I don't know which is worse, that we have to use the old Diablo 3 Auction House argument as a way of painting the Diablo 4 business model in a better light, or that our only options are various degrees of terrible.
In case it wasn't already clear, yes, Diablo 4 does indeed share its business model with Activision Blizzard's other premier franchise, Call of Duty. If you played a Call of Duty game since 2019, you already know the kind of monetisation scheme that awaits.
In simple terms, they're both $70 (minimum) games, with a paid ~$10 battle pass, and premium paid cosmetics that cost anywhere from $8 to $28.
Somehow, the publisher convinced players that it was a fair model, and I have to assume most are happy with the way things are if the model not only continued in Call of Duty, but also made its way to Diablo.
But while Reddit users may clutch pearls at how expensive some of these bundles are, anyone who's been listening to what Blizzard's been saying should have expected a copy of Call of Duty's model.
Even after the mobile F2P Diablo Immortal was dragged for its obscene microtransactions, Blizzard felt comfortable telling players that while you shouldn't expect an Immortal-level nonsense, Diablo 4 will, in so many words, borrow Call of Duty's model.
I lamented this predictable, but nevertheless grim, turn of events in August last year when the statements were made.
The move itself was never a surprise, and Blizzard even used the same tired, and frivolous argument of everything on sale being "optional", and strictly limited to cosmetics (though that requirement has been relaxed in Call of Duty). None of this is shocking in the abstract, but while Diablo 4 players shouldn't be that surprised, they have a right to be angry.
Unlike Call of Duty, a first-person shooter where your wins and losses are mostly defined by a clock that signals the end of a match, Diablo is a living game that cares about your legacy. The character you start at launch in the coming days will remain on your account to return to and continue investing in for years to come.
I still have my launch Diablo 3 characters. I got a chuckle out of one of their names while playing recently because it reminded me of a time I hadn't thought about in a decade, a time where that particular name made sense to me and a small group of friends back then.
All the gear, unlocks, transmogs, World Tier upgrades, Paragon Glyphs, and the rest of the currency and resources you accumulate over time will remain where they are. Your Diablo character is an extension of the way you act within the game, and the way it's dressed/equipped is a reflection of that.
For some part of that to be for sale robs that experience of its core pursuits. I can tell you that I care significantly less about chasing end-game rewards because I know, for an absolute fact, that the shop is going to have something that looks about as cool that I can spend money on in a moment of weakness.
I've done it in Call of Duty, and that game doesn't have anywhere to earn its top-tier cosmetics, you can bet when my Rogue looks like a revenant demon from hell, I'm going to consider spending that $20 or so. That realisation can only really bring me sadness.
"We want buying things to feel good – before, during, and after purchase," Blizzard said at the time, promising that "the best-looking cosmetics" won't be exclusive to the shop. The goal, according to the developer, is to have "more diversity of choices."
What these friendly-worded, soft language blog posts never address is a question I'm sure we've all had: how can you expect the shop to make money if the items aren't desirable? If you're running a business that sells a product, it's in your best interest to make people want to spend money on it.
If you have to assign work to artists, modellers, animators and such, which armour set would you rather they spent their valuable time making? I bet it's not the one that maybe 5% of players will find in an obscure cave or an ultra-hard dungeon.
There's no doubt in my mind that the desire to turn Diablo into an MMO with Diablo 4 was in large part informed by Activision Blizzard's salivation over the idea of making Call of Duty out of Diablo. It's only a pity that Blizzard can't churn out a game every year, but maybe if/when the Microsoft acquisition clears, Kotick will get to work on building a ten-studio support structure to deliver yearly (premium) content for Diablo as well!