Video game

New video game ‘Diablo: Immortal’ sparks controversy over its business model

Diablo fans have battled demonic legions and looted rare treasure since the original game was released in 1996. But now many are rallying against the latest title, Diablo: Immortal.

The Netherlands and Belgium have gone so far as to completely ban the latest version of the game, released earlier this month, for allegedly exploiting players to keep them hooked and spending money. Although the game is free to download, users can pay to improve their chances of winning valuable loot. A streamer has spent over $15,000 in an effort to obtain just one of the most wanted items in the game.

“Even the original creators of Diablo compared the game to a slot machine,” says Polygon Games Editor Maddy Myers. “But when you add micro-transactions to the equation, you get that slot machine effect in a much more literal way. That’s the part that I think may have upset some officials in the Netherlands- Bas and Belgium.

Diablo: Immortal is now facing headwinds to enter the lucrative mobile game market in China. But there are few signs that developer Activision Blizzard will pander to criticism and change the game’s model. first two weeks.

Interview Highlights

How Diablo: Immortal Makes Money Despite Free Download

“Well, I think people might be familiar with the idea of ​​a free-to-play mobile game. Maybe they have Pokémon GO, for example, which isn’t decried as being as emotionally manipulative as Diablo: Immortal But people are probably at least familiar with the concept.

“You download a game; you play it for a while. If you want to advance a little faster – without having to collect all those items on your own – you can just throw in a few bucks and get those items right away. That’s more or less how Diablo: Immortal works. It’s just that it’s much deeper. There are many different character types you can choose from. It is a medieval setting. You click on small skeletons to destroy them. You ultimately fight the devil – hence the title Diablo – and the amount of stuff you can buy in the game is staggering. And the more you buy, the better your performance. This is the controversial part.

On the backlash against Diablo: Immortal from fans who prefer older PC games

“I think the backlash comes in two different forms. In fact, there is a gender backlash against mobile gamers which is based on the fact that it is a very diverse gaming platform. Everyone has a phone, after all. But there’s also a backlash against the kinds of predatory monetization techniques that are used in some mobile games: free-to-play mobile games.

“I would also say, for example, Pokémon GO, my favorite example because it’s so popular, no predatory microtransactions there, in my personal opinion. You can buy stuff if you want. It’s also a lot of fun to play without spending a dime Diablo: Immortal, however, I think the backlash, despite some of it looking gendered, at least at first, now that the game is actually out and we can see how it was designed, we as reviewers and as gamers can say that unfortunately it uses some of the worst predatory design practices that can be associated with microtransactions.

“But even the original Diablo games still had that emotional manipulation. Even though you only paid once at first and there was no dollar sign attached to each treasure chest you opened, these games were still addicting. I’m not sure that an addictive game can ever be completely neutral in terms of value.

On developer Activision Blizzard’s response to the criticism

“[Activision Blizzard] seems fine with it. So now the game is at 10 million installs. And Blizzard posted an official tweet from their account saying “In just one week, Diablo: Immortal is the biggest launch in franchise history”, suggesting through this tweet that this is a victory. massive for Diablo fans everywhere, which is funny because, critically, this game has been panned by people.

“Yes, it makes a lot of money and a lot of people install it. But people who review video games for a living as well as user reviews speak out against how manipulative gaming really is. And that makes you wonder: are all these people spending money because they really want to or because they feel like they’ve been cheated? »


James Perkins Mastromarino and Jorgelina Manna-Rea produced and edited this broadcast interview with Gabe Bullard. Perkins Mastromarino and Manna-Rea also adapted it for the web.

This article originally appeared on WBUR.org.

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