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Diablo 4's seasonal model has caused the expected anger, but could Blizzard surprise us?

Diablo 4's seasons work just like they always have in the series, which is exactly why so many players have a problem with it.

It is perhaps no coincidence that Diablo 4 is Blizzard's fastest-selling game ever. Given the lengthy wait, the series' wider appeal compared to Warcraft, Overwatch, and Hearthstone – a record-breaking launch was inevitable.

But every big launch brings with it a large number of new players, many of whom have never played a Diablo game before, and may not necessarily be familiar with the ins and outs of the series. Even for longtime fans, seasonal content has always been the territory of the most hardcore players, the type that never stop playing.

When Blizzard announced Diablo 4 will be the first to bring a battle pass to the series with each new season. Suddenly, everyone is now paying close attention to seasons. Which is where the problem lies.

Suddenly, that big open world looks like a burden.Watch on YouTube

Diablo 4 is releasing in a climate where battle passes are expected for any game that even pretends to promise a live service. They're in free-to-play games, as well as paid/premium games. Not having a battle pass in a major release these days would make the news.

That also means that the battle pass model is fairly standardised. The way you earn tiers varies from one game to another, and is often a matter of debate, but the structure (free and paid tiers,) the content (cosmetics, and XP boosts), and even the runtime are all similar across the many games with battle passes.

Battle passes typically launch with a new season, every quarter or so. A new season means new content, which depends on the game. But you can expect new maps (if it's a shooter), new in-game items, new characters, new skins, camos etc.

Diablo 4's battle pass looks familiar, but how it works doesn't.

The idea of a season in a Diablo game is as old as the franchise itself, but it's quite the opposite for the battle pass. Blizzard decided to marry the battle pass to its existing seasonal structure, and therein lies the problem.

Diablo 4 is, for better or worse, late to the battle pass party. That is to say, players expect it to play by the already established rules. For it to stand out, it needs to offer something existing battle passes do not. Call of Duty's battle pass includes enough currency to pay for itself, while Halo Infinite's never expires once you buy it.

Diablo 4's battle pass offers nothing out of the ordinary, so it makes sense that players expect it to work like it does in Fortnite, Apex Legends, Call of Duty and so on. Except, of course, it does not. By marrying the existing style of Diablo seasons to a battle pass, players are now asked to play by Blizzard's rules.

Wardrobe and cosmetic collection in Diablo 4
More rewards means more drip. Right? Right?!

In Diablo seasons, you're expected to create a new character to earn the rewards of the new season, and join a race to the max level alongside other players. Your existing characters can't participate in the new content, so you're going to start from scratch. This is part of why Diablo’s seasons have only really been events for the game’s most ardent fans, while everyone else simply continued levelling up their existing characters.

During a recent livestream, Blizzard confirmed that this structure is returning for Diablo 4, meaning all players will need to start a new character if they intend to take part in the new seasonal content. Unfortunately, that also means battle pass progress can only be made by characters created for this or that season.

This is where the backlash begins. Keeping in mind the large audience Diablo 4 has attracted so far, the idea that you're going to have to start fresh every season is unreasonable for many. For one, the grind in Diablo 4 - especially once you reach level 80-85 and beyond, is incredibly slow.

Blizzard lit a fire with this one.

For players to learn that characters they invested dozens of hours into effectively have to be parked so they can make progress with new characters each new season is out of the question. It's also worth keeping in mind that many existing Diablo players, such as myself, never really cared to engage with seasons in past games. Now, I'm going to have to if I want to experience the new quests, and earn battle pass rewards (which is already paid for).

You can clearly see this sentiment in the majority of the replies to this tweet from Diablo general manager, Rod Fergusson, in which he responded to a question from journalist Paul Tassi.

While you will be able to skip the campaign on seasonal characters (if you finished it once), and your new characters will continue to exist after the season ends, it may still be too much for players. But is it reason enough to worry?

I say we need to see it play out before we panic. There's a lot we still don't know about the rate at which we're going to be making progress in Diablo 4's battle pass. We also have yet to see the rewards – or really have an idea how meaningful the new content is.

Diablo 4's battle pass is going to last a little longer than most modern games, so that may end up being what makes this an easier pill to swallow. This particular mishmash of season and battle pass is new to Diablo, so there's every reason to believe Blizzard may pivot for future seasons, or at least make some concessions.

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