Prompted by the backlash against the microtransaction-fuelled mobile game Diablo Immortal, Blizzard's Diablo boss Rod Fergusson took to Twitter to reassure fans that the upcoming Diablo 4 "is a full price game" that's designed first and foremost for PC and consoles.
Diablo Immortal, which came out earlier this month, has not gone over especially well with fans. The issue isn't the game itself (although frankly I don't think it's very good) but the way it leverages microtransactions. It's not quite pay-to-win, but it's uncomfortably close, and that's sparked a backlash on sites like Metacritic: The user score for the iOS version is an abysmal 0.6/10, while the PC version (which wasn't listed last week, but is now) is even lower, at 0.2.
Part of the problem is that Diablo Immortal was initially conceived as a mobile game, which are often more aggressive in their microtransactional tactics than games on other platforms. Diablo 4, on the other hand, is a premium, mainline game. But a product manager job listing that came to light over the weekend confirmed that it will have an in-game store, despite being a full-priced game.
"You will play a critical role in managing the Diablo 4 in-game store experience for millions of players around the world," the listing says. "As this is a key component of Diablo 4's seasonal content strategy, you will be the tip of the spear planning the content release schedule, configuring products using our internal tooling, and working with stakeholders across disciplines to ensure regular updates to the store throughout each season go smoothly."
This actually isn't news: Former Diablo 4 lead designer and now game director Joe Shely told streamer Quin69 (via IGN) in 2019 that players "will be able to acquire cosmetics in the game." Nothing more has been said about it since then, though, and more importantly the statement was made long before the uproar over Diablo Immortal.
Reactions to the listing in the Diablo 4 subreddit were mixed. For some fans, the inclusion of an in-game store seems perfectly normal in this era of seasonal, live-service games; others feel that charging full price for a game and then asking for more is over the line—especially if Blizzard starts selling boosters or other items that can impact gameplay. Memories of the disastrous Diablo 3 auction house, a pre-NFT attempt at letting players buy and sell in-game items for real money, also continue to loom surprisingly large. It was enough to prompt Fergusson to chime in.
"To be clear, D4 is a full price game built for PC/PS/Xbox audiences," he tweeted. "We are committed to delivering an incredible breadth of content after launch, for years to come, anchored around optional cosmetic items & full story driven expansions. More details soon."
100%. https://t.co/bZUmwBZWUnJune 12, 2022
Blizzard president Mike Ybarra retweeted Fergusson's message, adding the note, "100%."
And Diablo global community lead Adam Fletcher shared an almost identical message on his own account: "D4 is coming out as a full price game built strictly for PC/console audiences. The game is huge & there will be tons of content after launch for all players. Paid content is built around optional cosmetic items & eventually full expansions. We will be sharing more info soon!"
😀D4 is coming out as a full price game built strictly for PC/console audiences. The game is huge & there will be tons of content after launch for all players. Paid content is built around optional cosmetic items & eventually full expansions. We will be sharing more info soon!June 12, 2022
The presence of an in-game store in Diablo 4 should be largely unremarkable, especially when we still don't know exactly how it's going to operate or what it will offer—it's arguably not great to pile microtransactions on top of a premium-price game, but it shouldn't be all that terribly surprising, either. But clearly it is remarkable to a not-insignificant portion of the player base, and the speed and depth of Blizzard's reaction leaves no doubt that the studio wants to contain the situation before it gets ugly.
Blizzard announced yesterday that Diablo 4 will be out sometime in 2023, and also introduced the Necromancer, the fifth and final class to be included in the game at release. It also confirmed that a closed beta is on the way.