Mike Ybarra, the president of Blizzard Entertainment, has tried to defend the controversial monetization model of Diablo Immortal. He thinks that it is still a gameplay-first project with a free campaign.
Ybarra opened up about it in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. He said that he came to Blizzard to make impactful games, adding that the company needed “different leadership.”
One of his goals was to “serve our players with more content on a more frequent basis.” According to Ybarra, Blizzard made a mistake by missing a whole generation of players, taking into account a 10-year gap between Diablo 3 and Diablo Immortal.
Speaking of the latter, the Blizzard president defended the game by saying that it has a high rating on the App Store. The studio also noted that the “vast majority of players” are not spending money, but declined to provide specific stats.
“The monetization comes in at the end game,” Ybarra said. “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. From that standpoint, I feel really good about it as an introduction to Diablo.”
However, Ybarra’s perspective doesn’t change the fact that Diablo Immortal is filled with controversial monetization options. According to some calculations, it would take over $500k to max out a character due to the hidden “whale mechanic.”
Other developers have also shared their thoughts on the game’s monetization. Riot producer Juno Blees posted a thread on predatory pay-to-win mechanics in modern free-to-play games, saying that studios often look at revenue KPIs rather than trying to provide players with a better experience.
Despite all the controversy, Diablo Immortal had a commercially successful launch. It generated $14.5 million in its first week on mobile alone. According to AppMagic, the game has already made almost $50 million on iOS and Android since its launch.