Diablo Immortal: classic action RPG comes to mobile as a pay-to-win microtransaction hell

Diablo Immortal, the new mobile incarnation of Blizzard's classic Diablo series, is an extremely polished action RPG that hits all the right notes. Better still, the vibe evokes Diablo II in particular, the most gloomily hardcore of the series. But there's a problem with what is otherwise a well-received game: it's got microtransations and loot boxes and is structured to encourage players to pay to win after they hit a progession wall a few hours in. It runs afoul of gambling laws in some countries. One back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests someone could pay $110,000 in pursuit of all the character bonuses possible.

Matt and Michael of Bellular News also make an argument that Diablo Immortal's Legendary Gems are a deliberately convoluted system, explaining that it would take roughly 10 years of playtime for a F2P player to fully kit out a character in the game's current iteration. Specifically, Legendary Gems aren't even a guaranteed drop for paying players, as they are only randomly awarded upon purchasing Legendary Crests (i.e. loot boxes) – which may be the reason why Diablo Immortal didn't launch worldwide.

As much as I hate the effects of gambling/lootbox/microtransactions on how games are made it looks like this one has a lot for non-payers, and it's not expensive to progress to an endgame-capable character—certainly less than the $50+ you'd expect to pay for this as a standard title. So I feel this story has a certain "stoking gamer rage" energy to it. But Diablo is such a famously well-tuned example of gambling without paying that putting a real-money price tag on its gothic dopamine was always doomed to land as a huge betrayal.