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Diablo: Immortal, the latest offering from Blizzard is the latest game to face the horrors of being review bombed. Early reviews of the game scored it highly, but as players began to reach the endgame they discovered the title was a nightmare of microtransactions and pay-to-win mechanics.
The handful of positive reactions have quickly been overwhelmed by negative reviews on the user side. As of the time of this writing, the PC version of Diablo: Immortal currently has a 0.5 out of 10 as a user score on Metacritic. The 20 or so good reviews are still there, but the other side of the scale is over 700 negative reviews strong.
The intense dislike for the game is because gamers feel it’s deceptive about the fairly standard mobile practices it employs. Other mobile games with serious microtransactions tend to hit players with them relatively quickly; Harry Potter: Hogwarts Legacy springs to mind as an example. That particular game tried for the quick cash grab by utilizing an energy system that drained quickly, recovered slowly and nudged players toward spending money.
Diablo: Immortal’s microtransactions creep up on you
Diablo: Immortal takes a sneakier approach. The early game and mid game are quite enjoyable and easy to play without spending a dime. But the late game is where they try to hook folks. Reports suggest that fully upgrading a character to the absolute max could cost around $100,000.
The high price tag is based on the fact that items needed to upgrade are only found in the high end loot boxes, which can only be purchased with real money. The argument online is that instead of being upfront with people Blizzard is relying on some kind of sunk cost fallacy to force players to spend.
The opposite argument, of course, is that it’s a free-to-play game. I think the whole thing is kind of gross, but if it takes dozens of hours to reach the pay-to-win endgame it’s still dozens of hours of potential fun. And it needs to be said that it’s possible to beat the main game without engaging with any of that stuff.
Blizzard learned the wrong lesson
Barely a handful of years ago Blizzard ran an ad campaign promoting StarCraft II moving to a free-to-pay model. The ad blatantly mocked the concept of pay-to-win mechanics, and while StarCraft II does offer in-game purchases of commanders in some of the multiplayer it avoids most of the pay-to-win traps.
But a handful of years before that Blizzard went through a different kind of real money resentment. Diablo III launched in 2012 with a real-money focused in-game auction house. While some gamers played the market and made money, mostly people hated how it threw off the endgame balancing. The experiment proved to overwhelmingly be a massive, anger generating failure and Blizzard axed it in 2014.
The sad thing is it seems that Blizzard learned the wrong lesson. It didn’t manage to work out that people don’t like microtransactions in mostly single-player experiences. Instead it seems like the conclusion was the company would prefer people pay them more, instead of each other.
Ah, well. It’s an open beta. Maybe Blizzard can fix it, and maybe it won’t take years to fix this latest Diablo microtransaction misadventure.