In the real world, everything runs on Dunkin. In Diablo Immortal, it’s powered by orbs. Eternal Orbs, to be precise. And players are once again reckoning with the mobile action-RPG’s microtransaction economy after Blizzard announced that players who’d purchased hundreds of thousands of illicit orbs from third-party sellers won’t be banned. “This is BS,” wrote one player on Reddit. “If I had known there would be no ban, I woulda just bought 3rd party [too].”
Diablo Immortal is a loot-based dungeon crawler that can technically be played for free, but anyone who wants to become a serious contender in its competitive landscape will need to spend money on Eternal Orbs to efficiently grind its endgame. Some top players claim to have invested tens of thousands of dollars into the mobile spin-off, and recently more than a few found their orb hoards had been turned into orb debts after Blizzard purged the game of third-party reseller purchases. Let me explain.
Eternal Orbs are a paid currency in Diablo Immortal that fuel its endgame progression. Everything from making activities drop rarer loot to obtaining platinum for crafting better gear requires shelling out for orbs. While there are a couple of ways to earn them outright, they’re predominantly purchased with real money. And since the road to a stronger Diablo character is paved with Eternal Orbs, players have an incentive to hunt for discounts wherever they can find them.
Some of these discounts exist in the Diablo Immortal store. For $1 players can get 60 orbs. For $100 they can get 6,000 orbs plus a bonus 1,200 (or $20 in savings). But the biggest discounts exist on third-party reseller platforms promising troves of orbs at steep discounts. Google “buy cheap Eternal Orbs” and one of the first sites the search engine will serve up is IGVault.com. It promises, “Cheap and Safe Diablo Immortal Eternal Orbs & other Items.” One listing offers 7,200 orbs for just $80.
While some resellers might claim to be liquidating gift cards at a discount, the general understanding is that most of these services are a way for people to profit off of stolen credit cards. Instead of using your information to rack up charges at Walmart or Amazon, they can get cash directly by being a middleman for microtransactions and pocketing what’s left. And players in the Diablo Immortal community specifically have been complaining about orb resellers becoming more and more prominent for weeks.
A couple weeks ago, Blizzard finally took action. PCGamesN reported that after the company revoked the illicit orb purchases en masse, some of Diablo Immortal’s biggest free-to-play “whales” were left with a giant negative balance. One top player who goes by Shia showed a screenshot of a balance reflecting an orb debt of -2,491,025, or roughly $35,000 worth.
Some players rejoiced over the playing field being re-leveled, but others are now furious again after a new message from Blizzard customer service (via Gamesradar) indicated that the company won’t be banning the offending players. “Having negative orbs on an account will not ban the Diablo Immortal account,” a rep wrote in a message re-posted on the Diablo Immortal subreddit. “Gameplay limitation will apply to the account while the balance is negative though, so certain features will not be accessible until the orb balance reaches positive again.”
On the one hand, some of these larger debts are no joke, and presumably everyone involved is out whatever money they already paid for the cheap orbs, which have now become some of the most expensive orbs that will ever exist in Diablo Immortal. At the same time, Blizzard’s response stops short of a blanket ban on players engaging with third-party markets, and players are accusing some of the orb debtors of finding ways around their current account limitations to continue to play the game.
“I really don’t care if they get fully banned,” wrote one player on the subreddit. “But they should not be allowed to circumvent their limits by using party finder or forming their own groups and they should especially not be allowed into battlegrounds, wars or rite.” Wrote another, “So why would regular, legit pay players want to spend any more money at all?? There’s no consequences for these players, so why wouldn’t everyone use these 3rd party sources.”
This situation might not be so messy if it weren’t for Diablo Immortal’s pay-to-win business model to begin with. “We want to ensure a fair playing field for everyone in Diablo Immortal: part of this effort involves taking action when we see players participate in fraudulent purchases,” Blizzard wrote in a statement on September 7. Of course, those fraudulent purchases only exist in the first place because the only way to be number one in Diablo Immortal is to be one of its biggest in-game spenders. And its an incredibly lucrative arrangement. Diablo Immortal reportedly continues to rake in $1 million a day.
Update: 9/14/22, 2:29 p.m. ET: Blizzard has decided to crackdown harder on players with orb debt, the company told Kotaku in a statement. Players with negative balances won’t be banned, but moving forward they’ll be locked out of more of Diablo Immortal’s content.
“When players choose to engage in transactions with unauthorized sellers, that creates a risk — not only to their own account, but to our greater player community,” a spokesperson for the company wrote in an email. “To further limit the impact these players can have, we have expanded the restrictions that apply with a negative Eternal Orb balance. This now includes a restriction from participating in PvP activities.”
A new post on the Battle.net forums goes into more detail:
If your balance of Eternal Orbs in Diablo Immortal goes into the negative due to a chargeback or refund on your account, you will not be able to participate in certain features in Diablo Immortal, such as:
- Cannot invite people to party / be invited to a party
- Cannot use Legendary Crests
- Cannot trade on the in-game market
- Cannot queue for PvP activity