If you were hoping the release date of Diablo 3 might be announced during Activision-Blizzard's Second Quarter financial call today, I'm sorry to let you down: Diablo 3 still doesn't have a shelf-date (although Activision is having a very good financial year). Blizzard head CEO Michael Morhaime reiterated the long-held Blizzard assertion that they are working really hard for a 2011 release date, but it was not confirmed.
Absent any hard info from Activision, I spoke with a couple of industry analysts, Michael Pachter of Wedbush and Jesse Divnich of EEDAR, to get some expert opinions on the likelihood of a 2011 release date for Diablo 3.
"It’s going to be right on the edge," Pachter said. "They’re getting close, but I think that on balance, Blizzard would prefer to launch two titles next year, and three the year after, to show growth."
Divnich offered a compelling reason why it might be better for Acti-Blizzard's bottom line to wait until 2012 to put out D3.
"Given the very tight competitive market this holiday season, I don’t believe it is in the best business interest for Activision or Blizzard to release Diablo 3 this year," Divnich said. "We already have one big PC RPG title, Star Wars: TOR coming out in December* and while I’m sure Activision would love to challenge Electronic Arts, they wouldn’t do so at the risk of losing potential sales to Star Wars: TOR."
"If Diablo 3 was going to launch this year, they would have to announce it by September, as by that time the retail orders for the holiday season are nearly solidified," Divnich added.
My expert analysis: I predict Diablo 3 will be released in mid-March, 2012. When you take into account the value of the dollar vs. the yen, this release window would maximize earnings-per-share for stockholders, as well as increase non-GAAP earnings and diversification efforts vis-a-vis expanding Far Eastern distribution channels. (I don't know what any of that means.)
*an official release date has not been announced