Sunday 8 July 2012

Diablo III – Was It Worth All the Hype?

Let's throw around some numbers here. 3.67 million units sold. One of the biggest opening sales weeks in video game history. Multiple awards. And some Internet nerd-rage over what the finished product was actually like to play, and how it ended.

No, it's not actually Diablo III we're talking about, but Mass Effect 3. However, the parallels between the two are somewhat eerie, with both games built up by crazy amounts of hype that no game could ever hope to fully justify or fulfill. The amount of said hype can be qualified in both cases, as both are continuations of franchises that have become entrenched as part of the gaming landscape. Both made their fans wait for any additions to the series (3 years for Mass Effect, 11 years for Diablo). And both have been the subject of much critical and mass scrutinisation.

More importantly though, we're here to examine the answer to one question in particular, that can have ramifications on how we view the video game industry, and the relentless hype machine that seems to drive it:

Was it Worth It?

Diablo III seemed to take forever to materialize. In fact, it seemed as though Blizzard had forgotten about this most well-engineered of looting RPGs almost entirely, having focused so much of their attention on franchises such as World of Warcraft and StarCraft. Granted, they rolled in the bucks with those two (and managed to convince everyone that splitting one game – StarCraft II – into THREE was actually good for the consumer!). And yes, we should be thankful that the dollars and cents were well spent, seeing as how Diablo III is now a rip-roaring success.

But to even begin to answer this question, we need to look at a few things.

Just how do we judge the success of the game? Sales numbers? Metacritic scores? Fan reaction? Or that most indefinable of standards – appeal? Let's get to it.

For a game that was purportedly in development for over 11 years, (since Diablo II's release in 2000, and Diablo II: Lord Of Destruction's release in 2001), sales of 2.24 million for Diablo III since May 15th isn't to be sniffed at. That roughly equates to about 145 million dollars in terms of revenue for Blizzard. By that barometer, it certainly has been worth the hype, and certainly has been worth the anticipation. But is that the only measure by which we look at Diablo III?

We could go over critics' ratings and other reviews and scores. But that would be moot as it is almost universally agreed to be a very good game. Wonderful graphics, great storyline, involving quests and the requisite amount of RPG elements that allow you to tinker with your character in any way you see fit. All on the checklist for an RPG to be considered as worthy of any gamer's time. But we found ourselves asking the same question over and over again – is it really worth it?

Amidst all the love and adulation that Blizzard are no doubt currently basking in, and yes, this is indeed a combo-breaker, we will venture a contention that is unlikely to garner much support: Diablo III has been vastly overpromised and hyped.


To put it simply, it is not a groundbreaking game. It does not do anything that is game-changing, and it does not tinker too much (or almost not at all) with the formula that made Diablo II a part of the fabric of gaming history. Whilst it can be argued that Blizzard did not need to do anything to the template that brought such great critical and financial acclaim to begin with, there was an opportunity there for Blizzard to truly push the game and the genre forward (something which they did very well with the previous Diablo, and with StarCraft, which pushed the boundaries of the real-time-strategy genre).

This is not denying the simple fact that Diablo III is indeed, a rather good game. Brilliant, in fact. We've already mentioned the graphics and the gameplay mechanics. We're fans of the storyline and the fan service that Blizzard has offered up to Diablo-ians (or should that be Diablo-ites?).

However, it is seemingly a case of Blizzard making a game that they think the fans wanted, rather than a game that they wanted to do. This is natural, considering the following that Diablo II had (and still has). But not necessarily what they should have done. Like George Lucas with the prequel trilogy, the necessity of following too closely to a working formula is that you tend to be too safe and just stagnate in terms of what you could have achieved.

In Conclusion

Diablo III will probably go down as one of the best-selling RPGs of all time. It will certainly go down as one of the most anticipated, and also one of the most commercially successful. But was it really worth 11 years of waiting? Was the length of development time commiserate with the finished product?

Diablo III was not worth the hype. It was not worth the wait. It could have been so much more. To cut a long story short, it can easily be viewed as one of the biggest opportunities in video gaming history.

Do you play Diablo III? Is the game worth all the hype?

About our guest writer:
Syed Rafie is a wordsmith with an unnatural love for electronics, gadgets and video games. As a writer and editor for Lazada, the largest online shopping mall in Malaysia, he tends to favour pursuits that challenge his lack of physical refinement and his obvious intellectual deficiencies. Connect with him on Google+ today.

PS. Haven't played the game? Want to prove our guest writer wrong? You may want to get your copy here from Lazada.

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