Don’t worry, ‘Diablo IV’ won’t be pay to win, Activision Blizzard says

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Activision Blizzard’s hotly anticipated upcoming game “Diablo IV,” which is projected to release sometime in 2023, will have no pay-to-win mechanics, and only cosmetic items will be available in its in-game store, the company announced Thursday. The development team went into further detail about “Diablo IV’s” planned monetization model along with the Season Pass system, design philosophy and live events in its third “Diablo IV” quarterly update of 2022.

“Diablo IV’s” in-game store, referred to simply as the Shop, will feature a variety of alternative appearance skins (or transmogs) for armor and weapons. Players will be able to use individual transmog pieces from an armor set to create a personalized look for their characters, similar to “World of Warcraft’s” transmogrification system. Transmogs can be purchased using “Diablo IV’s” premium currency, which can be bought using real-world dollars or earned through grinding the game’s Season Pass for rewards.

Blizzard spokesperson Brad de Ramón confirmed all purchasable in-game items are purely superficial and won’t confer any gameplay advantages.

“Purchased items are cosmetic only,” Ramón wrote in an email to The Washington Post. “Cosmetics do not impact gameplay. Therefore, players cannot pay for power.”

Activision Blizzard is using ‘Diablo IV’ to argue against unions

“Diablo IV’s” Director of Product Kegan Clark described the Store as optional, emphasizing that the coolest transmogs in the game won’t be locked behind a paywall. The gear players earn through in-game drops will be “of the highest visual quality.”

“The best-looking cosmetics aren’t exclusive to the Shop,” Clark wrote in the “Diablo IV” quarterly update. “There are incredible pieces — Unique and Legendary quality items — for players to find without ever going to the Shop. The Shop offers more diversity of choices, not systematically better choices.”

Clark also mentioned the “Diablo IV” team will be continuously engaging with players for feedback on the Shop and the Season Pass.

All in all, this is a remarkably different monetization model from the latest Diablo title, the mobile game “Diablo Immortal.” Players have lambasted “Diablo Immortal” for its microtransaction system, which some have criticized as exploitative. The end game of every Diablo title has always been about optimizing your character as much as possible by grinding for the best gear. “Diablo Immortal” continues this tradition, but unlike previous Diablo titles, maxing out your character will require some very expensive microtransactions.

A breakdown by the gaming news outlet Rock, Paper, Shotgun estimates the cost of decking out a character with the best gear to be around $51,000. One “Diablo Immortal” player dropped $100,000 on a character and was subsequently locked out of the game’s PvP queue (Blizzard responded to the player that a fix is underway). “Diablo Immortal’s” monetization has been a black eye on what is otherwise a fun game, and it’s prompted concerns about what to expect of the franchise’s next entry.

This approach with “Diablo IV” seems to be a course correction and an olive branch to fans, even as Activision Blizzard used the game to argue against a unionization vote at its Blizzard Albany studio. During a hearing with the National Labor Relations Board, lawyers representing Blizzard presented extensive documentation and assets from “Diablo IV’s” development, a move that Blizzard Albany workers took issue with since the workers themselves cannot update their own portfolios for a job hunt until a game is finished and shipped. The lawyers also shared the names of quality assurance testers working on “Diablo IV” along with their respective cover letters, social media accounts and LinkedIn profiles, which workers feared might invite harassment from the public. For reasons unclear, Blizzard’s lawyers argued that Blizzard Albany employees working on “World of Warcraft” or “Overwatch” should not get to vote in union elections while conceding that employees working on Diablo games are entitled to suffrage.

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Jonathan Lee

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