Blizzard has confirmed that it is bringing Diablo 3 to Nintendo Switch, as Eurogamer reported earlier this year. The news was shared with press this week under an embargo which was broken by one outlet yesterday, though we can now reveal some additional details – and we’ll be able to bring you hands-on impressions from Gamescom next week.
As per the leak, this full-featured port includes all expansion content to date, as well as several Switch-exclusive bonus items, and the release date is “tentatively fall this year”, according to senior producer Pete Stilwell. Diablo 3 for Switch will be a port of the recently released Eternal Collection edition, which includes both the Reaper of Souls and Rise of the Necromancer expansions. It has every feature of the existing console versions, which themselves are very close in feature set to the PC version of the game, although they play a little differently.
As is becoming customary, Switch owners get a little extra Nintendo fan-service, too – Legend of Zelda-flavoured, in this case. There’s a cosmetic “transmog” armour set modelled on Zelda villain Ganondorf, a cucco (chicken) pet, a Triforce portrait frame and a set of wings for your characters to wear.
More significantly, the Switch version of Diablo 3 will for the first time allow players to dive straight into Adventure Mode without completing a campaign playthrough first. Adventure Mode is the free-form, fast-paced and extremely moreish playstyle, structured around quick-fire bounty quests, that was introduced in Reaper of Souls. Many players prefer it to repeated runs through the game’s rather long-winded campaign, and Stilwell said that Blizzard expects many people buying the game on Switch to be seasoned Diablo 3 players who would rather skip the storyline – a reasonable bet at this late stage in the game’s life (it was first released in May 2012).
Like the other console versions, the game will support up to four players locally on a single console as well as online play – and it will also allow up to four Switches to be linked wirelessly. It can be played on a single Joy-con as well as dual Joy-cons and the Pro Controller.
Vitally for a portable version, it will fully support offline play – with the exception of Diablo 3’s Seasons. Seasons periodically offer players a fresh start, additional objectives and rewards and a competitive, laddered levelling experience. Seasonal characters will only be playable online.
Online play will be via Nintendo’s new paid service, which launches next month. Blizzard revealed that the service’s cloud saving system will automatically back up progress made offline in the background once the Switch has an internet connection, without requiring the game to be launched, or any other manual process.
If you have a Diablo 3 cloud save, you’ll be able to load your profile onto a friend’s Switch so you can use your characters with them in local play on a single console.
You won’t, however, be able to transfer your progress from the PC or existing console versions of the game. Blizzard previously made it possible for player profiles to be ported from one platform to another via its Battle.net service when Diablo 3 moved from last- to current-generation consoles – you could even (as I did) move a save from Xbox 360 to PlayStation 4. “Right now, we don’t have that as a feature,” associate producer Matthew Cederquist told me.
I also asked whether Blizzard had any plans to support cross-platform play, which has been a hot topic ever since Nintendo and Xbox have allowed players of games such as Minecraft, Rocket League and Fortnite to play together online regardless of console, while Sony has refused to countenance cross-platform play with any format other than PC. Stilwell answered in the negative, but left the door open: “It’s not available at this time. I wouldn’t ever take anything off the table, it’s something we’re exploring, that we’re interested in. But it is not currently a feature.”
Diablo 3 on Switch will run at 60 frames per second “across the board”, at a native 720p resolution in handheld mode, and at 960p in docked mode, Stilwell revealed. Other than resolution, “you shouldn’t notice anything different” between docked and handheld play.
This is Blizzard’s first appearance on a Nintendo platform in 15 years – it last published some of its classic games on Game Boy Advance, and before that, put StarCraft on Nintendo 64. In the call with press, Stilwell said it was exciting to rekindle the relationship with a company he called a “kindred spirit”. “It’s been fantastic, and that’s not just lip service. Nintendo’s a developer first, as Blizzard is… To get to negotiate things like what would our tie-ins be, we got to nerd out and love their IPs – it’s awesome to collaborate with other developers like that. I hope it’s the start of a really great future between Blizzard and Nintendo.”
And what about that infamous tease? Before Eurogamer confirmed its existence, Blizzard had spurred widespread speculation that Diablo 3 was coming to Switch with a tweet showing a Diablo nightlight being switched on and off. It then hastily disavowed this apparent reveal, saying in a statement that “we do not have any current plans to announce Diablo for Switch”. “We can assure you we’re not that clever,” a Blizzard spokesperson told Polygon at the time.
Surely, now, we can admit that it was in fact a tease. I asked if, in retrospect, the tweet hadn’t been a little too on the nose.
Stilwell laughed. “I think we weren’t lying when we said we weren’t that clever,” he said. “Something that we put out that we found around the office wasn’t intended to be so on the nose.”