Diablo 4 will be supported by an "army of developers" working on new seasonal content for years to come, Blizzard said in today's new quarterly update, with updates and new content ranging from polish and quality-of-life features to major new features, quests, enemies, items, live events, and—of course—season passes.
Seasons in Diablo 4 will be modeled after Diablo 3's: Players will begin each new season with a brand new character (existing characters will remain accessible in the "Eternal Realm"), with no items or gold from the previous season carrying over.
"We think it is important that players see that the game is changing in meaningful ways," associate game director Joe Piepiora wrote. "Each season will be released with a fresh new gameplay feature and questline that introduces new challenges, mysteries, and possibilities into the level-up experience."
Seasonal live events could include things like a weekend-long invasion of the Drowned (with advance warning, so players will be ready for it) or the arrival of a new, presumably passing, merchant. Season Journeys from Diablo 3 will also return, offering time-limited rewards for players who can complete certain tasks. Season Journeys are separate from the season pass and free for all players, but completing Journey objectives will grant progress along the season pass.
Season passes will offer cosmetic items and premium currency along both free and paid reward tracks. Boosters that accelerate progress through the season will also be up for grabs in the pass, but because they impact gameplay they will only be on the free track—and while players can purchase season pass tiers directly, doing so will not speed up access to season boosts because they're also tied to progress milestones. "In other words, there's no way to shortcut getting season boosts by buying tiers," Diablo 4 product director Kegan Clark said. "They must be earned."
Premium currency earned in the season pass can be spent in Diablo 4's item shop, but Blizzard emphasized again that everything offered for sale is strictly cosmetic. It also promised that the best-looking items—admittedly, a subjective take—won't be exclusive to the shop, although some thematic items will be exclusive to particular season passes.
"Diablo 4 will ship with hundreds of transmogs unlockable from drops in-game, including dozens of armor sets of the highest visual quality," Clark wrote. "There are incredible pieces—Unique and Legendary quality items—for players to find without ever going to the Shop. The Shop offers more diversity of choices, not systematically better choices."
Diablo 4 is still a good way off, but it's understandable that Blizzard would want to address concerns about monetization schemes as early as possible. Memories of Diablo 3's infamous real-money auction house still linger like the smell of old cat food at the bottom of the kitchen trash, and more recently Blizzard has faced a nasty backlash over the microtransactions in Diablo Immortal. But that game is free to play and focused primarily on mobile platforms, where aggressive monetization is more common and widely accepted (and has been a big success as a result). Diablo 4, however, will be a premium-priced release on PC and consoles, an audience that's more sensitive to (and less forgiving of) such practices.
In fact, Blizzard has previously promised that Diablo 4 won't be monetized like Diablo Immortal: When word of the in-game store first slipped out in June, Diablo boss Rod Fergusson quickly jumped onto Twitter to reassure antsy fans that the paid content it offers will be "anchored around optional cosmetic items & full story driven expansions."
"We intend to continue our dialog with players about Shop and Season Pass, and we’ll always listen and seek out the community's feedback about it," Clark wrote. "It is our sincerest belief that we can work together with the community to keep Diablo IV a living, evolving world for many years to come."
Diablo 4 is expected to arrive sometime in 2023.