As with every other form of entertainment available in this day and age, the video game industry has had its fair share of genre defining titles. You’ve probably heard me use the term “legendary title” a couple times in the past to reference games such as Grand Theft Auto III and the original Halo. What makes a title, or a series for that matter, truly legendary is a hearty mix of the quality of the games and the immense fanbase acquired over the years. Obviously a game that isn’t enjoyable won’t become popular and a game that isn’t popular doesn’t always become legendary, though there have been exceptions. These titles become so beloved within the minds of many that more than a decade can go by between installments and we find that the fanbase and love has simply grown exponentially.
One definitive example of a truly legendary franchise is none other than Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo series. Despite the relative scarcity of games compared to other franchises, only three standalone titles released in the span of 17 years in fact, millions of people around the globe have made playing the games a near permanent part of their daily routine. Diablo III is the most recent installment and it came out last year to massive critical acclaim. It even set the new record for fastest-selling PC game of all-time. On September 3rd, Diablo III came to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 systems marking the series’ only second foray into home consoles after Diablo came to the original PlayStation in 1998. With such a bare release schedule and limited availability outside of PCs, it’d be easy for people on the outside to wonder how a game like this became so immensely popular. You only need to look at the gameplay to know why this franchise has truly become one of the greatest to ever exist.
Diablo first consumed all the free time for millions of gamers on December 31st, 1996 for Microsoft Windows. It was an action role-playing hack and slash game based in the Kingdom of Khanduras where Diablo himself is terrorizing the world. The original game let the player choose three character classes, Warrior, Rogue, and Sorcerer, and embark on a journey to Hell itself to combat the ultimate evil. The overall story of defeating Diablo hasn’t really changed since the beginning, but each subsequent installment and expansion pack brought new features to the series. Later titles introduced classes such as Barbarians, Necromancers, Monks, and Wizards among many others and the gameplay was obviously improved as time went on. Your character would earn experience over time to level up and gain stronger abilities to combat the never ending evil forces.
Each Diablo game can be played alone but the biggest grab the franchise has is its online multiplayer which allowed the series to thrive on computers. When the first Diablo came out, the idea of playing a console game online was a total pipe dream. In 1996, the dominant systems at the time were the PlayStation and the Nintendo 64. If you wanted to play multiplayer with friends, they had to be right there with you. It wasn’t until the current console generation began in 2005 with the Xbox 360 that online play became an important feature. This idea was old news for Diablo fans by this point. Grabbing a group of friends and burning through hours was as easy as turning on your computer. It also helped that most of the maps throughout the series are randomly created making each games replayability astronomical. It also helps that the hack and slash gameplay with RPG elements is a massive hit.
Since the Diablo series has made its fortune on PC gaming, it has allowed the games to really soak in the minds of players worldwide while everyone else is scrambling for new installments with updated consoles. The reason there was a 12 year gap between Diablo II and Diablo III is because the game retained its overwhelming popularity for that entire time. Blizzard obviously was busy working with its other money making franchise Warcraft and was more focused on simply maintaining Diablo II during the continuous evolution of gaming. While new consoles came out, Blizzard just kept giving their goldmine more updates. It kept the game fresh for the millions who played. For many, this is why their computers are their go to gaming systems, and Diablo II was a staple for more than a decade.
As legendary as this franchise has become, I haven’t actually played it at all. I’m one of those gamers that has almost completely planted himself on the side of consoles when it comes to games. Naturally this didn’t give me much of an opportunity to play any of the Diablo games, especially Diablo II which was unbelievably popular as I came upon my teenage years. A vast number of my friends continue to play the Diablo games regularly and even my brother became a diehard fan. Since Diablo III is now on home consoles, my opportunity to play the series couldn’t be better. Perhaps it’s finally time to make myself a fan.
Diablo is one of the most popular franchises of all time. It’s that rare series that has defined both a genre and the system that made it famous. It has been able to maintain such a massive hold on the hearts of millions despite its relative lack of spotlight during its nearly 17 year run. The fact that Diablo III is now on home consoles might seem like a no brainer but it’s actually a brilliant move for both the company and the gamers. Now people like myself who nearly exclusively use a home console can experience the journey to eliminate Diablo first hand. It’s a true win-win situation in the best way possible.