Diablo Immortal has, perhaps unfairly, courted controversy ever since it was first announced. The very idea that Blizzard would put this most PC-ass of PC games on a mobile phone was enough to make some Necromancers spit frogs, and the game’s recent release saw almost all the discussion focus on microtransactions.
The revenue generation model triggered a brutal setback, and things got more serious as the loot boxes prevented the game from being released in Belgium and the Netherlands. Blizzard was intimidated enough to rush out to promise that Diablo 4 would not make money in the same way.
And yet … Diablo Immortal seems to have been a huge success so far. It earned around $ 24 million during the first two weeks of sales, and has been downloaded by over 15 million players.
Blizzard President Mike Ybarra recently spoke to the LA Times (opens in new tab) and, in the midst of a broader discussion of Blizzard’s culture, Diablo Immortals addressed the revenue generation, saying that criticism of it did not reflect the broader reaction to the game.
“When we think of revenue generation, it was at the very highest level ‘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?’ says Ybarra.
“The revenue generation comes in at the playoffs. The philosophy has always been to lead with great gaming and make sure that hundreds of millions of people can go through the entire campaign at no cost. From that point of view, I feel very good about it as an introduction to Diablo.”
Blizzard declined to offer statistics, but told the newspaper that “the vast majority” of players have not spent money on the game, while Ybarra points to its high ranking and 110,000 user reviews on the App Store. Blizzard also says that 50% of Immortal’s players are new to Blizzard games.
The important question is: Well, is Diablo Immortal any good then? PCG’s Tyler Colp took a look and described it as a game designed to exploit your love for Diablo: “It’s built around dopamine that comes from beating demon piñatas for loot, carefully designed to give you a shot of satisfaction every 30. second – and then, when it’s not enough anymore, it charges you for it. For Diablo Immortal and games like it are the fun parts of gaming money-making devices. “
That said, Ybarra may have a broader point (although it certainly won’t stop Immortal’s critics). Mobile gaming revenue generation is an easy piñata for all of us to swing on, but microtransactions are still the dominant business model for mobile gaming: and it’s much worse out there than Diablo Immortal. It has also seemed at times that critics went to extreme lengths to argue against the game, throwing around inflated numbers that do not really reflect how a normal person would play (a quick youtube search for the topic finds a content creator who claims that the game has a value of $ 110,000 (opens in new tab) of microtransactions).
Some Diablo fans may not be happy with Diablo Immortal, in other words, but Blizzard certainly seems to be. For more on the game, check out this story that is even better than the headline: The Diablo Immortal player uses premium currency to turn old WoW tokens into a whale-killing Necromancer.