The Predatory Greed of Activision
Why I Find It Hard to Get Into Diablo Immortal
As I'm sure you're well aware, Blizzard EntertainmentOnce an independent gaming company called "Silicon & Synapse", Blizzard Entertainment released a number of beloved cult games form various systems (including The Lost Vikings and Rock 'n Roll Racing) before going on to become one of the biggest game companies in the world thanks to a little title called Warcraft. has out a new entry in the Diablo series, the mobile phone (and now PC) set Diablo Immortal. The game has been getting a fair bit of flack, which is fair, as it's an absolutely predatory hell hole. We'll go over all those things in a moment but the short answer I have for the game is that I can't even bring myself to play it due to how obnoxiously greedy the game (and the company behind it) really is.
Let's not downplay the one thing the game gets right: despite being built on a new engine, the new Immortal manages to bring the (PC-based) game play of Diablo III to mobile phones. That's a solid accomplishment on its own, and that gets coupled with a decent 35-level (as in character levels) main quest that can be fun to play if you just stick to the basics and don't stray far from the free-to-play path. I don't mind that Blizzard looked at bringing this game to mobile devices first, and while the inventory and game play aren't quite what I prefer -- I played on consoles which looked similar but handled differently in Diablo III -- it still has a solid base game experience.
Sadly, everything about the game is designed not to drive enjoyment of the main adventure, your quest as a hero to fight through the demons of hell and steal the shards of the World Stone, but instead send you towards micro-transactions. Yes, there are mechanics built in to give you a facsimile of the real game when you play it for free (which is what the Blizzard fanboys will cry out against any critic that dares to talk bad about their new game), but those mechanics only appear similar. Once you get into the meat of the game, everything is designed to drive you towards spending hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars per character in the game. And, it's worth pointing out, that's per season as well.
The Diablo series is all about the grind. Enter this dungeon, kill these things, get better loot, go on to the next dungeon. Each game has a single player quest you can go through, working your way up from pathetic pleb to god-like hero. There's plenty of post-game content, going through dungeons again to try for better loot, playing at harder difficulties, and looking through bonus dungeons. The game play loop of Diablo has always been about the grind. Whether single player of multi, Diablo has a grind that makes MMOs stand up and take notice. To really enjoy these games you have to like grinding.
There is something mindless and fun about going through a rift dungeon, clearing through all the monsters, killing the hulking boss. The bit of dopamine you get hit with what a fountain of treasure pours out of that hulking beast feels great. You enjoy it and want to go again. It's a thrill ride that you can play again and again, and in the past games Blizzard has provided that content, season after season, to keep you playing. They know how to get you your fix (and as someone that played multiple seasons of Diablo III, that fix feels good).
The issue with Diablo Immortal is that everything in the game is gears to get you to spend money, over and over and over yet again. Clear a dungeon in the single-player dungeon and get a message saying, "the best loot for this boss is actually locked away unless you pay a buck". Maybe you pay that, because, hey, what's a buck? But then the next boss has a more expensive chest. You don't want to waste the time you spent on that boss, do you? And the next is more, and more, and more. That's just one way the game tries to bleed you dry.
That doesn't even get into all the ways the game tries to leech regular subscriptions out of the players. There's the Monthly Pass, which promises a bunch of prizes for buying the pass -- various items and forms of currency to use in the game on a regular basis -- but only if you login every day to collect each and every item. Fail to do that and you've just wasted money you aren't getting back. Then there's extra "paths" you can pay for that give you even more goodies, so long as you keep playing and paying. When I checked it last there were three different monthly subscriptions that built up to about $30 (give or take) you were expected to pay monthly to get all you could out of this game.
Plus, on top of all that, there are multiple currencies you have to pay for, and then use those to pay into other currencies, all to get even more prizes you wouldn't be able to get otherwise. The most egregious are the Crests, which to really get the high-tier items you have to pay for the unbound, specialty crests. You can spend 10 of those in a rift to boost your treasure yield to its max, and wouldn't you know it, there's a pack of crests perfectly sold to let you max in all 10 at once. That pack costs $20, and it gets you five minuses of game play with that boosted treasure. Five whole minutes. Wow, gee, thanks game.
Now the general comment from fans of the game is that you don't have to pay for anything in the game, and technically this is true. You can just play the game for free and ignore every single money grubbing prompt that the game constantly assaults at you. You can spend your time watching other people get good drops while you get meager rewards. You can hang out was B-tier gear while other players get Triple-S-tier because they're willing to pay for it. The drops are better, no mistake, if you pay. You will never see the good gear paying players see if you don't also pay to win. And considering there's a player-versus-player area you can play in, if you don't pay to win you'll lose to all the players that did shell out their scratch.
I don't want to make this sound like I hate paying for games. I'll absolutely pay for a game when it feels like it's worth it. If Immortal had a five-buck-a-month plan where I could play the game and support the company, I'd probably pay that and play for a couple of months. I might buy a skin for a buck, throw a little money at some weapons, and get out around $20 to $30. If I really got into it I'd probably try and even pay up to $60 for what games normally get priced at. If I enjoy a game I'll pay for my hours of enjoyment. That's fair. What Blizzard has setup, though, it's fair, it's absolutely over-the-top predatory.
Blizzard knows there are players that can't stop, that need that dopamine hit over and over and will just keep plopping money into the game. They'll pay for the currencies to buy the crests to get the legendaries so they have a chance to get the item they need. Over and over, hour after hour, twenty bucks at a time. They'll rack up giant bills gambling on a game. There's a reason the game has been banned in multiple countries because, however Blizzard tries to dress it up, this is a gambling loot box game. They'll say whatever they want to defend it, but this is the cold hard truth.
Simply put, if you want to experience this game and see what's going on, that seems reasonable to me. Maybe set yourself a budget, "I'm spending this much and not a penny more, to support this game." But once that money runs out, do not play into Blizzard's casino. Do not give them everything you have as they bleed you dry nine ways to Sunday. Diablo Immortal is built to be a money grubbing leech and you can't buy into it completely. You just can't.