Gamers have finally had a chance to test drive the highly anticipated next entry in Blizzard’s action RPG series, Diablo IV. While the game offers up some contentious changes and sees balance concerns that will be debated furiously in the days to come, first impressions reveal a game that’s perfect to zone out to, preferably with some friends. But as some have started to realize, that shared fun ends if you’re hoping to get some couch co-op on PC. A recent interview with the series’ general manager has now shed some light as to why the desired feature won’t be making the cut, but you might not be happy with the answer.
It’s been a minute since we’ve had a new mainline Diablo: Its last main entry hit PC all the way back in 2012, followed up by a positively-received console port a year later. For diehard fans, it’s been practically an eternity. But with a release date of June 6 of this year for Diablo IV, the wait is nearly over. Right now, those who’ve pre-ordered the game were able to play the beta last weekend, and an open beta for everyone is expected to run from March 24-26. Diablo IV, however, arrives in a very different world than its predecessor. With a simultaneous console release, the nearly universal presence of crossplay on PC and consoles for many other titles, multiplayer games are rarely the siloed experiences they once were. That’s likely led many fans to anticipate couch co-op, where two users play on the same screen, in the same place, at the same time, would arrive across all versions of the game. And couch co-op is not new to Diablo; it was a celebrated feature of the console versions of Diablo III. Sadly, Diablo IV will not be receiving couch co-op on PC, all due to challenges with multiple Battle.net users being signed in at once on the platform.
Speaking with Eurogamer following the game’s open beta, Diablo general manager Rod Fergusson explained the lack of couch co-op on the PC version of the game as a “technology problem” stemming from the challenge of having “two Battle.net accounts signed into the same PC at the same time.”
Ferguson added that, aside from the challenge of having multiple accounts signed in on the same platform, the very concept of couch co-op was not considered for PC during development of the game:
When you prioritize the problems you have to solve, solving for two people sitting at a desk, playing on the same PC, is lower priority when the majority of couch co-op that’s going to happen is going to be in front of a sixty-five-inch TV.
When asked if there was a solution to the aforementioned “technology problem,” Fergusson said:
Um, not sure. I’d have to talk to our [technical director]. I don’t know if it’s a game-solvable issue. It might be a platform-solvable issue but I didn’t know that it’s a game-solvable issue [...] I think there’s more tech that has to happen.
A popular post on Reddit expressing disappointment over the lack of couch co-op lays out exactly why this is such a frustrating omission on PC. While Diablo III’s couch co-op perhaps set a false standard for included features in the future, user xxTheGoDxx highlights another reason why it’s so strange to consider, as Fergusson put it, PC experiences as only taking place “at a desk.”
It has never been easier to connect a PC to a TV than in this day and age. Be it just an extra long HDMI cable or using an app like Moonlight [or Steam Link] on a streaming stick.
As some replies to the thread point out, Diablo IV is hardly the first game to drop this feature for its PC release. “The Left 4 Dead games” starts one such reply, “literally had [couch co-op] built-in and functional, accessible via console commands,” but was never actively implemented in the official game. Halo, another series well-known for couch co-op (often referred to as splitscreen), also didn’t receive proper couch co-op support for its recent PC ports, though modders have been able to get it to unofficially work in the past.
With games never being more cross-compatible than they are now, and console hardware so closely matching PC in terms of power and design, the lack of couch co-op for Diablo IV’s PC version is frustrating and quizzical. While PC often has many other challenges around account security, modding, and hacking, it’s a shame that solutions for these alleged technical issues aren’t being pursued more thoroughly.