Diablo IV, the latest version of a video game franchise that has gained millions of fans over its more than 25 years, has broken internal records for its publisher Blizzard and surpassed more than $666 million in sales since its debut on June 6.
The game combines elements of different parts of the franchise, from the dark and gothic atmospherics of fighting demons to an always-online approach where players can link up with friends and strangers alike to slay monsters.
The $666 million sales marker is a wink to the game’s demonic themes.
Rod Fergusson, Diablo’s general manager and a senior vice president at Blizzard Entertainment, attributed the initial success to the company’s willingness to work across platforms, while embracing different characteristics of today’s games and the older features of the franchise.
“We were really trying to reach the younger audience,” Mr. Fergusson said in an interview. The company was less worried about getting older fans who were used to the earlier Diablo games to purchase the latest installment, he said. “If you’re paying attention, you can see it in our marketing,” Mr. Fergusson added.
Users have played the game for more than 276 million hours since it was released. It was No. 1 in Twitch streams over the first nine days of June during the game’s early-access period.
Why It Matters: It is a win after a difficult time for the company.
Activision Blizzard — which was formed in 2008 after Activision and Blizzard merged — has had a tough few years.
The Federal Trade Commission has moved to stop the company’s proposed acquisition by Microsoft. The deal has been challenged in other countries as well, and regulators argue that potentially anticompetitive consolidation is what could hurt the future of the video game industry. (Microsoft and Activision Blizzard are fighting the challenge.)
Activision Blizzard has also faced employee unrest and a lawsuit regarding claims of a “frat boy” culture that resulted in discrimination against women at the company. And in 2021, Bobby Kotick, chief executive of Activision Blizzard, said the company was committing $250 million to hiring more women and improving diversity over the next five years.
Background: Blizzard has had trouble with game launches.
Despite its popular catalog of titles like World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Overwatch, Blizzard has had difficulties with launches of its major properties and franchises. Most recently it struggled with the launch of Overwatch 2. Players were upset with early technical issues and fundamental changes to how the game was played.
Compared with past titles, Diablo IV’s launch appears to have gone well. Only a few hiccups occurred with some extended load times due to the high demand to play the game.
It also earned a free — if unexpected — bump in promotion last week, after a tweet showing a photo of a billboard promoting Diablo IV in Manhattan went viral. After smoke from Canadian wildfires tinted the city’s skyline an orange hue, the billboard’s message took on a new, ominous meaning.
The message: “Welcome to hell, New York.”