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Diablo 4's Season 4 PTR somehow attracted players who never played past seasons, probably because of how big the changes were

The hype around the changes in Diablo 4's PTR made it really attractive, even to players who don't typically care about seasons.

Blizzard wrapped up the Diablo 4 Season 4 PTR (Public Test Realm) earlier this week after about a week of testing. Not only was this the first time Diablo 4 players were able to test out content well ahead of its launch, it was also necessary considering the magnitude of what was being proposed.

The Diablo 4 PTR was chiefly created to allow players to offer feedback on several fundamental changes that affect loot quality/frequency, itemisation principles, some gameplay mechanics and much more. The changes are set to arrive in the game with Season 4 on May 14, which is far enough away to allow Blizzard to digest and utilise that feedback.

Given Blizzard’s many missteps with Diablo 4, especially recently with big feature delays, a botched limited-time event, a string of inappropriately-priced microtransactions, and a third season that has been almost universally panned, the game’s reputation was at an all-time low.

When the PTR was announced, there was definitely a ‘but does anyone care?’ cloud hanging over it. The good news is that the PTR was exactly what Blizzard - and Diablo 4 - needed, in more ways than one.

Speaking to IGN in a new interview, Diablo GM Rod Fergusson agreed that the major changes Season 4 is introducing to the game are designed, in part, to bring players back into the fold. But what may have been a little surprising to learn was that the PTR already managed to do that.

“We’ve even seen that in the PTR itself,” Fergusson revealed. “There were some people who hadn’t participated in seasons who have participated in the PTR. So we know there’s something really exciting about the way we’re changing up that system.”

As surprising as that may be, it’s worth keeping in mind that all of the gameplay changes coming with Season 4 will also be present in the main game. In other words, players who never care about or want to engage with seasons will still benefit from all that work, so it makes sense to download it and see for yourself.

It's not hyperbole to say that Season 4 will make Diablo 4 feel like a completely different game.

That begs the question, however: does Blizzard intend to open a PTR for every season going forward? Not necessarily. The answer really lies in managing a balance between allowing for some of the surprises Blizzard is working on to be spoiled, and the desire for genuine player feedback.

“The success of the PTR for Season 4 does point in the direction of something we'd want to continue to do,” said Fergusson

“But no-one should take that as gospel that we're going to be doing PTRs for every season. Because there are times when we're still going to want to have the surprise be more meaningful than the feedback in that moment.”

Fergusson is, of course, referring to the risk of datamining of future content, something that happens to almost every game these days. Indeed, players dug through the recent PTR to discover what’s very likely going to be the major theme of Season 4, the return of a famed Diablo 2 faction and a more.

Fergusson explained that, unsurprisingly, the decision to open up test servers ahead of a big launch will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

“And so every season we're going to have that conversation of, do we want to PTR this or not?” he said.

“And what we felt like, Season 4 being so fundamentally different and so foundational in its changes, like we're changing how the game literally plays, that we better get feedback early, and so that's why we had the PTR.”

Blizzard will likely go heads-down now following the PTR’s closure to pour over player impressions and feedback, so we’re not likely to hear from the developer until it’s ready or tease or reveal Season 4. We do hope, however, that we get a post-PTR livestream to discuss lessons learned and such.

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