As the videogame industry continues to make more money every year, many game developers hoping for success are turning to mobile instead of consoles.
With the mobile-gaming market raking in $93.2 billion in 2021 and 52% of global consumer spend, mobile officially owns more than half of consumer attention –which is why many big names are flocking to it.
It explains Netflix’s (NFLX) – Get Netflix Inc. Report push into mobile as a way to compensate for its recently announced loss of subscribers.
And it also explains why Activision Blizzard (ATVI) – Get Activision Blizzard Inc Report — a developer known for its history of making big money-making videogame franchises such as ‘World of Warcraft,” ‘Overwatch,” and the “Diablo” series — has finally made a mobile game as well.
Like many similar titles on the market, Activision Blizzard’s newly released mobile role-playing game, “Diablo Immortal,” is free to play (or F2P).
Free to download from your app store of choice, these games typically feature a shop where the player can purchase a variety of digital items, from clothing to in-game currency that can be used to purchase weapons, upgrades, and more.
It’s a model that seems pretty harmless at first: Spend money if you want to, but if you don’t, simply enjoy the game as it is.
Between the popularity of the “Diablo” franchise (launched in 1997 and still going strong) and the mobile format, Activision Blizzard had the makings of a major hit on its hands.
But some of those longtime fans are less than thrilled now that they know that behind the free-to-play facade, becoming strong enough to complete “Diablo Immortal” could potentially cost $110,000.
Why People Are Angry About ‘Diablo Immortal’
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Most free-to-play mobile games limit how much free play you get in a 24-hour period. With popular mobile games like Activision Blizzard’s “Candy Crush Saga,” if players wish to play more in a day, they can buy that ability for what’s usually a couple of dollars.
This approach to free-to-play games is considered an ethical one, as players can still complete the game whether or not they spend money.
But in the case of “Diablo Immortal,” a series with a long-running focus on getting extremely powerful gear and weapons, the game’s structure is known as “pay to win” — meaning it becomes extremely difficult to progress to the game’s later stages without spending money.
Many players and observers consider this approach unethical edging consumers into what’s called sunk-cost fallacy. That’s a phenomenon where people feel compelled to spend more because of what they’ve already spent, both in dollars and time.
Activision Blizzard’s approach has earned major criticism from fans since the game’s launch on June 2, leading to fans “review-bombing” it on ratings platforms like Metacritic. This is achieved by hundreds of fans ranking the game at zero, which eventually pulls down its average ranking.
The Big Business of Microtransactions
The matter of microtransactions in mobile gaming for many years has been a source of upset among gamers, who say they don’t want to be nickeled and dimed. But it’s clearly also a model that makes an enormous amount of money.
Activision Blizzard took in $5.1 billion of revenue from microtransactions in 2021, helping it to achieve its highest net revenue of all time. So making a mobile version of one of its most popular franchises is an understandable move.
That said, the company has had a tough year of bad press, encompassing sexual-harassment allegations (which have been settled), being sued by shareholders over a pending sale to Microsoft, and a lawsuit claiming Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick was rushing the Microsoft deal to dodge repercussions due to the aforementioned issues.
Following that up with a free-to-play game that is in reality anything but doesn’t make Activision Blizzard look so great. But it could still be a highly profitable move. The game has been downloaded more than a million times via Google Play (GOOGL) – Get Alphabet Inc. Report alone, and its reviews on both app stores are fairly high (between 4.0 and 4.7).
But if the model is successful, then we may be looking at a new future in the gaming world, one in which we can expect to pay more than we ever have before.