Because the controversy surrounding Diablo Immortal’s notorious announcement was so long ago – four years ago, in fact – I guess I’d just assumed that the crappy mobile game had already been released sometime in the last few years. I was surprised when I began seeing ads for the game all over my social media pages, and even more surprised to learn that Activision Blizzard has only just finished pushing this absolute turd of a game out of its corporate anus.
Diablo Immortal could stand as a monument to everything that’s wrong about modern gaming and the state of the video games industry. It seems to be desperately chasing every cash-grabbing trend going, degrading a brand that has been part of the gaming landscape for more than a quarter of a century. It’s a contemptible title, one whose inevitable failure I will genuinely be celebrating.
You may have heard this figure floating around during conversations about Diablo Immortal: $110,000. For those of us in the UK, that equates to over £90,000, and according to analysis done by Bellular News it’s the total cost of fully upgrading a player’s in-game character. This figure is based on the fact that many of the game’s upgrades aren’t able to be unlocked by gameplay and are only available via lootboxes.
There are some games out there that take the piss when it comes to how much they cost. Strategy games from developer Paradox Interactive are notorious for their expansions, DLC, and add-ons, the combined cost of which can push some of their biggest titles to well in excess of £300. Look at the likes of Europa Universalis IV or Cities Skylines as examples of what I’m talking about.
And then there are multiplayer titles that try to coax players who the games industry dehumanisingly and offensively refers to as “whales” into spending massive amounts of money on one-time-use items like ammo, power-ups, and other such fluff. Often the excuse is that players have the option to pay to “skip the grind,” as if the grind hadn’t been deliberately and intentionally built into the game in the first place in order to force as many players as possible into paying more and more money just to be able to play.
Diablo Immortal has taken on all of these money-grubbing trends, seeming to see it as a challenge to get away with as much egregious bullshit as possible. The result is that the game is completely drowning in monetisation to the point that simply playing and enjoying it on its own merit is impossible – something that, sadly, too many publications and self-proclaimed “journalists” and “reviewers” have refused to discuss in any depth. Many purported “reviews” of video games nowadays end up being little more than puff pieces; marketing material that may not have been bought and paid for, but that’s worth about as much as if it had been. The threat of revocation of access and a loss of freebies serves as an incentive for some publications to set their ethics aside – as some of the reviews for Diablo Immortal demonstrate. But I guess that’s something we need to talk about in more depth on another occasion.
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, corporations suddenly realised the potential that mobile gaming had as a platform. With the explosion in popularity of smartphones came a massive growth in gaming – though many players didn’t necessarily realise that they had been converted to become “gamers” for the first time! But it’s off the back of this particular trend that Diablo Immortal was belatedly conceived; the idea being to take an established brand with good name recognition and a solid reputation and shart it into a typical, done-before mobile game mould.
That’s what Diablo Immortal is. It isn’t a Diablo game like the previous entries in the series. It’s a mobile game with a Diablo veneer; a festering, rotting puddle of raw sewage that Activision Blizzard has attempted to cover up with Diablo branding. But everyone could smell the stink coming. From as far back as its announcement in 2018, the fact that Diablo Immortal was going to be nothing more than a trend-chasing cash grab was readily apparent to everyone from fans to industry watchers. The extent of Activision Blizzard’s piss-taking, and the absolute lack of shame that the corporation seems to have about it, may have caught some folks off-guard, but make no mistake: this was the inevitable, predictable outcome.
Some folks have taken to calling the game Diablo Immoral, dropping the T, and honestly I wish I’d thought of that first because it’s so clever! It perfectly embodies the disgusting corporate approach to every aspect of this game, and the state it’s in as a result. Not only that, but it captures the sense that many Diablo fans have that this cash-grab is a corruption of the franchise they love.
The danger here is that Activision Blizzard’s plan will backfire. Rather than the Diablo branding for this shitty mobile title bringing in boatloads of cash, the appalling, predatory nature of its in-game lootboxes and microtransactions may actually end up harming the franchise and its reputation. With Diablo IV in the works, that could be disastrous.
The acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft – which is still in the works and hasn’t been completed at time of writing – may mean that there’s less of a financial risk, but reputational damage on this scale can take time to recover from and can be a weight around the neck of brands and franchises for years. Look at Bethesda or BioWare as examples – recent titles that have been extremely underwhelming have led at least some fans and reviewers (myself included) to begin placing a caveat on any potential hype for new titles. So it will be with Diablo IV – sure, the game could be good, but do you remember how shitty Diablo Immortal was and how scummy its in-game marketplace was? That could well be the narrative going into the next major game in the series.
Perhaps Diablo Immortal was too far along in its development to have been extensively reworked or cancelled, but honestly, it may have been to Microsoft and Activision Blizzard’s benefit to at least put the project on pause. After being hit by a major scandal recently, the last thing Activision Blizzard needs as this Microsoft acquisition goes through is more bad press. Yet here we are.
So that’s Diablo Immortal, I guess. A typical mobile cash-grab with the Diablo logo haphazardly affixed to it. Don’t be fooled by the branding or the expensive marketing campaign that’s seen ads for the game pop up all over social media: Diablo Immortal is a piece of shit. It’s garbage that doesn’t deserve to be associated with a franchise that has delivered a lot of enjoyment to folks through the past twenty-five years.
Do yourself a favour and wait for Diablo IV. I really wish this had been an out-of-season April Fools’ joke.
Diablo Immortal is, regrettably, out now for PC, iOS, and Android. Diablo Immortal is the copyright and unending shame of Activision Blizzard. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.