Diablo Immortal’s loot and monetization system is at war with each other

One month after launch, Diablo Immortal have one of the lowest Metacritic User Rating Score all the time: 0.4 on iOS and 0.3 on PC. “Disgusting design”, reads a typical comment.

However, on Apple’s App Store, Diablo everlasting has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. “Finally, a mobile game done right!” comment a user.

In their opinion, both of these ratings are correct.

Diablo Immortal Not only is it a new entry in Blizzard’s action role-playing game series, it puts Diablo in a new context. Some new context in fact: It’s designed primarily for mobile devices with touchscreen controls. It’s a massively multiplayer online game with a shared world where you see other players running around. It was co-developed with a Chinese company, NetEase, and more than any Blizzard game before it, it was made with the Asian market in mind. It is free to play. These are all major changes to Diablo.

On the other hand, for any Diablo player – especially any Diablo 3 player – Diablo Immortal will feel comfortably familiar. The series’ signature classy perspective, frenzied battles with hordes of monsters, and loot faucets are all present. Besides, everlasting was clearly built on Diablo 3 and use the content of that game, retaining the feel and atmosphere of Blizzard’s 2012 game. everlastingHis artwork features the same vibrant, golden hues, intoxicating firework-like battle, and the jingle and splash of sound effects as deeply satisfying as Pavlovian. .

Because everlasting is the same game in a new context where the opinions of different constituents of the audience can be very different. Existing Diablo fans hate the way their favorite game is monetized in the new free-to-play version, while mobile game players, who are used to the business model, are impressed. with polish, depth and scope everlasting inherited from its predecessors. Neither group is wrong, so should we brush this powder in different strokes and move on? Unfortunately not, because Diablo Immortal not just the center of the video game culture war. It is also at war with itself.

Barbarian fights Monarch of Shassar in screenshot from Diablo Immortal

Image: Blizzard Entertainment

You won’t know it when you start playing the game. At first, Diablo Immortal It’s as fun to play as it sounds: a lightweight, portable, social and fast version of Diablo 3. It’s also more spacious and open in its design than many of its free-to-play peers. There is no power-type mechanic that limits the amount of time you can play without paying, and none of its activity is behind any kind of fee wall. The campaign is long, luxurious, and largely unblemished. In the rare cases where you’re required to level up in order to progress, you’ll find a plethora of activities beyond the main quest – including bounties, replayable dungeons, and random “crashes” – to help you out. narrow the gap. In-game guides, achievements, and activity trackers give you rewards while giving you a tour of the game’s incredible system. There are even innovations here that the main Diablo games would do well to copy, such as building instructions that suggest loading skills and gear for you to work towards.

It’s only when you’re so familiar with Diablo, and especially its full item consumption game, that you notice that something’s going on. It’s clear that the loot – gear items that can transform your character’s powers, even to the point of altering the way skills work – have been moved out of the center stage in a big way. delicate.

First, the item can be ranked, and its rank is then transferred to another item in the same slot. This means that a significant part of your character development has been shifted away from getting interesting drops from monsters and into a colorless, incremental phase whereby you take advantage of the amount large amount of unwanted loot to put on the upgrade machine.

On the other hand, your items are now greatly enhanced by attaching them to legendary gems of huge power, and this is where most of the complaints about Diablo ImmortalEarning money has been focused.

Screenshot from Diablo Immortal showing a sorceress's equipment display

Image: Blizzard Entertainment

One Diablo Immortal The character has six legendary gem slots. Each gem comes with a rating, ranging from one to five stars, which cannot be changed and greatly affects its power; The five star gems are much rarer gems than the one star ones. Legendary gems can be upgraded and the easiest way to do this is to consume other Legendary gems. A fully upgraded gem can then be further enhanced through the “gem resonance” system which requires – you guessed it – more legendary gems, up to five gems more for each gem location.

If you want to maximize your character – and maximizing your character is really what Diablo is all about – you need a lot of legendary gems: to find the right ones for your build, to stack good star rating, to upgrade the gems you have, and finally put in each gem’s additional resonant slots. It’s endless.

Between Diablo ImmortalThere are so many currencies, upgrade paths, and rewards systems, the legendary gems are where the most difficult business model is. Blizzard and NetEase haven’t been too complicated selling them directly through loot boxes or gacha mechanics, but what they’ve come up with is, in a way, even more troubling. Legendary gems only drop from random Elder Rift dungeon bosses, and you can only guarantee a legendary gem drop by applying the legendary vertex modifier to the dungeon before you start it. Otherwise, the drop rate for legendary gems is very low.

Without spending any money on the game, you can only get a legendary badge every month, and even buying a battle pass will only reward you with one or two additional legendary badges per month. Also, you need to buy them directly. Legendary badges range in price from $2 to $3 each. The huge amount of gems you’ll need to maximize your character’s gear, especially considering the extremely low drop rate of five star gems, is the reason why it costs so much to upgrade. your character in Diablo Immortal has been estimated to be between $50,000 and $100,000 – potentially even higher, if you delve into the gem resonance system. (Rock Paper Shotgun has very thorough cost analysis to the more conservative end of this scale.)

Screenshot from Diablo Immortal showing a female Crusader's treasure trove of gems

Image: Blizzard Entertainment

Diablo Immortal has been a particularly tough ride for this business model – perhaps disproportionately, considering popular free-to-play competitors like The Genshin effect and Lost beer keg there is almost no similar gacha mechanic to attract big-spending “whale” players. Diablo’s reputation and reputation with its core PC gaming audience, earned for a quarter of a century, is certainly a factor. But it’s also true that this system has its unique problem and the very nature of Diablo games has to do with that.

When you buy legendary badges, you don’t have to buy a roll of dice, like when you buy a pack of FIFA Ultimate Team cards, for example. You are buying an opportunity to roll the dice, to get access to the game engine and adjust the drop rate (slightly) in your favor. The addictive gambling mechanics are not separated from the addictive gameplay mechanics, but are instead directly tied to the combat and loot in the game. Diablo is very well positioned to do this; as my colleague Maddy Myers pointed outthese loot-focused games always have slot machine quality, Diablo ImmortalThe business model of taken literally.

Snow storm it was painful to point out that everlastingMonetization can be safely ignored until the game is over, which is true and it claims that the majority of players enjoy the game without spending a dime, which is justifiable. But it’s hard to suggest that the main joy of the Diablo game lies in playing throughout the story, rather than maximizing your character. It’s hard to deny that these games have always been designed to create a sense of longing to reach the limits of power in their players. For those with a penchant for gambling, or the addictive substance of Diablo’s item game – or even worse, both – the legendary vertex system is exploitative and has the potential to be hugely damaging. .

For others, it simply makes Diablo less fun.

A monk battles the Keeper of the Tear boss in an icy dungeon in a screenshot from Diablo Immortal

Image: Blizzard Entertainment

We’ve been here before, or somewhere like it. When Diablo 3 Launched in 2012, it features a real money auction house where players can buy and sell their items. In theory, this exists to combat fraud and scams dealing in specific items in Diablo 2. But in order to direct players to the auction house, Blizzard has reduced the in-game loot drop rate to the point where equipping your character becomes a thankless undertaking and the entire game feels unplayable. When the unpopular auction house was removed and the dropout rate increased in 2014, Diablo 3 immediately became more interesting, even before the innovations of Soul Reaper expansion raised it to classic status.

Lesson: Trying to monetize Diablo’s loot might make sense, but as soon as you do, you’ll take all the fun out of the game. It is the same with Diablo Immortaland it To be noticeable before you even start the game, because it is deeply embedded in the game design. The loot drops have less impact, while the character progression is artificially adjusted and spread thinly across too many systems, too raw and too detailed. It’s been disguised more artistically than when it debuted Diablo 3, but it’s a similar tagline not geared towards. Buying battle cards or spending big on legendary badges hardly helps, because paying for a great item will never be as thrilling as just getting one.

I’m not sure if there’s a way to separate the core of what makes Diablo fun from the free-to-play mechanics. If it did, Blizzard and NetEase couldn’t find it. At first, they made a mobile Diablo that was smooth, enjoyable, and even generous. But if you spend enough time on it, it’s impossible to escape the fact that the heart of the game has been cut out, shredded, and resold to you piece by piece.

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