Blizzard president Mike Ybarra has defended Diablo Immortal’s heavily criticised use of microtransactions.
In a Los Angeles Times interview, Ybarra said the inclusion of microtransactions allowed the studio to offer a free Diablo experience to many millions of players.
“When we think about monetization, at the very highest level it was, ‘how do we give a free Diablo experience to hundreds of millions of people, where they can literally do 99.5% of everything in the game?’” he said.
“The monetization comes in at the end game,” Ybarra added. “The philosophy was always to lead with great gameplay and make sure that hundreds of millions of people can go through the whole campaign without any costs. From that standpoint, I feel really good about it as an introduction to Diablo.”
This included a report published during the game’s opening weekend which calculated that it could cost players up to $110,000 to fully upgrade a character.
Last month the game’s Metacritic user score dropped to 0.2/10 – the lowest ever in the review aggregation website’s history. It currently stands at 0.3 (the joint lowest) based on 4,527 user reviews.
It should be noted that Metacritic user scores do not require proof that the user has even played the game before submitting a score, and that other factors, such as recent Activision Blizzard controversies, may have had an influence.
The game is also enjoying notably better user scores on the App Store (4.5 out of 5) and Google Play store (3.7 out of 5), based on 114,000 and 673,000 user reviews respectively.
According to the LA Times, Ybarra pointed to these ratings as a defence of the title, implying the complaints about microtransactions aren’t prevalent among the game’s wider audience.
However, one reason for this could be down to player claims that while the game initially seems to be reasonable with its use of microtransactions, it’s only once users reach the endgame that they start to feel intrusive.
Both the Diablo Immortal subreddit and the general Diablo subreddit are filled with posts from fans unhappy with the game’s monetisation system, while YouTubers have been posting examples of ‘whales’ easily winning PvP games by spending real money to get an advantage.
Shortly after Diablo Immortal launched, game director Wyatt Cheng claimed on Twitter that the backlash to the title was “based on misinformation surrounding it”.
However, some players accused Cheng of similar misinformation, due to comments he made months earlier when he said “there is no way to acquire or rank up gear using money”.
While this is technically true, the implication was that the game isn’t pay-to-win, when in fact real money is used to buy chances to acquire Legendary Gems, which can power up characters even more than gear does.
Diablo Immortal enjoyed the best launch of any game in the series with over 10 million installs in about a week, according to Blizzard.
A Blizzard spokesperson told the LA Times that the vast majority of Diablo Immortal players are not spending money in the game, although they declined to offer stats to back up the claim.