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Diablo 4’s Rod Fergusson explains how Blizzard beats its ARPG rivals

With Diablo 4 DLC Vessel of Hatred firmly on the way, PCGamesN talks with Blizzard at Summer Game Fest about the rise in ARPG competition.

Diablo 4 DLC Vessel of Hatred interview: A horned demon, Lilith from Blizzard RPG Diablo 4

Between the likes of Diablo 4, Last Epoch, and Path of Exile, ARPG fans are eating good right now. Each game offers something a little different while spurring the competition to learn from and bounce off of one another. Last Epoch delivers hundreds of skills while Path of Exile adopts the free-to-play model. So how does Blizzard stay distinctive from its rivals? Speaking exclusively to PCGameN at Summer Game Fest, Diablo series general manager and producer Rod Fergusson explains how D4 is staying ahead of the pack.

“To me, they’re ‘Diablo-likes’ in the way that we talk about soulslikes,” Fergusson says of Diablo 4 and its nearest competitors. “There are a couple of things Blizzard does really well from a production standpoint: We are able to create a level of triple-A polish to a game,  and I also find that the IP, the notion of heaven versus hell – people understand the core premise of it.”

Fergusson says that D4 is approachable and that Blizzard’s aim is to find the people who aren’t playing Diablo and to make the RPG feel easily accessible. It’s a game that’s simpler to understand, without the complex passives and skill trees you find in Last Epoch or Path of Exile.

“What you see sometimes, unfortunately, is that people kind of design themselves into a niche market, because it’d be like, ‘the way we succeed is being even harder core and even more complex,’” Fergusson continues. “That’s cool, but that’s not going to grow your audience.”

Diablo 4 Summer Game Fest interview: someone strung up in a hellish and fleshy environment

“Blizzard has always had a great ability to kind of elevate that particular genre, and make it more broadly mainstream. [Diablo is] a mainstream IP because it’s easily understood. And then we try to design both approachability and accessibility into our game, so that anybody can pick it up. It’s easy to learn, but difficult to master.

“They [Diablo 4’s rivals] learn from us, we learn from them, and we try to elevate. That little bit of competitiveness causes everybody to elevate,” Fergusson says in closing.

This Blizzard philosophy was hit on by former Diablo 3 designer Andrew Chambers earlier in the year, who said the reason Blizzard’s ARPGs aren’t like Last Epoch is the result of the team hunting “a broader audience than just Diablo.” LE’s skill trees might be more complex and appeal to action role-playing gamers, but Blizzard also wants to appeal to everyone, not just ARPG players.

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New Diablo 4 DLC Vessel of Hatred is launching on Tuesday October 8, but there’s just been a big new update as a part of the Xbox showcase that finally adds pets to the game.

This interview is part of PCGamesN’s ongoing coverage of Summer Game Fest, and we’ve got more D4 on the way ahead of the Diablo 4 DLC release date, alongside all the best Diablo 4 builds to keep you stomping your enemies. We’ve even got all the best games like Diablo if you want more while waiting for the expansion.

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Additional reporting by Lauren Bergin for PCGamesN at Summer Game Fest.