Pay-To-Win Mechanics Are Turning Fans Against Diablo Immortal

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Diablo Immortal was announced amid jeering and furious memes, but the game enjoyed a positive vibe when it was finally released last week. However, as more gamers plow through the story, they’re finding it harder to avoid the dreaded microtransactions. And you can get in deep with Diablo Immortal — it costs more than $100,000 to max out a character. The tide is predictably turning online. 

I’ve put a fair number of hours into Diablo Immortal, and I can confirm that the first chunk really is a pure Diablo game running on a phone. However, loot is a huge component of the action RPG nature of Diablo games, and that’s where the upsell happens. The change is subtle, but between levels 30 and 50, those in-app purchases you’ve been ignoring will become increasingly necessary. There’s also no way to guarantee you’ll get what you want when you put in money. 

Diablo Immortal has loot box mechanics, but they’re dressed up in a way that you won’t realize what they are at first. The game features rifts, which are like mini-dungeons where you can find legendary gems to enhance your gear. However, to increase the chances of legendary drops in the rift, you have to apply legendary crests. You only get a few of those for free, so you have to buy more with cash to continue boosting your stats. You also have to pick up an item called a Dawning Echo to level up the gems past a certain point, and each one costs the equivalent of $15. Once you get to more difficult areas of the game, these mechanisms will become a limiting factor. This reportedly kept the game out of some European countries that regulate loot boxes as gambling. 

The general positive buzz seems to have evaporated over the weekend. Now, most of the talk of Diablo Immortal around the web is about the pay-to-win mechanics. Players are so annoyed they’ve bombed the game’s Metacritic score, dropping it to 0.7. That’s only a little better than Warhammer III Reforged, a thoroughly bungled desktop release. 

Blizzard-Activision must have known this system would annoy gamers — its most dedicated fans booed at the announcement in 2018. So, why go through with it? Because as much as some of us may hate it, Diablo Immortal is going to make a lot of money. There are plenty of people who will pump a few bucks into Immortal in hopes of scoring the perfect gear, and that’s already more than the cost of most “premium” mobile games. Some players will end up being big spenders or “whales,” dropping thousands of dollars on the game. The unfortunate truth is that mobile games don’t have to be good in 2022 — they only have to be good at emptying your wallet.

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