Diablo Immortal’s microtransactions have created a pay-to-win monster

diablo immortal the countessBlizzard Entertainment, Dexerto

Diablo Immortal has been unleashed, but its microtransactions make it a pay-to-win Frankenstein’s monster that is clouded by predatory mechanics despite its potential.

As Diablo Immortal Game Director, Wyatt Cheng, faced a crowd of unimpressed faces at Blizzcon 2018 and listened to the tumbleweed roll by, he asked “do you guys not have phones?” when in reality he should have asked, “do you guys not have a limitless bank account?”

Slammed for predatory microtransactions that (according to some calculations) mean you’d need to spend $110 thousand dollars to fully gear your character, the game is facing a firing squad of fans demanding that something changes.

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Having played through the game since its release and not spent a penny; the struggle is real. My favorite franchise of all time appears to have been reduced to a cash grab (and yes, I count Diablo 2 Resurrected as one of those, too). While Sanctuary’s present looks bleak, Blizzard’s future looks even worse post-Immortal – here’s why.

diablo immortal female crusader fighting the countess in a pentagramBlizzard Entertainment
Just as The Forgotten Tower spells doom for the Dark Wood, Diablo Immortal has potentially doomed the iconic ARPG.

It’s a rich man’s world

While this won’t be the first (or last) time I rant about publishers and their never-ending quest to bleed players’ wallets dry, Blizzard have taken this enterprise to a whole new level with Diablo Immortal.

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The game’s store mechanics are a messed up, pay-to-win Frankenstein’s monster, welding each and every microtransaction together to create something even the Burning Hells would turn their back on. Almost everything requires money.

Want to get good loot from Elder Rifts? You’ll need a Crest for that. How do you get a Crest? You need Eternal Orbs for that. Want to upgrade your loot using the (once free) gem system? You need Eternal Orbs for that.

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OK fine, how do I get Eternal Orbs? That’ll be your entire bank balance, please.

Blizzard have sneakily interwoven every single item into a pay-to-win web; you have to spend money in order to play the game to any reasonable level – especially as you reach the endgame and seek out mightier foes or attempt to join groups. It’s so subtle it’s scary, and so aggravating that it makes you want to stop playing and uninstall.

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Saving Sanctuary will always come at a cost, but this price is far too high to pay.

diablo immortal in-game store eternal orbs costBlizzard Entertainment
Diablo Immortal’s microtransactions are so wickedly crafted that they’d make the Lord of Terror himself proud.

It’s all about trust

As discourse surrounding the game reached a climax, Cheng has been quick to defend the team’s decisions. Players have dug up Reddit post in which he claimed “there is no way to acquire or rank up gear using money,” – his response to which has left people even angrier.

Every Diablo game has featured Gems. These are socketed into weapons and armor and provide upgrades. Coming into Immortal, these gems are only obtainable via Elder Rifts, which require Crests as I mentioned earlier. Immortal effectively transforms one of the game’s age-old core systems into a rolling transaction, something Cheng argues he made clear before release.

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“I have been pretty up front in many interviews (though apparently not in this post) that gear was the 12 item slots. In many interviews I also clearly state that money can advance gems and legendary gems,” he states. “We’ve been pretty forward that Legendary Crests -> Legendary Gems well before I made that post so I hope from a holistic perspective you can see I wasn’t trying to hide anything.”

Comments like these are why, sadly, players have grown skeptical of Blizzard, and post-lawsuit, trust is at an all-time low.

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Everything seems disorganized, and when a new game releases it has its five seconds of fame then retreats to the annals of history to quickly be forgotten. There’s no continuity, there’s no communication, and, worst of all, there’s no real care.

Perhaps, with a bit of discussion, we’d have seen Diablo Immortal release with less paid content, or even if it remained in the state it’s in now, at least we’d have known about it.

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diablo immortal wyatt cheng at blizzcon 2018Blizzard Entertainment
Cheng’s response to player criticism has left him firmly in the firing line.

The future looks bleak, but it doesn’t have to

If we cast Diablo Immortal back into the flames for one second and turn our sights to the future, the response to the game could prompt one of two conclusions.

With World of Warcraft’s mobile title, Arclight Rumble, also set to release soon, we could simply see a repeat of DI, transforming it into a microtransaction pandemonium.

Or, and I say this with the single ounce of hope still left, Blizzard can learn from this. Paid content isn’t the way to go; you’re bleeding the lifeblood out of classic franchises and turning players away. While I and many others will probably still check out new Diablo games, continual disappointment just gets old.

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Blizzard, I implore you; learn from this. Stop destroying the games we love and care about. Diablo Immortal is a learning experience, and there is a lot to learn.

Stay awhile and listen; we’re trying to help.

diablo immortal elder rift using crestBlizzard Entertainment
Diablo Immortal’s Crests are possibly one of the most predatory microtransactions I’ve ever seen.

By no means is Diablo Immortal a bad game; that’s what’s so sad about this whole thing. There’s a great story lurking beneath the paywall just waiting to be unleashed. The combat is smooth, animations are gorgeous, and the throwbacks to the world of Diablo and Diablo 2 make any OG Diablo player smile. Suffocated beneath the weight of microtransactions, it’s unfortunate we’ll never be able to truly play this game.

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As we look to the future of Diablo – and Blizzard’s IPs as a whole – I hope we see a return to the Blizzard of old – without the alleged “pervasive frat-boy culture,” of course. “Do you guys not have phones?” Blizzard, I ask you this: “What’s changed?”

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