Activision Blizzard leverages Oscar-winning director for its live-action Diablo IV trailer

For a medium based on detailed computer graphics, advertisements for big video games remarkably are often done through live-action spots, often not even showing real-time gameplay. This likely helps grab the attention of consumers who don’t play many games, especially if there’s a gripping storyline to the ad. This is precisely what Activision Blizzard did for its recently released action-RPG Diablo IV, which benefited from a minute-long trailer directed by Oscar-winner Chloé Zhao (Nomadland, Eternals).

The trailer, produced by creative agency 72andSunny and titled “Saviors Wanted,” portrays a man kneeling over a dead horse, a devastated village on fire, and other signs of destruction, with each person begging to be saved. These cries for help are juxtaposed with scenes of characters who align with the game’s character classes, such as a rogue firing arrows, a sorcerer summoning a fiery serpent, and a druid transforming into a bear to fight demons. It culminates in a young boy asking the viewer to hurry as the main winged antagonist, Lilith, descends upon the people.

It’s a wonderfully executed trailer that should resonate with any fans of fantasy, whether or not they’ve ever played Blizzard’s Diablo franchise. But for those who have, the ad was designed to speak to the lore of Blizzard’s long-running series. “Diablo fans are very passionate, and many have been with the game for over two decades. We want to do right by the fans, honor the game’s rich lores and visceral world-building while evoking the strong emotions the players feel while immersing in the game,” Zhao told Deadline.

The ad debuted in advance of the game’s June launch on May 25th across 20 countries on digital, social, and streaming media. Since then, Activision Blizzard has reaped the rewards of a fanbase that’s been increasingly eager to play more Diablo. Interpret’s New Media Measure® shows that from the beginning of 2022 to the fourth quarter, interest among US gamers in playing a new entry in the franchise grew by almost two percentage points.

Most recently, Activision Blizzard confirmed that Diablo IV quickly became the fastest-selling game in Blizzard Entertainment’s history, outpacing the Shadowlands expansion for World of Warcraft, which sold more than 3.7 million copies in its first full day on sale in 2020. In its first five days, Diablo IV crossed $666 million in global sell-through. While it’s impossible to directly quantify the sales conversion impact that Zhao’s trailer had, it likely helped build anticipation for Diablo IV, and may have attracted a few new fans to the franchise in the process.