It’s widely rumored and expected that Blizzard will reveal the release date, pre-order details, and other information regarding Diablo IV tonight at The Game Awards, but The Washington Post has been on the hook when it comes to the launch date — according to the Gazette, the game arrives on June 6, 2023. Blizzard probably isn’t thrilled about the leak, but they’ll be less than enthusiastic about the rest of the WaPo article, which is a lengthy exposé of Diablo IV’s development. According to 15 current and former Blizzard employees interviewed, the studio is preparing for a crisis to get to its release date.
According to Washington Post sources, development of Diablo IV has been rocky, with several changes in direction resulting in discarded work. Of course, original project Luis Pareja and Jesse McCrary were fired after lawsuits and revelations of workplace harassment and mismanagement at Blizzard came to light in 2021. Additionally, an early script from The Witcher 3 creative director Sebastian Stepich that involved rape and other controversial topics was canned. The turmoil on Team Diablo reportedly led to high team turnover, with some teams losing half their members.
According to current employees, Blizzard does not explicitly enforce the June deadline crunch, but has told employees that they should expect to work overtime. Other initiatives, such as rewarding those who work more than 10 hours with DoorDash certifications, appear designed to encourage longer shifts. Blizzard doubles the rewards for those who stick with the Diablo team, but those rewards are paid in inventory, which could be negatively affected if Diablo IV isn’t well reviewed. This is seen as a way to encourage employees to push for perfection without tying rewards directly to grade review. An existing staff member summed up the Diablo IV team’s mentality as the developers decide how much they are willing to punish themselves according to expectations…
“We’re at the point where they don’t want to delay the game anymore. So, we all need to move forward and see how much we’re willing to hurt ourselves to make sure the game is released in a good enough state.”
Meanwhile, Blizzard has provided the following response to WaPo’s report on the crisis…
“Production is on [Diablo IV] Runs very well. Overtime is voluntary and limited to specific teams. We regularly poll the team on their professional well-being, and the latest results are the most positive in years.”
Activision Blizzard has faced a series of lawsuits and other legal actions in the wake of a lawsuit brought by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) alleging widespread gender discrimination and sexual harassment at the Call of Duty publisher. You can get more details about this unfolding story here.
Unless Blizzard decides to throw a curveball tonight, Diablo IV will launch on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, and PS5 on June 6, 2023.