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[BLOG] Diablo Immortal: How the few suffer to serve the many

A lot has been said about Diablo Immortal, the free-to-play game that really seems to make you wanna pay after all. Stories of exorbitant spending and force-fed microtransactions have pulled a dark veil over its launch. People on Metacritic seem to be unanimous: Diablo Immortal is the devil’s work. But is it? Blizzard’s Mike Ybarra seems to disagree and even goes as far as defending Immortal’s monetization. Because, as always, nothing is truly free in this world. Not even a free-to-play game like Diablo Immortal.

First of all, let’s state the obvious. Blizzard isn’t a charity case, nor is it a philanthropic institution. They are in it for the money. So even if a game publisher like Blizzard serves us a “free” game, there’s a revenue model behind it. And really, Blizzard isn’t even hiding it. In fact, while talking to the Los Angeles Times, Blizzard’s Mike Ybarra has been pretty straightforward about it. Yes, Diablo Immortal does include monetization that might bleed you dry. But that’s a price that the few must pay to serve the many that don’t want to spend in-game.

You see, those feeling the urge to pay are probably the ones heading into the end game of Diablo Immortal. According to Ybarra, monetization gets introduced near the end game, something backed up by player reports. “If you desperately seek to upgrade your character to full spec, be my guest”, seems to be Blizzard’s frame of mind. Is it absolutely necessary to do so in order to complete the game? Not really. But if you want to sink $110K into a digital character to boast its superiority in-game, they’re not stopping you. Even better, they’ll enable you to do so.

“When we think about monetization, at the very highest level it was, ‘How do we give a free Diablo experience to hundreds of millions of people, where they can literally do 99.5% of everything in the game?’”

“The monetization comes in at the end game. The philosophy was always to lead with great gameplay and make sure that hundreds of millions of people can go through the whole campaign without any costs. From that standpoint, I feel really good about it as an introduction to ‘Diablo.’”

– Mike Ybarra

So hey, if you want to be that 1% that has it all, there’s a price that comes with it. And that price comes in the form of Immortal’s monetization. Because honestly, millions of players get by just fine without spending a single dime, as long as they don’t go all the way. So if you’re angry with Blizzard for their money-grabbing scheme, maybe you should take a real good look in the mirror. Is it really necessary to spend cash or are you just being a greedy SOB?

Then again, there’s a flipside to Mike’s defense plea. As voluntary as these microtransactions may be, they do enable unfair advantages, even if they do so indirectly. Blizzard has been very vocal about Diablo Immortal’s monetization and how it doesn’t offer purchasable XP or upgrades. Instead, resources to upgrade are supplied at random, taking away a direct form of pay-to-win tools. But does it actually? People getting their asses handed over by a whale with a seriously OP character beg to differ. Because quite frankly, getting pitted against someone who did spend a fortune on his/her character kills the gaming experience faster than they kill you.

And that entire “hunderds of million of players aren’t experiencing the horrible effects of our monetization plans, so they can’t be that bad” attitude, tell that to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration). I mean, millions of people around the globe aren’t living in a ditch, scratching their skin off because they’re in desperate need of some heroin. So I guess it ain’t all that bad…