Blizzard: ‘Who Knows’ When Diablo III Will Ship

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If you were hoping to see Blizzard’s action-RPG Diablo III anytime soon, don’t hold your breath.

Last week, we learned that the game was put into the ‘in the next few years’ category, along with Starcraft II expansions and the World of Warcraft maker’s unnamed new massively multiplayer online game.

The news is crushing to Diablo fans (including yours truly) who have bought 18.5 million copies of the franchise worldwide and hoped to see the new game released in 2010, especially since the last Diablo title we got was Diablo II‘s Lord of Destruction expansion in 2001.

Techland asked Blizzard’s executive vice president of game design Rob Pardo why the heck it’s taking so long.

“We always announce all of our games too early,” Pardo said, referring to when Diablo III was unveiled at Blizzard’s Worldwide Invitational in 2008.  “We realize that and go, ‘You know what? Next time we’re not going to do that.’ And then we always fail at that. But I’d rather fail at that than fail at making the game great. I think it’s safe to say that, yeah, (Diablo III) is not going to be out next year.”

When asked if the long wait for the highly anticipated game is because of the company’s other priorities, Starcraft II and the new World of Warcraft expansion Cataclysm, both due in 2010, he said that that wasn’t the issue.

“Each game has individual development teams; it’s just that the way that we develop games, we develop them very iteratively,” he explained. “We just have a different process and approach than a lot of other studios, and it makes it a very difficult process for us to predict street dates when we’re multiple years out.”

Pardo also maintained that their game releases aren’t beholden to the fiscal calendar, even since the company merged with the notoriously financially-driven publishing giant Activision last year.

“We’re definitely not fiscal calendar-driven,” he said, “and we know that our fanbase is not going to hold us to a fiscal calendar. With (2007′s World of Warcraft expansion) Burning Crusade, we missed Christmas by about three weeks. We could’ve shoved it out the door, but we decided we didn’t need to get it into stores for Christmas. We just needed it to be great and our playerbase is going to buy it whenever it hits the shelves.”

The executive also admitted that the delays of Blizzard games are nothing new; as fans know too well, the company has a history of never really hitting their estimated launch windows.

“We’ve been wrong (on release dates) for as long as I can remember,” Pardo reflected. “So that’s why don’t do release dates anymore.”

He added, laughing, “Now when we announce (a game) we just go, ‘Here’s the game we’re working on, we’re going to start talking about it and who knows when it ships.’”