Over the past few weeks, Blizzard’s Diablo III has been all over the news for good reasons and bad. Their action oriented, isometric clickathon has been in development since nearly a decade now so it’s only natural that fans of the franchise would be foaming at the mouth as the game’s much awaited May 15th release date approached. However that day - for which most working gamers had taken sick leaves - was not as memorable as they had hoped. Even after conducting a beta in which similar problems arose, Diablo III’s launch was a rather disastrous one in which many gamers could not even start, let alone play and enjoy the game they had so passionately waited for.
Blizzard of course claimed this was due to the immense load on their servers. Why would people hammer their servers to play a single player game you ask? Well that’s because some genius at Blizzard came up with the marvelous idea that Diablo III should have an always online DRM of sorts. That’s right folks; if you buy Diablo III and even wish to play it solo, you have to be connected to the internet 24/7 thanks to Blizzard’s new business model. Naturally when the clock struck 12, nearly every PC gamer on the planet clamored online to click the minions of hell to death but instead was greeted by the now famous Error 37. This new always online system also spells doom for people with flaky internet connections as you will be booted out of your game even if your connection craps out for a minute. Yes, you are now dealing with the pains of an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game without Diablo III even being one. How do you like them apples now?
But these were problems suffered by those who could get to the main menu. If you browse the Blizzard forums, it’s full of gamers who couldn’t even get the game to start due to some problem or another. For some, the downloaded files turned out to be corrupted so they had to rely on third party resources to download the working files. Others couldn’t get the game to update or had issues updating Blizzard’s client. Normally such problems are synonymous with PC ports of certain games but Blizzard really don’t have an excuse as this wasn’t even a multi-platform game. They only had to concentrate launching their game on one platform and even that was shoddily executed.
Ok so it's not Error 37 but it's just as bad
Gamers retaliated the only way they could by marching over to Metacritic and thrashing the game through the User Reviews tab. Some sneered at this attitude calling it childish but if you pay $60 for a game you’ve waited a decade for and can’t play it, you have every right to be angry. Even if Diablo III is the greatest game on the planet, what use is it to you if you can’t get it to start or worse, get it to start, sample it and then be booted to the main menu because of an unstable internet connection (which by the way most Indian gamers are burdened with).
But after every storm comes a nice, chirpy bright day and for Blizzard, that came in the form of record breaking sales. On the first day itself, Diablo III sold a staggering 3.5 million copies worldwide, a figure unheard for a PC only game. After the first week, those figures nearly doubled to reach 6.5 million. And in an industry practically driven by numbers today, this is good news for PC gamers. Why? Because now hopefully publishers have woken up to the fact that PC gamers aren’t just pirating games. They in fact are a dedicated group of people who will pay good money for a product and take great pains to actually get it to work. Hopefully this also means better PC ports in the future.
Unfortunately this “never say die” attitude also means that good games will sell no matter what DRM they bring to the table and in an industry that churns out yearly iterations of Call of Duty, don’t be surprised if other companies take to the always online system for their titles as well. To be honest, I don’t think they’ll be able to get away with it though; Blizzard and Valve to a certain extent may be the only two companies on the planet who could because they’ve always cranked out some stellar stuff over the years. Still they should be careful with the practices they adopt as all eyes are always on them, watching their every move. And if that means copying some of their not so conducive business strategies, we are simply put, screwed, because I really don’t see myself paying for a game that requires me to be online even for its single player campaign. So thanks but no thanks Blizzard; I won’t be buying Diablo III.