Wednesday, June 08, 2022
Thank you for the protection
People have the strange habit to complain about too much regulation when it prevents them from doing something, and then complain about not enough regulation when they get taken advantage of. So I would like to thank the government of Belgium for protecting me against Diablo Immortal. For all that I can see, this is a shitty game with exploitative monetization. People calculated that to max out your character you either need to grind for 10 years (play time, not calendar time) or pay $110,000 or a mix thereof. So it is probably for the best that, living in Belgium, I don't have access to this game.
Activision Blizzard apparently tried to disguise their lootboxes as something else. You don't pay for a box of loot, you pay for access to a dungeon that drops that loot. It is to the credit of officials in Belgium and the Netherlands that they weren't fooled by that. You still have to pay to get random loot in this system, which these countries rightfully consider as a form of gambling.
Now Diablo Immortal, iOS version on Metacritic, has a 7.5 out of 10 critics score, and 0.5 out of 10 user score. So some people in countries in which Diablo Immortal isn't banned have at least been warned by the community. But not everybody looks up user scores, and sadly the "professional" game critics give any piece of garbage from a large company a way too high score. Too bad the movement for "ethics in game journalism" aka Gamergate was too busy fighting for the alt right in a culture war and ended up discrediting the idea. Makes it very hard to ask for honest reviews these days. I have a faint suspicion that the journalists playing Diablo Immortal are not playing the free version, but get "press accounts" with generous amounts of virtual currency to make the game look better to them.
So some people probably got misled by the marketing, the reviews, and the brand name "Diablo" and will regret having spent too much time and/or money on this later. So living in Belgium isn't that bad, as at least it forces you to recognize that there is a potential exploitative monetization issue. I could still work around it with a VPN if I absolutely wanted to. But it speaks volumes that you can't even get a version without lootboxes here, and how Blizzard Activision PR spins some tale that "this is related to the current operating environment for games in those countries", instead of even admitting which rule their game ran afoul of.
The gaming industry would be a lot better if there was more regulation against exploitative monetization in bigger markets than Belgium and the Netherlands. At least an European Union rule to this effect would be great. Right now it is still far too easy for game companies to get away with all sorts of manipulative shit.