It's no secret most film adaptations of video games have a difficult time succeeding at the box office. Activision Blizzard is all too aware of this with Warcraft in 2016. Despite surpassing the $400 million mark worldwide, the Duncan Jones film grossly underperformed domestically, failing to cross $100 million in North America. Despite Warcraft's failure, Activision Blizzard has a few other significant IPs to exploit that remain immensely popular in Diablo, Starcraft, and Overwatch. For now, let's focus on the appeal on Diablo and why it has a decent chance to succeed if the cards are played right. When we think of the sword and sorcery genre on television and film, we have franchises already proven as a success.
The litmus test is Peter Jackson's film adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's best-known works in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Making a film trilogy out of the substantially shorter The Hobbit was a feat in and of itself. The six films grossed a combined $5.89 billion globally. In addition to the movie, Tolkien's works also adapted to various video games and now a TV series from Amazon. On the TV side, you have HBO's Game of Thrones, which become one of the most popular series in the network's history despite its underwhelming final season. Based on the "Song of Fire and Ice" novels by George R. R. Martin, the show lasted eight seasons featuring quality writing and productions that rival epic Hollywood blockbusters. Another series that enjoyed praise from critics and audiences alike is Netflix's The Witcher. Based on the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, the franchise's already been a significant success with its trilogy of games from CD Projekt Red and Fuero Games selling over 50 million copies.
What Can Be Done in a Diablo Film
When it comes to what direction Activision Blizzard wants to go for Diablo, they could opt for the CG route like they did in Warcraft. It would also work in a live-action format. Seeing the history of the franchise and existing canon, it's probably best if it stuck to his adult audience. The pushback from a theatrical release is the drive to be PG-13 for the broadest appeal. Given enough successful R-rated franchises, the resistance wouldn't be as substantial as say 5-10 years ago. The safest bet given the uncertain times would be a streamer like Netflix. A multi-picture deal could allow the filmmakers enough leeway to tell their whole story as a trilogy. Even if it works out better as a TV series, the project wouldn't be predicated on box office return. Another reason to pick the Diablo series is the depth of character types and world-building that can be accomplished. There are several archetypes to play around with the barbarian, rogue, wizard, sorcerer, necromancer, druid, monk, witch doctor, assassin, and paladin classes. Whether if it's working together or conspiring against one another, the dynamics are there for the taking in the grim world as a more substantial apocalyptic threat looms. The timing could even be better if it becomes ready to release alongside the fourth game.