all. That’s fine, of course, but a handful of those folks have also noticed all of the buzz around Season 4. So, perhaps some of these ‘super casuals’ will now be enticed to convert to ‘returning casuals’ and decide to finally give Seasons a try. Or at least they may come back to the game and check out the new stuff with an Eternal character.”

Long-Term Investment

Season 4 transformedGaz: During that same Xbox Stream chat, Rod went into more detail about some of the biggest upcoming changes being made to the game as a result of the experience gained from the previous Seasons as well as the PTR. He mentioned that the development team has learned a lot about how regular people want to play and how Season 4 couldn’t really even exist without the first three Seasons. I found his perspective to be very interesting because so much of the recent feedback from serious players has been about how they feel like they’re finally getting the Diablo 4 game that they should’ve gotten at launch.

I think it’s also worthwhile pointing out that much of what Rod shared had to do with how players will now be “investing” more time in their characters and their equipment. He said that improving the game for newcomers means the game is becoming less about what they can find and more about what they can make. Taken all together, this sounds like another example of how the game is becoming less about the top 1% pro grinders and more about ‘super casual’ and ‘returning casual’ players, at least for the time being. Considering that Xbox Game Pass is currently the leading platform for Diablo 4, do you think this casual trend may continue in upcoming Seasons for the foreseeable future?

JenX: “No actually, I don’t. I think right now it’s about making the loot systems more palatable and easier to digest before we get anything else. The new itemization and crafting systems will get ‘casuals’ engaging in the game more. If you’ve spent time rolling affixes and then perfecting a piece of equipment for your build you’re going to naturally be more invested than if you just pick up something amazing first try. From where I’m sitting, it doesn’t look like they’re developing the game primarily with casual players in mind. Instead, it looks like they are trying to gradually convert the casuals into becoming more thoroughly engaged in the game systems. Complexity will come, Rod has spoken about runes and runewords before and my theory is we will get them in a future Season or expansion. If you add too much complexity at this stage it just becomes overwhelming for the average player.

To say “this is the Diablo 4 game we should have got at launch” is a strange statement to me, because I’d ask those people if they thought Diablo 2 or Diablo 3 were perfect at launch? Or Path of Exile? Or Last Epoch? Rod is right, they’ve got 3 Seasons worth of data now to make something much better. I genuinely think many players and content creators look back at previous games through rose-tinted glasses. Also, frustrating as it may be to have effectively paid $70 for a beta, this is often the case with live-service games as they learn their audience along with what does and doesn’t work. We got a damn perfect campaign at least and I’ll die on that hill.

I’d also like to clarify what Sarah Bond (Xbox President) was quoted as saying when she mentioned that Xbox was the number 1 platform for Diablo 4. When I interviewed Rod, he did add more context to her quote and said, “from a daily active user perspective, but it’s still a large PC audience because of its 27-year history.” So, while the console audience is probably the largest it’s ever been and there’s definitely more consideration of console players in these decisions, we don’t really know the actual numbers involved here.”

More to come…

See You Next Time

Please plan to join me again later this week for Part 2 of my interview with the delightful Jenbox360. She’ll be sharing more of her insider perspective on the most popular gaming platforms, the biggest changes in Season 4, and how the game will continue to evolve going forward.

We would love to hear your feedback on this topic, so please sound off in the comments section below, or contact me on Twitter. Do also let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions for future topics here at PureDiablo. In the meantime, be sure to keep an eye on the news feed so you’ll have all the up-to-date info you need to get the most out of your game.

If you believe that any of the information shared above is inaccurate in any way, please let us know, along with a reference for the correct information, so we can update this document accordingly.

Gazerrick ArmsGazerrick is a staff writer for PureDiablo who focuses primarily on casual gaming interests and lore for the Diablo community. When not hacking and slashing his way through a new Season, he can be found participating in, and presenting at, various pop culture conventions in southern Arizona. You can follow him on Twitter @Gazerrick9000 for even more of his gaming indulgences. A collection of his creative media is also available at Cactus Palm Perspectives.

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