It’s absurd to hear Blizzard CEO Mike Ybarra say that 99.5% of Diablo Immortal content is free.
The Los Angeles Times did a lengthy interview with Ybarra, who was supposed to be trying to repair the years of damage to Blizzard’s reputation, but that doesn’t seem to have been his goal, as he downplayed the role of monetization in Diablo Immortal.
According to him, “When we think about monetization, at the very highest level, it was, “How do we give a free Diablo experience to hundreds of millions of people, where they can do 99.5% of everything in the game?” The monetization comes in at the end game. The philosophy was always to lead with great gameplay and ensure that hundreds of millions of people could go through the whole campaign without any costs. From that standpoint, I feel good about it as an introduction to Diablo.”
According to a Blizzard spokesperson, the “vast majority” of Diablo Immortal’s player base plays for free, but they didn’t give specifics, and the problem isn’t with that. It’s with hardcore players who throw a ton of money out the window to max out just one character. And the free players are not excluded from playing the first paywall (i.e. they may back out of Blizzard’s game after only a few minutes). Ybarra added, “I hope we evolve franchises to regularly deliver great experiences to players but also expand our universes across devices. Just releasing games on PC doesn’t serve people playing games today.”
So you could say Blizzard has sold its soul compared to the past because we didn’t see many console Blizzard games in the past (well, there was Warcraft and Diablo on PS1 or StarCraft on N64, but beyond that, it’s hard to give examples before Overwatch). Not sure it’s a popular move from them.