There’s been a rumor floating around that Blizzard Entertainment will be announcing the next installment in their Diablo franchise at Blizzcon this year. I find this highly unlikely, but the idea of a Warcraft 4 announcement along with a new Diablo 3 expansion (or stand alone) pack is much more probable.
Here are the reasons that Warcraft 4 makes sense right now. Warcraft has immense brand recognition. There are many, many people out there who love Warcraft, but who don’t want to play World of Warcraft (for many different reasons). World of Warcraft is still earning plenty of cash and lots of people still like it, but it’s a known quantity and everyone who wants to play it already is. It’s reached its maximum potential.
Warcraft 4 would be able to appeal to the audience of disenfranchised Warcraft fans. There are literally millions of players who have already tried out (and like) the Warcraft franchise, but who aren’t currently engaged with it. That’s a lot of mental real estate that Blizzard has invested tons of marketing and franchise development in that isn’t being leveraged.
Another reason for Warcraft 4 to come next is that the Starcraft 2 team recently finished their great big awesome project, and its time for them to move onto a new one. Blizzard representatives (including Mike Morhaime during a Blizzcon interview) have teased multiple times that they would consider a Warcraft 4 game once the Starcraft 2 expansions were complete. Guess what, that time has come, so it’s time to see some Warcraft 4.
The Warcraft film recently came out, and while it wasn’t super mind blowing, it had some very good moments, and lots of advertising. Right behind that was the very successful World of Warcraft: Legion release. The franchise has some very serious momentum right now, and it would be wise to keep riding the wave as long as possible.
The fact that Heroes of the Storm exists could be seen as another indicator that Warcraft 4 is around the corner. It’s entirely possible that Blizzard has been using this game as a technology playground to experiment with new tech / art / ideas to be used in a Warcraft 4 game.
Additionally, it’s been twelve years since the last NEW game in the Warcraft franchise was released. That’s about on par for how long Blizzard takes to make sequels to their games.
Now here are the reasons that a Diablo 3 expansion pack is more likely than Diablo 4. The first one is that Diablo 3 only came out four years ago, and for the last twenty years, Blizzard has never released a next installment in a franchise that quickly. Diablo 3 only recently started to get a stable leg underneath it. Now it’s in a place where it can strike out with some cool new content to bring back some of the audience that was missed during the shaky launch cycle. An expansion pack would be able to do that with a much smaller development cost.
Speaking of that missed audience, I believe it is very unlikely that Blizzard would invest so heavily in an IP that is currently hurting the way that Diablo is. It needs to polish the franchise up a bit more before it makes sense to make the huge investment that it takes to develop and market a brand new game.
Lastly, if Diablo 4 is in the works right now, it is highly unlikely that it will be the game that the people disappointed by Diablo 3 want. The last three new games that Blizzard has released have been competition oriented, money chugging machines, not the individual focused deep experiences that role playing gamers prefer.
These are the reasons I’m more excited about the prospect of a Warcraft 4 announcement over Diablo 4. Blizzard’s been teasing us about a Warcraft 4 for years, and Diablo isn’t in a position to support the amount of cash that it would take to bring a new game to market.