Over the past couple of weeks we’ve seen the release of Diablo III and mixed with all the high praise for it’s addictive gameplay and action-packed kill ‘n’ loot action, is the low grumbling noise of discontent gamers who are not happy with the games mandatory online presence (DRM). Many players are complaining that they get booted out, or are unable to connect or the servers are offline, all the time being unable to play a game that they have paid about £40 for.
This is not going to be another ‘whining at Blizzard post’. They took Diablo III in a direction I don’t entirely agree with, but was it a bad move? A move so terrible that other game developers will be too afraid to try something similar? Not at all, despite the negativity for being online, Diablo III is now one of (if not the most) best-selling game of 2012. This shows that whatever negative effects the online presence may have it’s not shadowing the gameplay or the enthusiasm for a majority of its players.
But still, if you type “Diablo III Online Moaning” into Google there’s more than enough unhappy people to go around.
I haven’t bought Diablo III myself and I have to admit that despite how pragmatic I try to be I am a bit put off by having to be permanently online. I know I would be mightily pissed off if a game I had spent so much on was inaccessible to me because the servers are down, or I kept getting kicked out or there was lag or any of the other game-breaking issues that people have complained about. Is that it though? Is that my only gripe? Nope, I know there’s a unhealthy mix of fear-of change, paranoia and distrust for a large company. None of these are in any way rational.
As a gamer, I like to whine and moan. When something goes wrong, I reach for my burning torch and pitchfork, and want to accuse the company of everything from negligence to conspiracy. There are very standard reasons and crazy rumours why Diablo III needed to fully online, anything from being able to control piracy to Blizzard being able to watch what we do and spy on us. So it’s important to remember the below points.
- Blizzards primary responsibility is to earn money. Any company that claims its customers are its greatest asset is lying. It’s not anything against the company but what it usually means is ‘their customer’s money is their greatest asset’. Well of course it is. Without our money, they can’t afford to make the games we want.
- It also knows that pissing off customers will likely decrease profits; angry customers will leave and take their money and future sales with them
- Some people think that ‘companies just want to sell their product and once it’s sold they can ignore the customer because they have their money. Nope, it doesn’t happen that way. Most companies hate spikes in their profit, it’s too unreliable for budget planning. They’re looking for a continuous predictable profit, and a good customer base to sell their next product to. Pissing off a whole load of customers does nothing for next years proposed sales or stock prices.
Having an online component is vastly becoming standard for any game whether it’s an MMO, or a single player game. The change has been happening for many years now, downloadable content (DLC) and patches, multiplayer games, Steam, Origin; these and more show that we are far more reliant on being online than we ever have been. The other premise is on account security. Blizzard claimed that one of the main reasons for the online presence was to increase customer account security. Which is a noble goal and something well worth chasing, but why have there already been so many reports of account hacking? It’s the endless cat and mouse game that takes place between account security and hackers, each one constantly out doing each other.
It’s easy to vilify Blizzard because this approach is still a relatively new thing. They may not have it 100% correct. As a game developer they have never been afraid to try new things, even way back when World of Warcraft was released, it spent years in development, with months of research and large amounts of money on trying to make sure that their new MMO was solid. But when WoW was released there were server queues, lag, kick-outs, and crap-loads of server downtime, but it got all fixed and I think now the World of Warcraft servers and connections the most stable I’ve seen in an MMO.
The bottom line, things change in gaming. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse and sometimes it’s anyone’s guess which side of the line it falls. All Blizzard needs is a bit of time to perfect the DRM on Diablo III? I am sure that it’s a good thing overall, Blizzard just lost a few points with its execution. So ignore the negative side of Diablo III as best you can and go out and play you crazy monkeys… assuming the servers are up of course.