Name a better duo than Blizzard and semantics. You can’t, especially when we’re talking about justifying the decisions made for Diablo Immortal.
First, we had game director Wyatt Cheng argue that the game was not selling gear as part of its monetization, because of ultra-powerful legendary gems that are required to build a strong endgame character are not technically “gear,” as in, armor or weapons you equip. Now we have Blizzard president Mike Ybarra telling the LA Times… this:
“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?’” Ybarra says .
I am deeply, deeply tired of Blizzard playing word games like this. It’s true, you can have a free-to-play play and a paying player run the same physical dungeon. That is “content” that both are playing. And yet the game is set up so a player can pay $ 25 to run through that dungeon to get ten legendary drops at the end, while the free player will almost always get… nothing.
It’s just not true that “99.5%” of the game, in any way other than physical landmass, is free. Higher Hell difficulties, gem leveling, raid bosses, PvP and truly farmable rifts all require players to pay as taking a free track simply cannot provide the power needed to play these aspects of the game in any meaningful capacity.
Ybarra goes on to say the main thing is introducing people the Diablo campaign for free, while monetizing the endgame:
“The monetization comes in at the end of the game,” Ybarra says. “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.’ ”
Perhaps we’re shouting into the wind here. Blizzard says that half of Immortal players have never played a Diablo game before, and they keep citing high app store reviews that indicate the problems cited about the game are not the “wider view” among players. The game has also made something like $ 50 million in revenue since launch from both average spenders and megawhales. Meanwhile, more generally, they seem to be ignoring all criticism outside of rare interviews like this. Game director Wyatt Cheng has not tweeted since about a month ago after his initial “we don’t sell gear” defense.
All I can say is what this has done for me is that I simply cannot take Blizzard at their word these days, particularly when it comes to Diablo 4. Between Cheng and Ybarra playing games with semantics, and being willing to ignore 20 years of Diablo traditions and the series’ most devoted fans to snatch up new players with the potential to be P2W whales leaves an incredibly bad taste in my mouth. While Diablo 4 has said it will not be monetized like Immortal, and would simply sell cosmetics and expansions, I don’t know what asterisks are attached to that. And will probably not know until the game is literally launched, given that Immortal more or less hid its monetization until the last minute on purpose.
I don’t trust Blizzard anymore, and I know I’m not alone. Statements like these are only reinforcing that position and the company has a whole lot of work to earn back player trust, work they do not seem terribly interested in doing, by the sound of what Ybarra is saying here.
Follow me on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Subscribe to my free weekly content round-up newsletter, God Rolls.
Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.