Fans’ Expectations of Diablo 3 hurt Blizzard says Pardo

When Diablo 3 was announced at the WWI in Paris, it was a huge deal for Blizzard, it was bringing back the much-loved ARPG after a decade. Rob Pardo left Blizzard three years ago to form his new studio Bonfire and has been speaking about his plans and his time at Blizzard.

In an interview with GI.Biz, Pardo gives an update on what their plans are in the next twelve months. There’s also an interesting quote about Diablo 3 and fans expectations. Pardo says:

“Ultimately, you need to manage the community’s expectations from the moment your start talking about your game. I think that’s something we need to be really aware of. Right now, we’re pretty far off from having something we can talk about concretely from a product standpoint but I think once we get to that point, we’ll want to think about how we can set the right expectations. Because that can really hurt you when you get to the point of launching. It hurt Blizzard with Diablo III, it hurt Bungie with Destiny.”

Pardo is right, expectations were through the roof for Diablo 3 and Blizzard was partly to blame for that. Fans were hungry for it and Blizzard didn’t take into account a lot of the feedback and criticism about some of the design decisions that were being made prior to launch.

Ultimately, fans felt a bit let-down expecting an improved version of the brilliant Diablo 2. Much of the development team had changed for Diablo 3 and they obviously wanted to put their own stamp on it. It’s just not what Diablo/Diablo 2 fans were expecting or had hoped for.

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  1. That last sentence is an understatement, but still very accurate.

  2. Cool, so an indirect confirmation that something is in the works, but they aren’t ready to talk about it – at all – yet? 🙂 There’s been the Diablo job ads for quite some time now as well as the off limits secret “Diablo room” in Blizzard office tours, but always nice to hear word of it.

    On this topic, I think that not being in touch with what the community wants can hurt a game at least as much. Blizzard was forced to spend a lot of resources and time on simply reversing their mistakes with the Auction House and whatnot with Diablo 3. Imagine all that time and momentum instead spent on an expansion and we might have had two rather than just one by now.

    Part of it seems to be about being in touch and part of it leading and giving fans what they didn’t yet know they want. Not an easy task!

  3. Foreword: I think D3 is a good game, it’s just that I think it’s a very bad and very poorly related “successor” to Diablo 2. Ok… here we go:


    Managing expectations?

    How about MEETING expectations? How about listening to the fans of your franchise? How about “The customer is always RIGHT”? (even when he/she isn’t in your eyes lol)

    All D3 had to do is to ensure that D2 fans felt “at home”.

    How do you accomplish this?

    -Skill system from D2 returns and is pushed to the next level while fixing issues
    -Beloved classes from D2 return, but new classes are being introduced to rival “old ones”
    -Character Progression returns while pushing it to the next level
    -Map design and philosophy from D2 returns, but even bigger and fleshed out
    -Graphics move to 3D but colors and art-style remains like D2 (semi-photo-realistic world with bold and vivid semi-photo-realistic spell effects)
    -Physical/Melee classes dominate the physical realm and Caster classes dominate the elemental realm
    -Itemization style is copied 1:1 from D2 while making “useless affixes” at least somehow useful
    -Iconic Items from D2 return but new items are introduced to rival them
    -All uniques and Runewords are randomly generated in three versions: Normal, Angelic and Demonic (Spawn-chances: Normal 80%, Angelic 10%, Demonic 10% – Angelic and Demonic items have Perfect stat rolls and a specific visual look – either Heavenly (Angelic) or Hellish (Demonic))
    -Fleshing out Multiplayer Features and introducing the long-planed “Guild Houses”
    -8 Players like we are used to
    -Open World PVP with Opt-Out system for people that don’t want to be bothered
    -Arena PVP with Leader-boards
    -PVPVE Side-Mode with Leader-boards
    -XP Leveling Leader-boards
    -Item-For-Item trading

    The main failure on Blizzards side is that they failed to realize that they NEEDED to NAIL it for ALL D2 fans. Not only that, ALL NEWCOMERS would be sucked into the Fan-Frenzy of the D2 fans and they would have LOVED D3 because they never played D2 so EVERYTHING would have been NEW to them ANYWAYS. Instead, Blizzard ALIENATED ALL D2 fans, and the negative backlash Frenzy caused a HUGE portion of newcomers to the franchise to join the “Band-Wagon” of bashing D3. It was literally “popular” to trash-talk D3 even as a newcomer, because all the Diablo Veterans with a lot of knowledge bashed D3, so as a newcomer you simply listen to the people that appear like they know what they’re doing.

    Blizzard underestimated how much power D2 fans would generate with their Hype and Frenzy and ultimately their distaste of D3.

    ALL the hype for D3 was generated by D2 players, which went on to HYPE all their friends about how awesome Diablo 2 is and that D3 is going to be MEGA-Awesome.

    I simply think that Blizzard should have ensured first and foremost that D2 fans would be pleased, even when they wanted to create “their own” vision of what “Diablo” is as individuals that knew nothing or very little about what Diablo actually is.

    Diablo 2 is a Ferrari and the new minds that never worked on a Ferrari before, came in and tried to make something LIKE a Ferrari. They build a Subaru Impreza with the body that somewhat resembles a Ferrari. Then they kept adding “Vents” on the body of the car to improve the cooling and looks, but the car is still a Subaru Impreza. This is just an analogy, I am not saying Subaru’s are bad cars, they are great cars but they are not Ferrari’s 🙂

    • Ps.

      What Rob Pardo is meaning by “Managing Expectations” is that you have to keep expectations as low as possible and ensure that they are not bigger than your product. From business perspective he is absolutely right, but that’s exactly where the problem lies. Those people that worked on D2 were Gamers and Game-Developers. Nothing more, nothing less. THAT IS WHY their game is EPIC. Today, “game-developers” are more concerned with the business and financial side than they are with delivering an awesome product. They want to make money rather than make an awesome game. This is why Blizzard-North has so many stories about “Crunching” and “sleeping at the office” and “disagreements with Blizzard-South” etc. It’s because Blizzard-North was making GAMES and not Money-Printing-Machines.

      Today’s Devs need to realize that when you focus on making an awesome game FIRST, you have a chance at also making a lot of money BECAUSE you focused on making an awesome game.

      The problem today is that huge companies like Blizzard are Revenue-Factories FIRST, and game-developers LAST. Their goal is to put in the LEAST amount of effort while ensuring the MAXIMUM of profit. Project Titan was probably the LAST attempt at “making an awesome game” and they realized that Project Titan was a HUGE RISK, and since Blizzard are now Money-Focused Business-People, Risk is undesirable.

      Now.. The problem with this is that with great risk comes the potential for great reward, not only financially, but much more so by making a game that is a PILLAR of a certain genre and a beloved franchise by millions of people (Example D2).

      ALL games since the collapse and re-cycling of Project Titan into “Overwatch”, are Minimal-Effort and Maximum-Revenue oriented.

      Hearthstone: Two people can make it in their basement, yet it prints money
      HotS: Five people can make it in their basement, yet it prints money
      Overwatch: Recycled Titan-Project turned into Money-Printer through Micro-Transaction Loot-Boxes

      ALL other games Blizzard has, were created before the failure of Project Titan. ALL future games will be focused around Micro-Transactions. Although I LOVE that they are creating Remastered versions of SC, D2 and WC3, they only do so because effort is MINIMAL and revenue is MAXIMAL in relation to effort.

      I believe ALL future games (D4, SC3, WC4, Future-MMO) will be centered around Micro-Transactions, while dumbing down and squeezing as much revenue out of as little work possible. Then they will call it “Managing Expectations of Fans”.

      • Let’s not forget Rob Pardo was the individual that HIRED Jay Wilson, and now he has the guts to say “we should have managed Fans expectations”. THANK GOD Rob Pardo left Blizzard…

        Blizzard’s first catastrophic mistake was to fail to realize that they had a tremendous responsibility when developing and designing the successor to Diablo 2.

        Their second catastrophic mistake was to hire a Director that had ZERO knowledge about ARPG’s and only was involved in a arguably Niche-franchise RTS.

        Rob Pardo is a KEY-Individual responsible for how Diablo 3 turned out. HE is most-responsible for not meeting expectations of fans. His decisions and actions have ripple-effects throughout all of Diablo 3’s lifetime.


        Looking forward to play Season 12 this Thursday for 24 hours before I get bored out of my skull again 🙂

        • Every time you put a word in ALL CAPS it means the point isn’t strong enough to stand on it’s own, without you shouting it.

        • Exactly THIS is why i almost dont care about D4. I say “almost” because of the nostalgia factor only.

          Oh and Topcommander, you missed a lot of things too, like ethereal items, the various qualities of items (normal, exceptional, elite), the jewel grades that made sense, the slow-paced road to 99 based on the normal game not rifts, just to mention some. Oh and that obnoxious online only DRM.

          Well, at least the D2 bnet servers are still alive.

      • The problem with making games that cost tens of millions of (insert currency here), is that the people who give you the money want to make sure that they can get it back within a reasonable timeframe. That’s why the larger a company gets & the more money is involved in creating something the more risk-averse they get (and Holywood is just as bad, with it’s remakes/reboots/etc).

        If you want inovative games, you’re more likely to get what you want from smaller companies.

  4. Think on the bright side, we finally got an admission that “Diablo 3 is not what fans of Diablo 1/2 were hoping for”. That is a start.

    But I can’t help but get the (bad) feeling that Rob is saying that if Diablo 1/2 fans don’t like Diablo 3, then they can just disappear.

    Since it’s been 20 years since Diablo 1, and 17 years since Diablo 2, surely its huge fanbase and success mean something to Blizzard ??

  5. Famous Post by Pardo when D3 Backlash was building up to peak late in 2013. March 25th of 2014 brought Reaper of Souls, at which point the majority of Diablo fans didnt care anymore and newcomers took over by hitting a tipping-point in Diablo 3’s user-demographic.

  6. Sorry!!

    I take the blame that I expected D3 to be more than a game that a grandma could pick up and easily play!!

  7. They never even tried to meet expectations of diablo/d2/lod fans. They tried to reinvent the wheel…

    Just trend the difference from diablo to diablo 2…there were just the right amount of improvements and changes to make fans get excited and move to the new game.

    Then trend d2 to lod…again the perfect balance of new, yet comfortable features added.

    Then 10 years later a fundamentally different game…

    Their ultimate failure was not releasing either a new expansion, or releasing d3 in the 2005-2008 range with new features but familiar and comforting gameplay that evolved over time vice releasing an inherently different game with the Diablo franchise slapped on the package…

    I have yet to meet the Diablo 2 excitement of playing a game, and I’ve tried many. The failure to give me the “feeling” I got from d2 and LOD is the reason I don’t really play games anymore.

    Many fans can’t satiate that feeling anymore no matter the substitution.

    • > I have yet to meet the Diablo 2 excitement of playing a game, and I’ve tried many. The failure to give me the “feeling” I got from d2 and LOD is the reason I don’t really play games anymore.
      >Many fans can’t satiate that feeling anymore no matter the substitution.

      This kind of malaise is typical of a lot of gamers. It’s really no different than when you meet old people who only like old movies and songs: new things are exciting, things you experience when you’re young are new, things you experience when you’re old are old.

      Honestly a sequel to Diablo 2 is inherently limited to being mediocre by design. It’d be better to go with an entirely new IP (Lost Ark looks like it has _some_ potential), or at least do what the Legend of Zelda games do where each title is a retelling of the same legend, with no firm continuity.

      Blizzard lore has become a spaghetti salad of a mess. How many times can Diablo jump out of the bottle like a genie? How many “redemption arcs” and made up bullshit can you make? The tower crumbles from a foundation made of poo.

  8. What a crock, blame the players because your game was underwhelming?

  9. Yea, no, SORRY Rob. How dare you blame gamers for the shitty product you guys ejected from the Blizzard Cash Cow Anus.

  10. Backwards! Blizzard released a crappy game that hurt the fans expectations!


  12. I like these philosophical discussions and I’m happy to see Blizzard thinking about the business in a critical fashion. D3 was the perfect storm of disappointment in that development took forever and many ‘core pillars’ of the franchise were axed. Additionally, the art was whimsical, music absolute trash, and the beloved Deckard Cain was slain. Obviously we can discuss way more errors but to lay blame on ‘hype’ alone isn’t quite accurate. I get it from a marketing perspective, and I suppose I understand the Destiny analogy…but there’s much more involved.

  13. Simply put, the community expected a worthy successsor to Diablo 2. That’s not what we got. I don’t think there’s any need to “manage” that, I think you should just meet that expectation. That’s good business.

    There was plenty of feedback pre-release about mis-steps they were making and they basically ignored it. I also don’t think it should take a genius to know that players aren’t the least bit interested in an item system where 99.99% of what drops is trash, and what constitutes an improvement over your previous gear is simply that the numbers on the same stats are slightly higher. But they had to build the system that way, in service of the auction house. Alarm bells should have wrung, and they didn’t.

  14. Comments like that really set me off.

    Diablo 3 didn’t live up to fan expectations?
    Of course it didn’t! You created an action game and put the Diablo stamp on it. And instead of admitting you created the wrong game for the franchise you now say you should’ve managed our expectations differently?

    I guess the amount of backlash didn’t meet your expectations either? Maybe you could’ve managed that…

    • And even if you just look at the lore / storyline side of it, it was far too corny. Was anyone the least bit scared by the Butcher mark 2? Or creeped out by Cydaea, or any other Act 3 bosses?

      • I do enjoy the lore a lot though. In my opinion they did an excellent job with the book of Cain/Tyrael.

        In game story telling… Yea, I agreed, it’s not their best to say the least.

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