On Diablo III
Since at least 2009, commentators have been speaking about the evils of Gamestop, Walmart, Best Buy, and other retailers, and how their used games programs are “destroying the industry” and “making publishers desperate”, never mind the fact that the game industry is right now at the most profitable point it has ever been. These commentators have been hailing the coming digital distribution models and live streaming of games for a while now. Some of their arguments have included how “you don’t buy a game, you buy a license, and as such, you can only play the game when the publisher wants you to” (nevermind the fact that many courts have ruled that you buy your copy of the data in physical media as well as all appropriate licenses) and how they want a model where “publishers make money off their creation” (nevermind that the creation comes from a group of underpaid and overworked developers). The ultimate vision for these individuals was a world where, in order to avoid lost sales due to used copies and prevent file sharing (nevermind all the studies that show that – while it might harm to a minimal extent film and music industries – the effects of file sharing on the game industry are negligible), players would have to consistently log on to a game’s server in order to authenticate their game – even in single player mode.
Then Diablo III came out.
Diablo III, a game which as of now I have been unable to play, incorporates an always online DRM and authentication system where players must always be online to play the game, even single player campaigns. In order for one to play your single player game, people must have a steady internet connection to stream the majority of the game from the Blizzard servers.
And so, yesterday Blizzard turned on their Diablo III servers, and a large chunk of the player base was greeted with Error 37. Another large chunk of the gaming community was greeted by an Error 75, and Error 3005 memes are already making their rounds on internet forums.
Earlier today, a friend said that he managed to connect to the game after hundreds of attempts. He managed to create a character before the servers went down.
And so, as it stands, I know four people who got Diablo III: two have not been able to log on, one has not been able to get past the character screen (oh how I long to see that), and I haven’t heard from te fourth. I suppose he’s one of the lucky ones.
This debacle is the first attempt at the always online game streaming systems proposed by writers over at Kotaku, Joystiq, and a bunch of other major online publications on gaming. To these people who so vehemently supported this kind of system I say: trololo wat now u mad bro?
Obviously, this system doesn’t work precisely for the reasons I outlined in my spirited defense of Gamestop roughly a year ago.
So what should be the correct digital distribution / game DRM / game streaming system to be used? If you ask me, GOG and Gamers Gate have the right formula down. If you haven’t checked out these online retail stores, you should. By building a bond of trust with their customers, they make sure that customers don’t fileshare the things they buy. Speaking as a customer of both, I can testify that the thought process is as follows:
They are giving me great products through a great service at a great price.
I want them to continue doing so.
I will use work of mouth (or in my case of text) to tell people how amazing they are.
That kind of system has always worked in the context of gaming, and will continue to do so. However, when publishers start doing ridiculous stuff like putting restrictive DRM and always online functionalities to single player games because they are afraid that some guy in middleofnowherekistan will download their game and will result in a “lost sale” of a copy from a guy who wouldn’t have been able to afford it had he saved his entire life, they come across as companies who hate their customers.
Now, I’m not saying that Blizzard hates their customers. Diablo I and Diablo II servers are still up, Battle.Net servers for the old Warcraft and Starcraft games are still online, and World of Warcraft is still as amazing as it always has been, and with more expansions looming on the horizon, things can only hope to become better.
No. Blizzard does not hate their customers at all.
They just hate their single player and paying customers.
And on that note, excuse me while I go find where to sell my copy of Diablo III. Suddenly, after the hundredth error of the week, I think I’ve lost interest in playing a game I paid 80$ to not play because of the whole always online thing.
I’ll play something less annoying, like Ninja Gaiden on the new old NES I got in a garage sale last week.
Some links relevant to the piece: