The 'Philosophy' Of Great Gameplay, And Welcoming 'The Challenge Of Changing'

Mike Ybarra
President of Blizzard Entertainment

Money talks. And when there is money involved, in one way or another, reasons can be made, and reasoning can be created.

However, there are always two sides of the same coin, and because of that, there are different ways of looking at or dealing with something.

Diablo Immortal, the hack-and-slash action role-playing game, is Activision Blizzard Entertainments' game that has been making headlines on the internet for many reasons. But what makes the game continuously in the headlines, is because of its sneaky microtransaction business model.

By using the free-to-play game approach, Blizzard Entertainment is able to deliver the Diablo experience gamers have longed for. The thing is, people are apparently hating it because it can cost players thousands of dollars without ever seeing the Legendary Gems they want from loot boxes.

Legendary Gems are one of the characters' three progression pillars alongside their regular gears and experience level. Legendary Gens dictate one's endgame-tier progression beyond what is possible simply by reaching Diablo Immortal's level cap.

By using Legendary Gems, players can deliberately buy their way to the top.

In defense of Diablo Immortal's aggressive sky-high business model, Mike Ybarra as its President of Blizzard Entertainment argues that most players aren't even spending any money on the game and that its monetization only comes in "at the end game."

IEC's IP Code ratings.
Mike Ybarra.

Mike Ybarra said that:

"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 literally 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 make sure that hundreds of millions of people can go through the whole campaign without any costs. From that standpoint, I feel really good about it as an introduction to Diablo."

What Ybarra is trying to say here is that, the vast majority of players are not spending any money when playing Diablo Immortal.

The issue comes from a minority of people who wish to spend money, but didn't get the Legendary Gems.

According to many gamers and online reviewers who made arguments about Diablo Immortal's business model, it would take roughly 10 years of playtime for a F2P player to fully kit out a character in the game's "free" iteration.

But even when someone does that, F2P players cannot become the strongest or the most powerful without earning top-rated Legendary Games, which are only available via some of the game's monetization options.

Ybarra is arguing using numbers, saying that most people can certainly play Diablo Immortal without paying anything, and that they can finish the game without having to deal with any payment.

But the sneaky part is that, Diablo Immortal is giving an enormous power gap between free or low-spending players, with those who do own the Legendary Gems.

This is the thing that creates the polarizing community, even if it's only in the end game.

Ybarra was appointed as the company's President, just when the company is dealing with lots of controversies.

He came when the gaming industry could no longer operate below the radar of more established Hollywood peers. The case was seen as forcing the game community to have more open discussions about its hiring practices, salaries, once rebellious reputation, sexual harassment and workplace abuse.

Ybarra said that he is committed to ensuring men and women receive equal pay, and hopes that he could lead a culture revamp.

"It’s really about me getting out of the way and making sure culture here is cultivating in the way we want it and people feel like they belong," he said, adding that he wants his team to feel as if they’re making "an impact on the industry."

" [...] I’m kind of an introvert, so my closest friends are online and we play together. I’ve always looked at Blizzard like, ‘Wow, this is the perfect place.’ But there’s challenging things happening, he said”

This is why he welcomes the challenge of changing the culture at Blizzard.

“I’ve always firmly believed that when there’s a good culture across teams, creative excellence flows."