So, Diablo Immortal is out. What a shitshow, eh? Yeah, this is going to be a rant, however a slightly different one than you might think right now.
I wish I could truthfully say that I’m not at all surprised by the game’s nefarious monetization schemes, but the reality is so much worse than even the most cynical of us were expecting that it boggles the mind. Turns out that in exchange for not needing a phone to play after all one needs a humongous credit limit instead.
Here’s the thing though. In my personal opinion the fact that players can spend bazillions of dollars on a game if they so desire is not a problem in and of itself.* When the entire game is designed to incentivise said spending as aggressively as humanly possible – that’s a problem, because that kind of design unavoidably makes the gameplay experience worse, more often than not even if you are spending.
* Of course spending lots of money on a video game can become a huge problem for some people, and it’s not my intention to downplay things like gambling addiction and debt. However, in this piece I’d like to focus solely on whether or not a game’s monetization has negative ramifications for its gameplay.
Here’s just one little example. Black Desert Online has an elaborate system for taming, breeding and training horses. It’s pretty fun if you’re into that kind of thing, and I’ve spent a lot of hours with it. However, it’s also one of the game’s many systems that not-so-subtly try to make you spend some money.
If you’re lucky (or you’ve spent a couple bucks already to help make it happen) and your horse learns one of the more desired skills like Sprint you might assume that you’ll be riding like the wind right away. Alas, you’d be mistaken.
You see, your steed will need to become proficient with the skill first, which means that for the next couple of hours your gameplay loop will consist of repeatedly playing an annoying minigame which either stops you dead in your tracks (the best possible outcome, believe it or not) or outright throws you off the horse every few yards. It’s completely unfun, and it undoubtedly only exists so they can sell you a ticket that instantly trains a horse’s skill to 100%. Or all of its skills, which is the more expensive option of course.
Stuff like that I can just barely stomach in a F2P or cheap B2P game – it’s terrifying how much bullshit we can somehow get used to, isn’t it? – but I’m going to draw a line now, and that line is where a game tries to a) make me pay money and additionally do specific things at specific times to actually get what I’ve already paid for, or b) make me pay money in order to get something that’s actually supposed to be an integral part of the gameplay experience.
I’ll start with the latter as it applies more to Diablo Immortal than any other game I’ve ever seen, and I also feel it’s not even the slightest bit debatable. A no-brainer, as they say.
What we have here is a game series that’s always been about killing monsters to get shiny loot, so we can kill even more monsters for even shinier loot. Only now the loot is going to be complete crap 99,9% of the time unless you spend real money to “enhance” your dungeon runs. Let me think about that for a second…yeah, fuck the hell off!
I know this is something where opinions will differ, but I for one despise the other scourge I alluded to, namely stuff like “Premium Battle Passes” and their ilk, almost just as much.
I’m not a fan of login-rewards and battle passes at the best of times because I don’t like the feeling of pressure they induce – either log in and do stuff every day or miss out on rewards you could be getting. And there’s even more to it than that, which I think is what many folks fail to realize.
Because if those login- and battle pass-rewards are to make people log in and do stuff even if they weren’t going to anyway, they need to be rather generous. They need to make sure you really don’t want to miss out on them. Which in practice means that they often shower you with more power/wealth/glamour than you could possibly gain by just playing the game whenever you want and doing whatever you want. In other words, the game’s designers need to keep much of that stuff off the game’s normal loot tables, or at the very least be pretty stingy with it. See the problem?
By the way, I consider login-rewards and free-of-charge battle passes as part of a game’s monetization scheme because they’re basically there to keep you logging in and interacting with the game, thus increasing your “opportunities” to part with your money. In this sense they are another case of monetization impacting gameplay in a negative way, even if it doesn’t feel like it right away.
As for “premium” battle passes…let’s see, I pay for something up front, but only if I log in and do specific stuff every day for weeks on end I’ll actually get the stuff I’ve paid for? Yeah, thanks, but no thanks.
Which is why, although I was moderately interested before and will even get access to it for free as I own its predecessor, I have absolutely no intention to play Overwatch 2 anymore. The other day I got an email informing me about the opportunity to buy the Watchpoint Pack. For “just” 40 bucks I would get (emphasis mine):
- Two all-new Overwatch 2 Legendary skins: Space Raider Soldier:76 and Cassidy
- The Season 1 Premium Battle Pass
- An exclusive Overwatch 2 Player Icon
- 2000 Overwatch 2 Virtual Currency
So what’s the problem? I don’t need to buy this, nor the individual premium battle passes (plural because after a Season 1 more will surely follow), right? Well, as I said, the mere existence of this crap turns me off, because it does have a negative impact on the gameplay experience. On my gameplay experience, anyway.
All the talk about Diablo Immortal was good for one thing though: it made me feel like playing Diablo II Resurrected again, which I’m totally hooked on right now. And the best part: this is a game that couldn’t care less whether I actually play it or not, and it doesn’t try to dictate my course of action when I do play it either.
How do I know what to do then? Well, I just do whatever the hell I feel like at any given moment. You know, whatever I deem the most fun.
Just having fun playing a video game, fancy that!