Diablo 4 recently got its first level 100 hardcore character following a group effort from a bunch of streamers, and now another streamer, Wudijo, has won the solo race to a max-level hardcore. You can watch the big moment here. But as the dust settles on the race, which was promoted by Blizzard as a way to carve your name into Diablo 4 history (specifically a big statue), many fans are caught up on perceived unfair advantages granted by pre-release access.
Diablo 4 is now officially out, but only after a few days of early access given to folks who pre-ordered the fancy editions of the game, hence why these streamers have already reached max level while your average demon slayer is still putting their shoes on. Of course, this wasn't the game's only early access period; betas and Server Slam aside, many streamers and community figures were given dedicated pre-release access to Diablo 4.
Progress didn't transfer to the live game, but a relatively small group of people were able to play the game before everyone else – among other things, giving them more time to learn the best ways to grind. As folks predicted when Blizzard first announced plans to commemorate the first 1,000 hardcore players to hit level 100, this limited pre-release access has called the legitimacy of the race into question.
Wudijo, being one of Diablo's biggest and most consistent streamers, was obviously among the pre-release players, as many series fans were quick to point out after he reached level 100 on his hardcore. To his credit, Wudijo held a post-embargo, pre-early access stream discussing his experience with the pre-release Diablo 4 build and some leveling strategies. Several build and leveling guides were also posted to his YouTube channel during the race over the last few days, to say nothing of weeks of theorycrafting streams, so there's no doubt he was publicly sharing a lot of his knowledge.
Even so, as members of the Diablo 4 Reddit community argued in a thread acknowledging Wudijo's achievement, "the guy has been playing for months now and knew all the stuff," per Shadowraiden. "There's a huge difference in running the raid multiple times than if you're new and watching a video on it. You know all the tips and tricks first hand," echoes boxxeram.
Plenty of Diabo fans note that Wudijo certainly wasn't the only player with pre-release access, and nothing changes the fact that the guy ruined his health and sleep schedule to put in ridiculous hours on this skill-intensive grind. And remember: Blizzard set the rules and gave out early access, not the participants. If anything, this whole situation has just exacerbated the circumstances which already favor folks who play and stream games for a living, now with the added complication of extra early access that can't be guaranteed.
Here's the take I was actually waiting to see, if only because it's the nuclear option the situation demands:
"The race should have started with season 1," reasons RetroMonger. "Gives everybody who bought it (early access, press access, full release access) time to play and get acclimated to the game and form a plan."
There we go. If you're questioning this race – and there are legitimate reasons you might – treat it as a dry run and instead focus on the season 1 race after the game's properly out, the meta's settled a bit, and everyone's on equal footing.