Blizzard boss brushes off Diablo Immortal pay-to-win controversy: Players “can literally do 99.5% of everything” for free

Free-to-play only goes so far.

Image via Blizzard

Ever since Diablo Immortal launched on mobile devices and PC, the RPG has been the subject of a hot controversy. Due to the game’s in-game purchases, accusations of it being a pay-to-win product have been flung since day one. This led to the game being review bombed just days after release. Blizzard president Mike Ybarra has now weighed in on the issue.

The Los Angeles Times asked Ybarra about Diablo Immortal as part of a larger profile piece. “When we think about monetization,” he responded, “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?'” It’s something of a brush-off answer, pointing toward the free content rather than addressing the paid portion. “The monetization comes in at the endgame,” Ybarra added, somewhat defensively. “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.” The LA Times received a follow-up email from Blizzard further stating that most Diablo Immortal players aren’t spending money.

That may be true, but it, unfortunately, doesn’t change the reality of the game’s monetization schemes. Statistically, it’ll cost you tens of thousands of dollars to gather max-level gear. This hinges on the game’s Elder Rift mechanic. Alleged hidden daily caps make it difficult to enter the rifts and gather loot from high-level encounters. While the game’s story is eight to ten hours long, this endgame loop that Ybarra mentioned can be exponentially longer if you don’t spend money on Legendary Crests for new rifts.

Of course, the other side of Blizzard’s joint corporation, Activision, is no stranger to controversy these days either. Ongoing allegations of toxic workplace conditions continue as CEO Bobby Kotick has been reelected to his head position, and the Activision Blizzard Workers Alliance is planning another walkout in response to the United States’ controversial Roe v. Wade ruling reversal.