Inside ActivisionBlizzard there are two wolves. Possibly dire wolves, or some other species of fantastical monster with surplus vowels in the name. Dreade Froste Beaste Wolfe. Anyway, one of them is made of decent people, developers who are fighting for better working conditions and making the best games they can under the circumstances. The other is Blizzard the organisation, a management structure seemingly incapable of making anything other than the worst decision possible in any given situation. So really, it’s actually more like one wolf, and one flapping headless chicken (the chicken having also received a lot of allegations of harrassment and discrimination, and a lawsuit from the state of California).
Diablo Immortal, which is currently on open beta for PC and out properly for mobile (both for free), was largely made by the wolf, and it’s all right to play! However, I don’t know why the chicken wanted to put it on PC in its current monetised form, apart from the fact it’s a bad decision and we’ve already established those are the only kind of decisions the chicken can make.
I don’t know if you’d heard, but although Diablo Immortal is free-to-play, it is full of microtransactions, and people are angry about it. This anger is not unjustifiable, and we will get to that in a moment. But first I want to point out that if Immortal was’t monetised the way it is, it would be a pretty sweet mobile game.
It’s very clearly mobile-first, because the instructions on the open beta on PC still say things like “tap” instead of click, and there’s an auto-navigate button so your character will just continually run while you shoot magic at monsters and barely pay attention – not unlike what we’ve seen in Ni No Kuni: Cross Worlds recently, another mobile-first F2P game with a very barebones PC port. But around that, it’s your standard fantasy action RPG where people say “demon” loads and you point at things that explode like microwaved party balloons full of blood – just with touches of Diablo luxury. Your gear has individual cosmetic skins as you equip pauldrons, leather armour, or cool trousers. The isometric 3D world is pretty full and complex to look at. Deckard Cain is in it! Weeeeey, Deckard Cain!
And it’s fun to play, just noodling about doing some PvE, using key bindings to activate my powers. Diablo Immortal’s classes are a pared down selection, but are basically the coolest ones from main Diablo (Monk, Necromancer, Demon Hunter, etc.) and my Demon Hunter fires crossbows like nobody’s business. It is like being Kate Beckinsale in 2004 action horror spectacular Van Helsing, also starring Hugh Jackman. I enjoyed running around a graveyard doing a sort of loose team up with other players who were on the same quest as me. It’s not a deep game – it’s certainly a bit of a nothingburger as a full-blown PC game – and it’s not taking advantage of the mobile form in an interesting way (see: Gorogoa). But as a stripped down Diablo experience you can play on a small screen, this baby is aaaaalright.
But then there’s the chickeny part. Rebecca on our guides team is still working on a full breakdown on Diablo Immortal’s costs, but they are a lot. A big part of the problem, she explained, is that Immortal’s endgame is PvP, making it pay-to-win in real terms even if it can claim it isn’t on a technicality. The victory condition of that PvP seems to be levelling up your character until they are better than everyone else’s character, and keeping them on top of the leaderboard (“until you get bored or, I guess, go broke,” as Rebecca put it).
There are other layers making it bad as well, but basically Immortal’s system of monetisation does seem to be worse than other games of this type. I wouldn’t be surprised if Blizz change it soon. But even if/when they do, the foundations of Immortal will probably stay the same, because that base is the accepted way to monetise F2P mobile games. About $0.99 gets you an amount of a premium or rare currency in the game, roughly the same value (“value” given the broadest possible interpretation here) as in Genshin Impact, according to Rebecca’s exhaustive adding up.
This isn’t good, obviously. But it’s just how things are on mobile games now, except this time it happened to a series PC players like. A spun-off, lesser Candy Crush game managed to make $2 billion in five years! Not even main Candy Crush! If one of the suits operating the Blizzard chicken hadn’t decided a PC version was a great idea, you probably wouldn’t be hearing much about this. Mobile players would complain in the reviews on the app store, but it’d get re-jigged a bit and nobody would have made viral Reddit threads, and most game websites wouldn’t have posted about it because we kind of ignore what’s going on on mobile too, let’s be honest.
And the extra cherry on this terrible sundae is that Blizzard’s PC audience was always going to hate this. And we all knew that! Blizzard knew! Right from the start, we all knew! The announcement of this game got booed, remember?
Why did you do this, ActiBlizz? Did you think giving the booers the same game but playable on their PC was going to make them stop booing? What possible reason was there to put a game developed and monetised for the mobile market onto your PC, where Diabros would just be expecting a kind of Battle Pass payment or whatever? They’re just booing more now! What are you doing? Do you like being like this? Why the fuck is this game on PC?
RPS’s dep ed. Small person powered by tea and enthusiasm for video game romances. Send me interesting etymological facts and cool horror games.
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