Technology

‘Diablo Immortal’ Doesn’t Sell Gear, Because Legendary Gems Aren’t ‘Gear,’ Says Director

I wasn’t a fan of how Diablo Immortal game director Wyatt Cheng got torn apart after his infamous Blizzcon presentation, which resulted in the birth of two eternal memes, “Do you guys not have phones?” the line he uttered after in-person backlash to the mobile Diablo announcement, and “red shirt guy,” who used a Q and A session to ask if Immortal was an April Fool’s Joke.

Diablo on mobile seemed like a perfectly okay idea in theory, and I thought red shirt guy was kind of a jerk. The attacks on Wyatt Cheng seemed oddly personal and felt kind of gross.

But even if I didn’t jump on that train back then, I have to really, really disagree with something that Cheng is saying now in defense of Diablo Immortal, which has been revealed to be a wildly pay-to-win experience.

Streamer Zizaran surfaced a post Cheng wrote on reddit four months ago when the monetization of Diablo Immortal was called into question. In it, he says “There is no way to acquire or rank up gear using money.”

As Zizaran suggests, the defense of this statemen is that Cheng and the Diablo Immortal team do not consider Legendary Gems “gear,” the things you can absolutely buy for real life money:

If you’ve played Diablo Immortal however, you can immediately see the problem with this statement, which is nothing more than semantics. It’s true, you cannot directly purchase armor or weapons with money. Those can only be looted by playing the game.

However, Legendary Gems are so powerful in Diablo Immortal than they outclass the actual “gear” items they’re slotted in, especially at higher levels. They offer massive health and damage benefits, and each of them has a legendary effect that is hugely powerful and important to your build. But because they are not a physical item of clothing or a weapon, that’s why they’re not being classified as selling “gear.”

I find this extremely disingenuous, as fine, you want the word “gear”? You can have it. But you are selling “loot” and you are absolutely selling power. Tremendous amounts of power that free-to-play players cannot access even a fraction of, given the way the Legendary Crest system is formatted in the game.

And while it’s also true the game does not sell XP directly, tell me, would you rather earn XP while playing a dungeon that gives you ten legendary drops at the end, or zero? Because that’s the difference between spending $20 on a single dungeon running, and nothing, the way most Diablo players have been used to for decades. Here’s Asmongold showing the difference between two dungeons, free and paid using crests:

And then, and then Cheng responds to one of his defenders by saying he just doesn’t want to see “misleading” information out there if people are saying you can buy gear in Diablo Immortal:

This is pretty infuriating, given how misleading it is to make a huge point that you don’t sell “gear” and yet you sell the most powerful items in the game in the for of gems, and the means to max them out, for final builds that can cost upwards of $100,000 per character (literally).

This is a game made purely for the whale-heavy gacha mobile market. But even by those standards the monetization is wildly out of hand, and of race actual Diablo fans running into these systems are going to be upset.

The sad part is you can easily see how great a full Diablo game could have been on mobile, as the design and controls are really fantastic here, but you have to be content with a campaign marred by XP gates, and then a more or less non-existent endgame unless you are spending truly insane amounts of money. This was not the way to bring confidence back to Blizzard as a brand, and I’m not sure they’ll ever get it back now.

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Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.

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