Posted by: The Lazy Admin | May 22, 2012

Diablo 3 Will Prove A Bitter Lesson For Blizzard-Activision

I will not buy Diablo 3.  Here’s my opinion and perspective on why that’s the case for me.  Your mileage may vary, and you may totally love Diablo 3.  That’s cool, and I’m glad you enjoy it if so.

I’ve followed Diablo 3 in gaming news through beta and up til its horribly planned release date.  A game that has been worked on as hard and as long as Diablo 3 has should be, without a doubt, the pinnacle of perfection.  The launch should have been flawless.  It wasn’t, and I knew better than to expect otherwise.

What should we expect out of a company who wants folks to believe they are on the side of the fans?  Perhaps some effective stress testing and capacity planning from a company who’s consistently failed their customers on most of the launches they’ve had since Warcraft 3.  If anything, the embarrassing launches they have had in the past with upset fans should have garnered more thorough testing, but as it stands Blizzard’s beta testing program is a raucous joke.  The vast majority of people who get into the beta seem to do so only for the purpose of bragging rights and accessing content for free prior to the inevitable launch date.  The fact that Blizzard’s beta testing is so vast makes the horrible launches of their online games an even larger embarrassment and fans have every right to be upset that their play experience is anything else than optimal in the face of increasing restrictions on their ability to play games and the rising retail cost of their products.  Why do fans continually sign up for and agree with blatant disregard for their interests?

Diablo 3 is a game created to do one thing:  turn humans into cash cows.  And what of the long-term viability of Diablo 3?

The magical thing about shucking real-world dollars for in-game items is you’ve basically thrown money away.  At some point, which it may be far in in the future but still indefinite, Blizzard will shut down their game servers due to lack of use.  Diablo 3 seems to have sacrificed longevity for being lucrative, and gamers would do well to make a note of this trend.  You’re getting less and less, dollar for dollar, and you’re getting less all the time, folks.  For someone to have reached max level within 12 hours of playing Diablo 3 when people have spent months and months building up their character in Diablo 2 is a bit sobering to think about.

The critiques of the auction house system in Diablo 3 are valid.  Most gamers I know seem to feel that the whole experience and drive for repeatedly plumbing the depths of the game are gone now.  You can always buy better items than you will find as loot, or at the very least will have that option when you’re down on your loot luck.  So how long will it take to completely ruin the economy?  Apparently not very long.  Diablo 2 was a community built on gamers sharing their loot, powering through dungeons over and over to get good loot, and that thrill that comes from never knowing what’s going to drop.  Diablo 2 players took real pride in their characters, but when you can buck that system and just drop cash for your items, who’s going to work for their characters?

The single-player online system is just as big of a joke.  Fans, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if you’ve bought into the idea that the forced online play is for your benefit then you’ve accepted a lie.  Diablo 2 had the problem of overpowered characters being hacked together and given souped-up gear through trainers and the like.  That facet has been replaced instead with the auction house system where now instead of being able to create a character of an appropriate level and gear to use for play with friends, you will either have to invest the time to dig for loot and level up your character or pony up your hard-earned cash to get what you need.  Is that really being friendly to your fans and fostering a sense of community?

Strange thing though, is that there is still no draw to keep playing Diablo 3 in the long term.  Blizzard has somehow managed to tombstone everything that built up a thriving community in Diablo 2 by attempting to foster a similar environment for-profit.  I’m not so sure this isn’t a Blizzard thing as much as it is an attempt by Activision to continually push the profit margin up.  However, if all of this is a solely a money-making venture for the company then why would they not measure the longevity by Diablo 2’s standards?

Then I think back to the success of World of Warcraft: a game that stands as a monumental tribute to the hard-headedness and singular drive of the modern online gamer.  People are emotionally bound to their time investments and will keep returning to them regardless of their hatred for the system, their common sense, and will continue to keep paying long after the enjoyment of the game has gone.  MMOs like World of Warcraft and even online games like Diablo 2 only serve to prove that, at least, American gamers have no focus on the future, and are only interested in what slakes their thirst for entertainment here and now.

So, in that respect Diablo 3 will be a success.  Many will buy the game, a few will play it over and over, some will forego families and life responsibility to invest time and money into a game that will never give them back anything tangible, and Blizzard will laugh all the way to the bank.  But ultimately it’s the gamers who will suffer.  The more people that just accept it when companies consistently spit in the face of the gaming communities yet open their arms and offer forgiveness and excuses for a company that already has their money will only foster this and worse treatment of gamers in the future.  And I’d hope that folks would learn to start speaking with their dollars but… WoW was launched in 2004 and 10 million people who are still subscribed after 8 years can only say one thing to Blizzard:

Gamer abuse is the business, and business is good.

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