A disappointing addition to the franchise
Blizzard really should’ve seen it coming. The community’s reaction to their announcement of the game should’ve clued them to step back and examine what direction they wanted the game to take. They should’ve researched the reason why the news wasn’t well-received. Also, they should’ve looked at how players rate mobile games. This kind of backlash would’ve been prevented. At any rate, here are some insights as to why players won’t want to buy Diablo Immortal Platinum or play the game anymore.
The First 30+ Hours are Fun
There’s nothing wrong with the first 30 or so hours. It’s a fantastic Diablo experience you can play in short bursts, plus bring it around as you commute or travel. The game is fun, as the microtransactions aren’t necessary for the lower levels.
Basically, the whole PvE portion of the game isn’t so bad. It’s enjoyable, even. Despite the negative reaction to the announcement, fans will be fans. They will still enjoy a Diablo game, even begrudgingly. Everything would’ve been nice and dandy if the game stayed that way throughout the content, but unfortunately, that isn’t so.
The freemium model is standard among mobile apps. It’s free to play, but you can pay for conveniences, boosts, skins, or currency. The purchase of such things is called microtransactions, and players don’t have a problem with it. As long as the purchased items don’t give paying players an advantage over others (especially in competitive game modes), everything’s alright.
As a mobile game, DI’s microtransactions are pretty standard. You can buy premium currency, Diablo Immortal items such as skins, and even a battle pass system. It’s just the usual stuff, standard in any freemium mobile game.
Unfortunately, that’s not all. There’s a section there that only becomes relevant in the endgame. The Crests add a modifier to Elder Rifts and guarantee a Legendary Gem every time you open one. The gems are essential to the continued growth of your character.
The real problem is what others call a gacha within a gacha system. The first gacha system is opening crests. They give you a chance to get random gems and runes. The second gacha system is the gem itself, as you never know how many and what kind you get.
Crests and Legendary Gems
Free-to-play players can only get one Legendary Crest a month and two Rare Crests a day. They’re stuck using the latter for their farming, and without a guarantee, it’ll take them months or even years to get the perfect setup.
Of course, this is a strategy to get players to buy Crests or Eternal Orbs. However, they’re vastly underestimating players if they think this will be accepted without question.
This kind of strategy is borderline pay-to-win. Since DI has a PvP component, players will notice how microtransactions affect the gameplay. In the loosest terms, pay-to-win means getting an advantage over other players by using real money.
Now, DI sells crests which in itself is not a problem. Giving the players an option to buy convenience is also nothing to worry about. Neither is the ability to buy Diablo Immortal Platinum. The problem is that the free players have a disproportionately harder time getting on the same level as those who paid.
This causes an imbalance and a divide between plankton (F2P) and whales (P2P). The metaphor becomes doubly fitting because whales can gobble up plankton by the millions. PvP becomes unfair since you can’t get far if you don’t pay. When that happens, the game is identified as ‘pay-to-win.’
Microtransactions are Not the Problem
There’s an emphasis on this idea because games can be successful even with microtransactions. As long as the game doesn’t make them necessary, players are okay with their existence. In Diablo Immortal, the limited number of crests means an artificial scarcity. That scarcity creates a feeling of need for the microtransactions, which is what players hate.
It’s railroading them to pay for these conveniences, something they dislike. It makes sense from the marketing perspective, but it’s not consumer-friendly. There must be a balance between letting the player enjoy the game and leaving enough need to justify microtransactions.
Players do know that microtransactions support the game. They know that it’s a business and that developers also need money to live. They understand the need for a source of revenue for the devs and the continued existence of their game.
What they don’t appreciate is being pushed into spending their money because of predatory practices. See what happened to Star Wars Battlefront 2. Diablo Immortal microtransactions are almost reaching that level due to the heavy reliance on RNG and the scarcity of crests. That’s not having fun. That’s coercion.
There’s Still Hope
The nature of live service games means they can adapt and change over time. Look at how far World of Warcraft has come, and patching is always an option. It’s only barely a week after Diablo Immortal went live, so there’s a lot of potential for positive change. Blizzard will take note of the backlash, as leaving it unanswered will kill the game because nobody would want to play it.
As for now, we can only wait for their response to all these complaints. Here’s to hoping they balance the Diablo Immortal item drops from rifts, among other things.