Diablo Immortal: classic action RPG comes to mobile as a pay-to-win microtransaction hell

Originally published at: Diablo Immortal: classic action RPG comes to mobile as a pay-to-win microtransaction hell | Boing Boing


How long before they add in payment by cryptocurrency and NFTs and other “Web3” garbage?




Free-to-play or so-called “freemium” gaming models are a cancer on this world. They create all manner of perverse incentives for both the game designers who work on them and the companies that publish them. Far worse than subscription models, which are fast becoming the norm in software, F2P turns games into skinner boxes engineered to bleed you of your money via compulsion rather than fun. They are essentially scams with pretty pictures. Slot machines all dressed up with a real purty mouth.

I worked in that industry for eight years and the things I saw in the analytics, and how management made decisions from that, would terrify you. We’ve seen regulations tighten on loot boxes (which were literally gambling for five-year-olds) but we need to go further. I’d be happy to see the business model banned entirely.


I read about how the cost of getting up to the max quality of gear with gems included is like in the 100k or higher US dollar range. It’s the ultimate whale (high spender) game.


There is no game in Ba Sing Se


I’m not a gamer myself, but Mrs. Bashful found the game could be played on her iPad, however the motion control on the touch-screen was not working well. We bought a relatively inexpensive Bluetooth game controller and it makes it much more enjoyable to play.


“A few hours in” idk what they’re doing, but I’ve been playing it regularly and all I bought was a cosmetic yesterday. I’ve had no problem progressing. Heck, I’ve been solo for most of it and I only died for the first time last night. I’m not exactly what you’d call hardcore.


I largely agree with you, but I’ve seen a few cases where freemium works well. Just about anything in the Rusty Lake series is fantastic. First few levels are free and then you pay for the later ones. There’s also Polytopia (kind of a neutered Civilization style game) where you can play the base civilations for free, but need to pay for anything more. It’s not a great game, but the game devs aren’t trying to trick you into paying for something you don’t already want.

Though, thinking about this more, maybe freemium has different meanings. The really terrible freemium games have an entirely different ethos.


Those are not F2P in the business definition of the term. Those are pay-as you-go or sample-forward models. Essentially modern extensions of the old shareware model (now that we have modern tools to enforce what shareware was trying to do). F2P is a specific game business model (that happens to be the largest in gaming history) involving giving away gameplay, but designing the mechanics such that the more a player pays, the better they perform.


Yeah, I play Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, and it definitely is one of those games you could spend $100 a month on. Or more, for the whales. But in the past I would buy a bundle on sale or something. I have spent money on it in the past, but I didn’t HAVE to. And since I took Pokemon Go back up, I haven’t spent a dime on it.

Sure, I am not one of the top players, but I can do most of the missions, or at least the ones I care about doing.

Still - I admit that the F2P model with lots of ways to buy more stuff for the chance to pull the new hot/good character is one that will be addictive for some people.

It is a paradox, because while I have played this game for over 5 years, I never would have paid the price I ended up spending over those 5 years up front. But at the time, it felt reasonable given “how much I play the game and the programmers need to eat”.

The other thing I don’t get about F2P games - why don’t they make the chance to buy more stuff cheaper? Like seriously, it seems like $20 is the amount to put in at a time to get a “good value” of what is offered. But like in FFBE, the amount of in game currency usually translates to something like $10 for a group of character pulls (going off memory here). While that isn’t a ton of money, it is enough to make a semi-casual player say no thanks most of the time. But what if it was only a dollar, or even a quarter? Wouldn’t that make more people do small little transactions because, “it’s just a buck” or what ever. Or does that end up generating less because the whales spend less and you end up making less overall? The rarity of people buying in is part of the appeal?

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This has been a real problem for me, I’m a fan of a lot of the sort of casual puzzle games that are largely only available as f2p, and they are ruined by the need to generate revenue. I don’t know how many times I’ve wished I could buy an unlimited pass or whatever, but of course they’d never do that because so much of the game is designed to pull in the “whale” spender who’s going to blow $1k on the game to offset all the free players.

That’s something I really like about Apple Arcade - no in-game purchases, so their version of, say, match-3 puzzles are forced to tune the games to be fun instead of tuning them to make the most money. It’s actually been enlightening to see f2p games get tailored for that platform, and watch the developers stumble at first as they try to remember how to design these challenge mechanics around something other than pay-to-win again. :slight_smile:


The release of Immortal reminded me that I had purchased Diablo III in a bundle when II was rereleased, so I’ve been playing that instead. Immortal is decent, but III seems similar enough for me.


It’s a beautiful game and very well produced, but you can feel some of the p2w (pay to win) gating going on. For instance, parts of the story are gated behind levels. You can either pay to level or you can grind to level. Grinding is either rather time consuming, time-gated or gated behind weird obfuscated mechanics.

And this applies to all aspects of the game, particularly gear progression. I might grind it for a month, but will probably ditch it after a while. Alt progression (one of the best part of Diablo is running different characters) looks particularly painful in this game, btw.


Okay, I’ll say it:

“What’s the matter? Don’t you guys have phones?”


Activision confirms release scrapped in Belgium and the Netherlands.


The intentionally want to invoke the sunk cost fallacy. If someone only spend $1, even if they do it more than 20 times they are less likely to develop the emotional attachment that they have invested into the game. On the other hand one $20 payment tends to build that feeling that someone has invested into the game. The result is that once they get past that $20 barrier once, they can expect to breach that barrier and higher cost barriers more easily and more frequently. And on top of that once someone feels invested they tend to not leave the game staying on the hook, often times long after the game has stopped being ‘fun’ and become a task done to maintain the investment into it.


Given that this is a joint ActiBlizzard/NetEase operation, and China isn’t…feeling entirely harmonious…about crypto-bros as the moment, I suspect it might be a while.

Were it not for that I suspect that all hells’ NFTs would already be upon us; but it seems unlikely that anyone targeting a mobile audience via a joint venture with NetEase is going to risk tweaking the CCP when conventional ‘freemium’ monetization models are hardly broken.


Immortal is my first venture into the world of Diablo, a series of games my best friends have loved for years. Their love continues even today, as one has surpassed level 49 whereas I just got to 30 despite having started playing before him. At least I can tell I’m playing something Diablo-enough to form an opinion.

The pay barrier hasn’t quite reared its head yet. What I’m getting is a fairly mindless hack-slash-and-loot game. It’s fun for what it is. I’m curious what that wall is going to look like when I get there. That’s usually when I quit these things. Admittedly, I wasn’t confident about a long-term investment in this game to begin with.

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