Releasing with one foot in the grave among fans thanks to its condescending reveal at Blizzcon 2018, Diablo Immortal has only continued to draw the ire of fans thanks to its extreme use of microtransactions.
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The first warning sign that Diablo Immortal would feature a microtransaction-heavy gameplay design came in late May, when three days ahead of its June 2nd release, Blizzard announced that the mobile game would not be releasing in the Netherlands and Belgium, citing “current operating conditions in these countries” – namely the fact that both regions have outright banned lootboxes within their borders.
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Strikes two, three, and beyond came after the game launched, as following its public debut, YouTuber Bellular News has reported Diablo Immortal’s microtransactions are especially “predatory [and] disgusting”.
“They’re not even trying to pretend this isn’t a game for whales,” co-host @Levighast stated.
As detailed by the YouTubers, along with the usual tactic of allowing players to skip play time by using real-world currency to upgrade their characters, there are in-game currencies that require other in-game currencies to acquire.
In regards to its lootboxes, when opened, Diablo Immortal creates small arenas in which players fight for the reward, which often consist of Legendary Gems.
According to Levighast, in addition to these Gems being used to improve EXP and gear, players can use fuse gems of the same star rating to create higher-ranked Gems.
Despite this being one of the only ways to remain competitive in PVP, a given item’s rank is not the same as a star rating.
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Players can also use Rare Crests to improve the loot found in these arenas, while the even stronger and premium Legendary Crests offer players a guaranteed 5-star Legendary Crest.
Legendary Crests cost “about £2.00”, requiring three purchases of 60 Orbs at $0.99 to craft, and is otherwise available as a once-per-month gift to users who have purchased the free battle pass or via the game’s allegedly cumbersome and luck-based crafting system.
Even then, the rate of crafting a rank 5, 5 star gem allegedly stands at 0.05% according to dataminers, with one guaranteed for every 50 Legendary Crests.
In the game’s store, bundles of 45 Legendary Crests are available for $100.
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Likewise, Legendary Crests can also be purchased with Diablo Eternal’s premium currency, Eternal Orbs.
A first-time player bundle offers you 60 Orbs, though this is not enough to purchase anything that requires the currency. Another 60 Orb bundle is unlocked after beating the game’s first boss.
Additionally, the game offers two flavors of battle pass, premium and super-premium, which feature their own daily log-in bonuses and allows players to make use of additional inventory slots.
Further still, gear can be “awakened” to improve its stats, though this requires it to be combined with a maximum rank gem.
Awakened gear can then gain the “resonance” trait, which allows its stats to be improved and its cosmetics to be changed through the socketing of even more max ranked gems.
As calculated by Reddit user /u/daymeeuhn during Diablo Immortal’s May 2022 open beta, fully awakening an item from zero costs either $50,000 or years of grinding free daily log-in bonuses.
They added that if a player wished to improve all the gems on a piece of awakened gear, their average “final total on spending to fully max [is] just a little over $100K.”
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Since the game’s launch, /u/daymeeuhn updated his post to note that with the game’s full release, maxing out a weapon’s resonance now only costs around $50,000 to $80,000.
However, despite this clarification, some gaming news outlets such as GameRant and VGC have continued to erroneously cite /u/daymeeuhn’s beta analysis in reference to the title’s full release.
“This is the moonshine of pay-to-win,” Levighast ultimately denounced, comparing the game’s psychological manipulation to being invited to a party where someone is constantly trying to steal your wallet. “It’s breaching the bounds of unethical.”
However, their concerns are not unfounded, as players who do choose to spend excessive amounts of money certainly do have an advantage.
As shown by YouTuber Raxxanterax in support of his claims that the game’s monetization had “ruined” its multiplayer, a high-spending player can be single-handedly bulldozing his entire team.
As of writing, Diablo Immortal has tied World of Warcraft Classic: Burning Crusade Classic as Blizzard Entertainment’s worst user-rated game on Metacritic, with its iOS version holding a review aggregate of only 0.5 out of 10 among general audiences and the PC version a meager 0.4.
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Similarly frustrated with the game’s microtransactions, YouTuber Zizaran pointed to a January 2022 Reddit comment from Lead Game Designer Wyatt Cheng – the man who infamously criticized fan disappointment at Diablo Immortal’s reveal by condescendingly asking “Do you guys not have phones?” – to highlight the developers’ dishonesty.
Responding to claims that the game’s economy was “an absolute ‘gacha’ style abomination” and that Blizzard had removed the black Witch Doctor character to appease Chinese censorship boards, Cheng asserted, “I normally lurk here on /r/Diablo, I like reading all the feedback and taking in the hot topics of the day. I think a reality check is warranted here.”
Cheng’s comments from earlier this year came back to haunt him, as YouTuber them on Twitter. “What happened in 4 months? Or are the gems not considered gear?” he rhetorically inquired.
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“Almost all of the ‘facts’ presented in this post are fabricated,” he said. “In Diablo Immortal, there is no way to acquire or rank up gear using money. There is no 50/50 system on rank upgrade. The links cited as proof don’t link to proof of the assertions at all.”
The Blizzard dev then noted “You can choose from a variety of skin tones, including black, during character creation,” before encouraging “everybody to form their own opinion on Diablo Immortal.”
“It’s a game myself and the team have poured years of bloody sweat into making,” he added. “If you’re curious about the microtransactions in the game, factual information is available elsewhere or you can check the game out (for free) when the game comes out.”
Citing this post, Zizaran asked, “What happened in 4 months? Or are the gems not considered gear?”
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Soon after being published, Zizaran’s rhetorical question would draw a response from Cheng himself, who replied to the YouTuber, “Hey Ziz, 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 clarified. ” I’m sorry this wasn’t clear here. Not being able to buy gear (the 12 slots) or XP remains important to the team.”
“For what it’s worth I appreciate you checking out the game,” Cheng conceded. “I look forward to your PoE content [Path of Exile] and guides which I’ve always enjoyed.”
Unsatisfied with this answer, Zizaran explained to Cheng, “I think a lot of people were expecting or became hopeful was that you couldn’t buy power after seeing that statemen. And there ends up being a lot of things you can buy (upgrading battlepass, the extra chests after dungeons) that affect your character power and it makes.”
“The post you made come across and disingenuous and disappointing to people that have been fans of blizzard for such a long time, and it makes it matter a lot less important if you cant ‘literally’ buy gear when you ‘basically can buy power anyway,” the YouTuber condemned.
“That’s totally fair criticism and I can see how it came across that way,” admitted Cheng.
“In context I was responding to a post that claimed, ‘You can only upgrade your gear with $$$ once you reach the free quota of the day. […]it’s currently almost $12 to just simply even try to upgrade one piece of gear as the ‘failure rate’ is 50/50′,” he continued. “I think it’s pretty clear with the game out that this was not the case.”
“Anyways, appreciate you highlighting this post, as I can see it appears misleading,” the designer concluded. “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. Thanks again Ziz.”
Back in February of this year, Activision Blizzard announced that 61% of their net bookings in Q4 2021 had come from microtransactions and DLC. This was despite net bookings- along with net revenue, in-game net bookings, and monthy active users- being lower than Q4 2020.
What do you think of Diablo Immortal’s microtransactions? Let us know your thoughts on social media and in the comments below.
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