Let’s face it, single player RPGs are a dying breed. Even games like Diablo that have online game play are still a single player game at heart. Sure you can join a instance with a few other people to run through quests, farm for item drops or trade, but there is no persistant world. There is nothing that binds players together except for the BattleNet chat channels and it certainly is not a “Massive Multiplayer” game, emphasis on massive.
While it seems most RPGs are taking the MMO route there have been some within the last few years that remain as single player games. Fallout 3, Mass Effect, Kingdom Hearts series, Zelda, Final Fantasy to name a few. However others like Star Wars: Kotor have been announced as MMOs. The Elder Scroll series has also been rumored to make the jump to MMO as well as the next Fallout game. The Final Fantasy series went MMO back in 2002, although single player FF games continue to be made. Other RPGs such as Baldur’s Gate and Ultima just seems to have disappeared.
With the Diablo series only a very small percentage of players choose to play offline, the rest of us play online through Bnet. The way the game is currently setup Blizzard has to limit how many people join an instance. If you never played Diablo basically the more users that join an instance the more the monsters get scaled up in power and health. So if you have 100 people in one instance it would just become a mess. I’m a little rusty since I haven’t played D2 in a few yrs, but I think the limit was 10 or 12, I could be wrong.
The only thing stopping Diablo from becoming a MMO is a persistant world, all the other elements are already there. With the success Blizzard has had with WoW, I just don’t see them releasing Diablo 4 as another single player online RPG.
We all know Blizzard is already working on a new-gen MMO. Whether it’s going to be Starcraft, Diablo or a new IP is anyone guess, but I doubt we’ll be seeing a D3 and Diablo MMO that soon together. My money is still on a SC MMO.
On a side note, didn’t I do a nice job editing the D3 logo :)