‘Diablo Immortal’ Shows Self-Regulation Is a Failure in the Games Industry

Just weeks after its launch, Diablo Immortal is getting slammed over how much money early adopters have lost to the game’s widely hated “pay-to-win” model, where players are encouraged to spend money on more powerful items. 


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/5d3pex/diablo-immortal-shows-self-regulation-is-a-failure-in-the-games-industry
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Is it just me who is feeling the tonal whiplash from this article versus the (I know, technically not a “Waypoint” article but it’s not like Vice makes that easy to determine) “Why Diablo Immortal is fine if you just don’t get addicted guys” article from not long ago?

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I’m guessing this is Waypoint proper’s response to having that particular albatross unexpectedly hung on their necks. This one does have the Waypoint header, whereas the other one has a Motherboard header.

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Actually, the previous article had a Waypoint header when it was published and it’s been changed to Motherboard since then. :grimacing:

On topic, we knew this was coming. Of course, it’s a little on the nose for the most hated publisher in the industry to be the one to dive headfirst into the deep end of the MOST extreme predatory microtransaction model. If they’re the ones to finally attract regulatory heat, all the better.

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I can’t say as though I’m surprised that leaving the fox in charge of guarding the henhouse didn’t work out so well but I guess I’m a little surprised that they’re pushing the envelope that hard.

To be clear, I don’t think it’s going to be American regulatory pressure. It’ll be more and more countries in the EU and the rest of the world which will individually and collectively push the industry away from this. ActiBlizz is fine if just Belgium and the Netherlands are the only places where they can’t sell DI. But what if it’s more countries? And what if you’re a smaller publisher that can’t just shrug off not releasing in an entire region? If the EU adopts this as a whole, it would significantly deter future development of lootbox titles (cf. GDPR’s knock-on effects outside of the EU).

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$43m dollars in the first month says a lot about how the market is responding to this. Urg. Still critical pressure like this is resulting in a slow push toward regulation outside of the US.

Given the numbers in this article, I wonder how much of that $43m was streamers just opening things to keep their subs happy. That creates an incredibly strange market incentive entirely detached from the game as an object for an individual to experience, and in a space for performative wealth, performed to sustain that wealth.

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I saw someone run some sims a few weeks ago and even relative to other popular gacha games Diablo Immortal is ~25x worse on average when it comes to “getting any highest quality item from the gacha.” The average cost (from scratch, assuming you were going all cash and not supplementing with in-game currency) ended up being $5,600 USD over 10 simulations. In Genshin and FGO that number was ~$200.

Not to mention it apparently doesn’t have the hard pity system that most other games have, so the theoretical maximum has no ceiling, whereas in other games once you roll enough they just give you the thing you want.

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Yeah, I play (“…play”) Pokemon Masters EX and they have a point system in their gacha. Bury enough gems in the slot machine and they say “Okay look, just pick one.” Yu-Gi-Oh Master Duel has both a crafting system and a pity mechanic (if you go 10 packs out of a particular set without an Ultra Rare, your next 10 packs out of that same set will have an Ultra Rare). Hearthstone (step zero is admitting you have a problem) has a crafting mechanic and I think a pity mechanic (although they don’t advertise it). If Immortal doesn’t have any of that, they’re just out for money.

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At best Immortal appears to have an extremely minor increase to soft pity (like a 1%?) at some point. In the sims the highest cost until a single 5 star item was over $18,000 and presumably there’s nothing but luck preventing it from going even higher.

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I feel like there needs to be a law (or a government regulation, at the very least) to set a reasonable bound for this.

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My understanding has always been that Asia (or maybe just Japan?) implemented things in 2016 after Granblue Fantasy was making similar headlines overseas several years ago (“Monkeygate” as it’s come to be known.) I remember hearing at the time that things like spending caps/hard pity and requiring games to display odds were already being rolled around by legislators and were probably coming anyways but got fast tracked in response. That said I don’t play enough gacha games to know how mandatory these “guidelines” are. I do know that I would be infinitely less interested in playing Granblue or Genshin if they didn’t have hard pity systems that I could plan around.

Of note as well though is that the controversy that sparked all the headlines for Granblue was someone spending $6,000, which seems quaint compared to some of the numbers being thrown around for Diablo. Cygames had to very publicly apologize, refunded players that rolled for the character (with in-game currency), and implemented legislated guidelines. According to Bloomberg at the time shares of mobile game developers in Japan dropped by $1 billion in response.

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I agree to a point, but how big is the EU lootbox market vs., say, the rest of the world that doesn’t have that same regulatory pressure? It’s kind of like when people argue over the most successful battle royale games and ignore how popular PUBG Mobile is outside of North America/Western Europe: developers and publishers, even western ones, will just shift their focus to other markets. It’ll just end up being liked the cookies thing: the EU mandates certain restrictions on cookies, lots of sites outside the EU can’t be bothered meeting those standards so just block visitors from Europe (cf. just about every local US news site I ever click on)

Maybe not PUBG specifically, but how about FIFA Ultimate Team? EU regulation clearly punches above its weight in terms of how it forces companies that want to be global in stature to conform to their standards. The pressure is certainly not going to be coming from the US.

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I agree the pressure isn’t going to come from the US, my point was more that I think it would have to be market regulation in East and South Asia that would heavily impact the mobile gaming lootbox economy - that in the event the EU law made it difficult to operate such games within the EU, the games would continue to exist in their current, predatory forms as long as there were large enough alternative markets, they just wouldn’t come to the EU (and maybe as a knock on effect, North America, Australia, etc - why bother localising something for English if your playerbase in Asia is so much larger kinda thing). FIFA Ultimate Team is an interesting comparison because I have to imagine the EU is a major market for it and (as far as I know?) it’s tied to console ownership in a way that might make it cost prohibitive in other markets that more heavily rely on mobile gaming, so EU law is going to more heavily impact how publishers monetise it.

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I think it’ll be harder to get regulation through in Asia because of how entrenched the model is. It’s obviously predatory in design but I want to walk a fine line between 1) sympathy for lower income players for whom US$60-70 equivalent boxed products are simply not viable, 2) paternalistic “father knows best” colonial meddling in Global South economies, and 3) contempt for the game companies who abuse #1 knowing there’s no alternative.

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Only Netherlands and Belgium have outright banned lootboxes, but Japan, China, and South Korea do regulate them already. That’s the only reason things aren’t a lot worse, because the US has done a grand total of jack and shit in terms of reining them in.

The EU may or may not make some moves, which would cut off a decent-sized market, but overall I think Korlis is right. The big Asian countries further cracking down is the only way we’ll see meaningful change, simply because they’re the biggest markets that stand any realistic chance of passing any further regulations. (We all know the US won’t put anything on the books; we can barely get Congress to name post offices any more, let alone pass substantive legislation.)

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