Rewriting gaming rules
By Rahul Chacko
11th July 2012 10:47 AM
Fire and brimstone rained in the forum threads. Screams of anguish poured forth from the gaming blogs. It was diabolical in a number of ways, but I guess that’s fitting, considering the name of the product in question.
Has a game ever had as mixed a launch as Diablo 3? There were errors galore, a few of which (such as the now notorious Error 37) prevented players from even playing the game, thanks to the draconian always-online requirement. The Real Money Auction House, which allowed players to buy and sell items with (as you can probably guess) real money fell afoul of the restriction against online gambling in South Korea, which made for a rocky launch over there. Reports surfaced of player accounts being hacked and their items and money stolen. For a while, players who bought the digital version were being locked into the demo of the game for up to 72 hours. Some players have claimed that they were banned from the game simply for playing on a Linux machine that emulated Windows.
And yet, for all that, most games would take all those faults to enjoy a fraction of the sales that Diablo 3 has enjoyed. Over 6.3 million copies of the game moved in the first week alone, laying waste to previous PC game sales records, and the clincher is that, since Activision-Blizzard takes a cut of all transactions in the Auction House, they will continue to make money off the game long after its release. Also, no matter how loudly certain sections of the crowd railed against the requirement for players to be online, even if they only wanted to play single-player, one can argue that the way the developers have implemented it — with all the game’s item drops calculated on the server side — has ensured that there have been no functional pirated copies of the game, or at least no widely confirmed cases of any.
As for how this affects consumer rights for gamers, one can understand why people might be worried. There’s a feeling that other companies could go, ‘Hey, this always-online thing really works!’ and start implementing it in their products, leaving players at the mercy of their Internet connection to decide whether they can a play a game for which they have paid. Then again, not every developer has the clout of Activision-Blizzard. Not every franchise has the pedigree of Diablo, which boasted so many players playing the games years after they were released. The relationship between developer and consumer is a delicate one, and if a developer yanks at that rope too hard without any weight behind them, they could end up with nothing, instead of the big catch that they’re dreaming of.
It’s a shame that with all this commotion about the other factors, I haven’t been able to get a good idea of how the game itself plays. Sure I’ve heard opinions, but I can’t tell if they’re being unnecessarily harsh or defensive, thanks to a predisposed bias. There’s a guest pass I’ve got lying around, so I guess the only way is to try it out and see for myself. Just got to make sure I’ve paid my Internet bill first.
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