A reader is concerned at the success of Diablo Immortal and argues that it’s proof ordinary people don’t care about the problems of microtransactions.
I read with interest GC’s extended review of Diablo Immortal this week and was interested to find that beneath the layers of disgusting microtransactions it is actually a good game. I admittedly don’t have much experience of free-to-play mobile games but always assumed they were worthless as games, as my brief time with Clash Of Clans and Fire Emblem Heroes seemed to prove. So to find out that Diablo Immortal could’ve been an actual good game, if it wasn’t for the ridiculous way it’s paid for, is all the more upsetting.
Technically, Diablo Immortal is free-to-play but, as I understand it, you can’t properly level up without gaining special gems which are acquired either by playing the game for an ungodly length of time (apparently it’d take 10 years to fully max your character out) or paying ridiculous amounts of real money.
When the review starts describing the different passes you can buy it almost seems like a joke, with a £4.49 Empowered Battle Pass, a £12.99 Collector’s Empowered Battle Pass, and a monthly £8.99 Boon of Plenty. That’s over £25 for just one of each, for one month. So you’re talking hundreds of pounds for a single year. Despite the fact that Diablo 4 is coming out soon and will cost simply £70 for everything, forever.
To me, and I would imagine most traditional gamers, this is ludicrous and clear proof that buying full price games is cheaper and easier than wasting time or money on free-to-play games. But I’m wrong.
Diablo Immortal has been downloaded 10 million times and if only 1% of players spend large amounts of money on it that’s still 100,000 ‘whales’ feeding Blizzard’s coffers for absolutely no additional work on their behalf.
The fight against microtransactions and lootboxes has been going on for years now and while there have been a number of victories none of them have come about because of a popular uprising against the concepts. Hardcore gamers might hate them but by definition they’re a small minority and when you’ve got 10 million people lining up to play your game what does it matter if a tiny percentage are unhappy?
Time and again we see that the general public do not care about these issues. They’re probably not interested in paying for microtransactions either, at least not at first, but the insidious nature of the games will inevitably draw in many.
This, I feel, is one of the fundamental dangers with the modern games industry. That the people that actually care about the games are in a minority and the ones that generate the most money for publishers don’t really care at all. They probably don’t consider themselves gamers and they probably don’t see the games they play as anything other than trivial distractions from daily life.
That might sound snobbish but I don’t meant it that way, because I think the situation with gaming is different than with other mediums like film. Yes, companies will dumb blockbusters down to please the lowest common denominator, but you can still get good blockbusters, made with artistry and craft. And the way the most successful movies are made and sold is not fundamentally different from any other, it’s just on a larger scale.
With free-to-play games though that’s not really true. Diablo Immortal may look and play similar to other Diablo games but it’s not sold in the same way and the way it’s designed, to encourage spending money or huge amounts of time, is completely different to how a regular game works.
I think it’s inevitable that the more the mobile system is proven to be more profitable the more its concepts will seep through to traditional games, as we already see with the recent announcements about Overwatch 2 and still successful games like Fortnite and Apex Legends.
And still the only people that will care are traditional gamers. Ordinary people won’t care at all, that they are helping to destroy gaming. There is no popular uprising against microtransactions, there is only indifferent acceptance of them and gaming itself.
By reader Lion-O
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