Diablo 4 team is 'moving forward' despite COVID-19 pandemic

(Image credit: Rod Fergusson (via GDC))

Rod Fergusson's move to Blizzard was not particularly well-timed. He left The Coalition in order to head up Diablo 4 in March, just ahead of the COVID-19 outbreak that forced the entire company to start working from home.

"I had a full eight days in office. I started on a Tuesday and then the following Thursday, everybody was on work from home," Fergusson said during a GDC Q&A livestream.

"It's been really hard actually, for me, because I think people who know me and have worked with me know that part of what I thrive on and do well in is [being] in the room with people, and talking, and trying to motivate and understand, and collaborating and those sorts of things. The push, kind of taking one of my sort of quote-unquote 'superpowers' and putting it behind a video screen, I found really hard."

Overall, though, he said that working from home is "going very well," and little productivity has been lost. Blizzard has taken steps to minimize the disruption by enabling employees to take their equipment and PCs home, providing "allowances" to cover things like internet expenses, ensuring sufficient downtime and breaks, and even sending out "snack boxes" to employees.

That effort is paying off, Fergusson said: "The fact that you see Hearthstone has shipped two expansions, and WoW is about to ship an expansion. And we on Diablo continue to—it's been challenging, but the team is just moving forward. So I've been really grateful—if I was going to do it, to be able to do it with Blizzard."

Unfortunately, that was the only thing he said about Diablo 4, so there's still no hint of, say, a possible release date. For that, we'll probably have to wait until at least next year: Blizzard confirmed during Activsion's quarterly earnings call earlier this week that a digital version of BlizzCon is in the works for early 2021.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.