Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always Connected' News

August 3, 2011 -

Gamasutra Editor-at-Large Chris Morris pens this editorial to complain about what he calls an over-reaction to Blizzard's announcement that Diablo III will require a constant connection to play all modes including single-player. Diablo series fans lashed out at the company, calling it a horrible idea and pointing out that there are better methods for dealing with hacked characters online.

Morris points out that Blizzard put a lot of thought into this decision and that they are doing it to take control of their game and cut down on the level of cheating that took place in the first two games.

Further, he says that the call for a boycott of the game is ill-conceived and that most gamers won't stick to that hard-line stance once the game is released.

You can read the full thing here. Although parts of it might be deemed dismissive of the game's fan base, Morris makes some interesting opinions worth reading.

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Re: Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always ...

I really don't think this will affect sales that much, and whilst boycotts in the past have amassed a numerous amount of people, it's always been in negligible numbers; There's very rarely enough people to make an actual difference.

I have an issue with this simply because I was looking extremely forward to buying and playing Diablo III, but now I simply won't bother (for now, at least).

Being on a dial-up connection, it's rather difficult for me to be "always on"; My household doesn't have another phoneline and installing one is not cost-efficient and beneficial enough to warrant doing so.

All DRM choices are a hindrance to legit customers in some way, but this is just another form of punishment towards those with limited internet access, if they have any at all.

How am I supposed to play any game reliably with these forms of DRM systems on dial-up? And how am I supposed to play these games if I have no internet access at all? This isn't a minority we're talking about, a large portion of people -do not- have fast-speed internet, if internet at all.

I thought Blizzard would be one of the more smarter companies; One of the ones that would know that DRM does absolutely nothing. Well, that's something else I have clearly been wrong about all this time. It's disappointing.

As for cheating: Nothing stopped people from cheating in Diablo and Diablo II. People got around any "anti-cheat" methods in the games online play, just like they have done on virtually every other game known to man.

Cheating in singleplayer shouldn't be an issue since you're not playing with anyone, there's nobody to gain an unfair advantage against. As for multiplayer? Well that's where you ban those who cheat, implement anti-cheat methods, and stop people from importing singleplayer characters into multiplayer (this one's important as it'll also stop people from using item hacks in singleplayer to then sell for real money online).

Re: Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always ...

The problem with boycotts is there is no way to track them.  It is often claimed that gamers just buy the game anyway, but in reality there is no objective way to tell if the boycott cost them 5 sales, 50, 500,5000, or 5 million.. since people who failed to buy the game are not recorded.

Thus the boycott result comes down to how well someone in marketing sells it back to the company or how well it is sold to investors.  That is where the real effect comes in... scaring investors.  This is why 'morality' boycotts tend to sell so well compared to other types, they often resonate with older concervative investors who can go 'hey, this bothers me too, I bet it bothers LOTs of people and the company will suffer!'.

Re: Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always ...

That's the thing, though: Blizzard was smart. Blizzard is also quite dead. It's just Activision wearing their face like a horrible flesh mas because they remember that the Blizzard name has good will, they just don't understand why.

Just look at the auction house. I don't think anybody at Blizzard thought it was a good idea, that's probably all Activision breathing down their neck to monetize everything they can.

Re: Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always ...

I see variations of this comment all over the place, and I have to assume this ignorance is born of the ridiculous naming scheme Activision adopted during the Vivendi merger. I'm a 4 year Blizzard vet who has moved on to other opportunities. I left shortly after the merger chiefly for unrelated reasons (although the acquisition was on my mind).

So, to clarify, Activision Blizzard is not Blizzard Entertainment. Activision Blizzard is just Activision parading around the Blizzard name to boost investor visibility. Previously, Blizzard was owned by Vivendi Games, a division of Vivendi, which is a French-based media conglomerate. Vivendi ditched its games division in a rather one-sided merger with Activision, which resulted in Vivendi holding a majority stake in Activision Blizzard, but handed all the board seats to previous Activision execs.

Blizzard goes on much as it did before the acquisition. After all, they did not themselves undergo a merger, just their owner/publisher. So long as they continue to make money Activision is content to leave them more or less alone. Blizzard has not been bleeding talent since the merger, but rather still has one of the most loyal development teams in the industry, with employees staying on for project after project.

The frightening thing I feel is that Blizzard now operates much closer to investors than ever before. At Vivendi, they were a tiny speck in a global empire of media. Other divisions could make or lose more money in a day than Blizzard made in a whole quarter. Stock holders at Vivendi did not make their decisions based on Blizzard's game announcements. No more. Now, at Activision, Kotick gets up on a stage and promises his new pet developer will turn out two games a year with an average earnings of X. And if Blizzard doesn't live up to his promises, then they have to worry about Activision management coming down on them.

Blizzard has changed over the years. They've lost key members of their management (Allen Adham, Bill Roper), but not with the Activision acquisition. They're big now, employing thousands where they used to have only dozens. Some players who were huge fans of their early games do not enjoy their newer ones. Certainly there are plenty of players who feel the opposite, as Blizzard's sales continue to be strong. Say what you like about Starcraft 2's sales being low, it still smashed everything else on the shelves at launch.

In general, Blizzard games continue in the same tradition of polishing the best existing ideas in a genre more often than innovating new ones. Their games are accessible and generally simple to pick up. Whatever has changed, I don't think its fair to say the company is dead.

Re: Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always ...

Always-on.
Real money trading.
Attempted tie-in with social networking.
And before that, less visible things like PVE->PVP transfers, etc.

These things do not mesh with Blizzard's image prior to the Activision deal.  Activision may be the cause, or it may be a coincidence.  But until and unless there's some concrete information released on the subject, "if it quacks like a duck"...

Re: Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always ...

There'll always be players who like their games, most of these people will probably people of a newer fanbase; People who started playing their newer games first, not their older games.

That doesn't make giving your older, more loyal fans, the boot justified, however.

Blizzard could have changed for numerous reasons. To say that it's unlikely that Activision is that reason is rather ignorant. As I said, you can't prove that Activision are the reason for the changes at Blizzard, but that doesn't mean they don't have some sway in companies choices.

Either way, Blizzard has been making some rather foolish decisions recently, in my opinion. Why? I don't know. In fact, I don't even care what the reason is, just that they're doing it to begin with.

My main issue is simply with their choices of adding DRM to their games. DRM is usually something publishers push onto their developers to add, but if Blizzard is still largely under their own individual control (which they've always argued they were since the merge) then they're making the conscious choice of adding "always-on" DRM themselves.

I can live with the changes to games in games like World of Warcraft and any new MMO they make; It's not like there's a shortage of those to play. But I simply refuse to play their games with their current choice of DRM.

Not because I don't want to, but because I can't.

Re: Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always ...

When you say that Blizzard is giving its older fans the boot, you lose a lot of credibility. Whether or not you feel marginalized by the choices they've made, Blizzard has done nothing to drive you away. The door is wide open for you to enjoy their games. It's *you* who is giving *them* the boot.

You're correct in your assertation that it's typically publishers who concern themselves with DRM. Its generally publishers and not artists who are mindful of lost revenues, distribution, and generally the business of getting games out there, and that makes sense considering thats a publisher's role in the business of video games.

Blizzard has gone through a unique transformation through the administration of WoW, though. They've been forced to spend millions on securing their game and controlling how poeple access it in order to preserve the gameplay experience for their customers. Whether you agree with their goals or not doesn't matter in this case. What's important is that we realize that Blizzard's eyes are open to a world of problems and the expensive consequences they bring, and that is precisely why they are pushing for DRM and an internally managed currency exchange.

Re: Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always ...

The problem is that what you're saying is just conjecture.

Don't get me wrong though, as I agree with everything you said, but there's no hard evidence linking Activision to the problems with Blizzard's development decisions.

It's highly likely that they are (because like EA before them, Activision also slowly kills whatever it happens to touch) but neither you, nor I, can actually prove it.

Re: Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always ...

Hmm I don't see why cheating is all that bad in single player mode...  and multiplayer you need to be connected for anyway so how are they able to prevent cheating in multiplayer by forcing the need for a connection in single player mode? 


Re: Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always ...

They see it as bad because of a grand vision where single player achievement unlocks multiplayer content and thus it becomes one seamless product... which seems like an extention of 'the forums and developers like multiplayer, we should build everything around it!' mentality that tends to ruin single player games.

Re: Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always ...

Exactly, the author of the editorial has a specious argument. Which is really just Blizzard's specious argument reiterated. Anyway his one big point, which is sadly true, is that many people will buy the same no matter what. They could put in a feature that makes you fill out a questionaire every 30 minutes of game time and 3 million copies would still be sold.

Re: Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always ...

I personally will not be buying the game b/c of the always on connection, not as part of any larger boycott, I just hate the idea that the way I play the game I paid for is being limited in order to combat piracy, which in the end is what this is really about. Cheaters don't matter when you play single player. This is about piracy and not cheating, or else they would have allowed single player offline. Torchlight 2 will just have to content me.

The title will still sell well, which is why the PC as a whole sees all these horrible practices. Great double standard here, I didn't Gamasutra with any editorials supporting Ubisoft's always on Internet connection type DRM.

Re: Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always ...

 

Further, he says that the call for a boycott of the game is ill-conceived and that most gamers won't stick to that hard-line stance once the game is released.

 

You mean PC gamers won't commit to a boycott of a game whose developers do things they dislike? Surely this is wholly unprecedented in the annals of the industry!

Re: Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always ...

It goes back to the argument that the numbers are negligible at best. 833 people boycotting a game that sold 4.7 million units in its first 48 hours is like a dead flea trying to arm-wrestle an elephant. It's not that PC gamers aren't committed, it's that there aren't enough of them to make a difference. And eventually, most of those 833 people end up buying the game anyway, once they realize it. Remember when they boycotted Left 4 Dead 2 because PC gamers felt it was way too soon? Me neither.

Re: Opinion: Fans Over-Reacted to Diablo III 'Always ...

Au contraire! I remember that, I just paid absolutely no heed to it.

Mostly because, as you said, boycotts are largely pointless when a larger number of people buy the game than those boycotting it.

In regards to L4D2, the only reason I brought it was because it was half-price and I was rather tired of having practically nobody to play with on L4D. I mean, what's the use in an online game you've got no one to play with?

 
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