Blizzard North Once Planned a Diablo-Themed Pokemon Clone

Blizzard North Once Planned a Diablo-Themed Pokemon Clone

"Wild Azmodan was caught! Your existence is now forfeit!"

Today in news that makes you say, "Aw man, that would've been great," former Blizzard North programmer Jonathan Morin says he had an idea for a Pokemon-inspired "Diablo Junior" game that was ultimately shot down.

Morin talks about the project in an interview published today on Variety. While he was thinking up a new project following the completion of Diablo 2, Morin happened to catch sight of a Game Boy development kit. At the time (around 2002-2003), the initial wave of Pokemon hype was still rolling strong. An idea lit up in Morin's head like a happy Ampharos.

"Look at how successful Pokemon is. How can we do something similar?" Morin recalls saying. "There weren’t a lot of games on the Game Boy like that at the time. We could bring the Diablo universe to Nintendo. I think it would have done awesome."

If poor Nidoking wound up fighting in the Tristram Gym, I'm afraid he'd have something to cry about. | Nadia Oxford/USG, Nintendo

Morin's small team of three or four developers never went far beyond the planning stages for Diablo Junior, though they had some rough ideas like capturing and trading different Diablo monsters and shipping different versions of the game that let you play as different characters (e.g. a "Knight" version, a "Mage" version, and so on). Blizzard North never had a chance to seek Nintendo's approval for the pitch unfortunately, because the bosses at Blizzard South and Blizzard's owners at the time, Vivendi, put an arrow in Diablo Jr.'s heart.

“Blizzard South came in and they were asking what everybody was working on. Oh yeah, I’m working on this Game Boy game! … They had no idea," Morin recalls. "They’re like nope, sorry, we’re going to cancel that."

Morin speculates Blizzard South didn't see much potential for profit in a Game Boy game. Nintendo's high license fees combined with the Game Boy and Game Boy Color's cartridge format and lack of online capabilities (and thus no potential for DLC distribution across Battle.net) likely would've added up to low profit margins.

In fact, Blizzard's never been very gung-ho about publishing on Nintendo's platforms in general. The (excellent) Switch port of Diablo 3 marks the first time Blizzard has brought a game to a Nintendo system since StarCraft for the Nintendo 64. The premature death of Diablo Jr. therefore isn't surprising, but it's a little sad.

I still think the world has room for a Pokemon-style Diablo game. Imagine collecting all the series' best-known demons! Well, except for Ghom. Ain't nobody wants to collect Ghom.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

Read this next

Best Switch Games - The 25 Best Nintendo Switch Games You Can Play in 2019

Our rotating list of the best Switch games, now bigger than before!

No Major Video Game Releases From Blizzard in 2019

Efforts will be going into stabilizing existing franchises.

Diablo 3 Anniversary Event - Darkening of Tristram Start Date - How to Access Retro Dungeon, Is There new Loot?

Diablo has returned again, but this time he's got a retro look. Here's everything you need to know about how to access the Diablo 3 Anniversary event and what you'll earn for taking part.

Diablo 3 Class Guide, Best Builds, Tips for Diablo 3 on Nintendo Switch

Need help picking and specializing your hero in Diablo 3? This guide features different builds per class to help inspire you, whether you're playing on PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC or Nintendo Switch.

Diablo 3 Ganon Armor Guide - How to Get the Ganondorf Armor, Transmog Guide

Hyrule’s baddest has come to Diablo 3 on Switch. If you’re looking for info on how to get the Ganondorf armor, you’ve come to the right place.

Blizzard Denies Diablo 4 Teaser Was Planned for Blizzcon [Update]

A late change scrubbed Diablo 4 from BlizzCon.

More News

Destiny 2's Console Players Are Having a Fun, Disastrous Time Switching to PC

Turns out there are some differences between the platforms.

One of Epic's Flagship Exclusives is Coming to Steam

Supergiant's Hades aiming for v1.0 sometime next year.

More on Game Boy

Axe of the Blood God's Console RPG Quest is Playing With Power... Portable Power

Kat and Nadia explores the noble RPG history of the Game Boy on its 30th anniversary.

Sega's Failed Attempts to Mock the Game Boy are Still Funny 30 Years Later

Oh, you like the Game Boy? You probably also like drinking out of the toilet. Enjoy your 12 IQ, dumbass.

A Reminder for Fans Raging About Pokemon Sword and Shield: Every New Entry is Somebody's First

In this exciting issue: I recall dismissing Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire as "lazy" back in 2002.

What's the First Game You Ever Finished?

COMMUNITY QUESTION | What is the first video game Mt. Everest you have successfully climbed?

"The Nightmare Is Far From Over:" How the Artist Behind Garfield Gameboy'd Dreamed up His Four-Color Horror Show

LumpyTouch's mock-playthrough of an unreleased Garfield horror game is a terrifying, pus-filled labor of love.

More Role Playing Games Games

New Trials of Mana Footage Shows Cleaner, More Accessible Fights

Let's have a good clean fight, Mana fans.

Microsoft Contractors Reportedly Heard You Talking to Your Kinect

The listen-ins were apparently meant to improve the service.

The Fire Emblem: Three Houses Student Ranking Thunderdome: 34 Students Enter, Only Shamir Leaves

We have no favorites among Three Houses' characters, except for the ones that are our favorites.

Cyberpunk 2077 Producer Details Law Enforcement and the Rich Areas of Night City

There are no cops in the poorer districts. That all changes when you get to the affluent areas of Night City.