What happens when you cross a beloved franchise, tons of preorders, a midnight release, and always-online DRM?
I don’t want to beat a dead horse or anything, so I’ll just help you out here: Blizzard underestimated the server strain (seriously, though? The Amazon record-holder for most PC preorders? The team that manages the most successful MMO? They were surprised?), a bunch of gamers got screwed, the real-money Auction House got delayed, a new meme was created, and Blizzard apologized.
I have a problem here, but it’s not necessarily that they have always-online DRM (I mean, don’t get me wrong—I think that it sucks and all of that, but greater minds have been hating on DRM for a long time. No need to add to the chorus); it’s that they screwed it up at launch. The paranoid cynic in me thinks that they are smart enough to predict it, but they allowed it to happen just for all of the free press that they got right after launch. If it had been smooth, no one would have been reading articles about Diablo; they would’ve been clicking and clicking.
The realist in me just thinks that they screwed all of their most loyal and dedicated fans by not being prepared. If you’re going to pull off DRM, the best thing to do is to highlight why it’s in the gamers’ best interest. Make it enhance the players’ experience. Yeah, I get it; the standard argument is about how they are going to prevent hacks and all that stuff, but realistically, Blizzard’s PR dropped that ball by not interacting and talking with the gaming public a little more pre-launch.
Note to developers: gamers aren’t as stupid as you think (well most gamers aren’t). We know thinly-veiled attempts at money-grabbing. And we look past it when we are enjoying the game. It’s hard to enjoy it, though, when all of this 12-year buildup ends with a message saying that even though I’m not wanting to play the game online per se, your servers’ inability to handle the load prevents me from doing so. Oh yeah, and this is after spending $60 or more to play your crippled game, subconsciously hoping that always-online DRM doesn’t mean that we can have the game only as long as Blizzard maintains servers for it…
Not that I’m bitter about it or anything.
In other news:
Gamestop is set to officially sell Steam cards. Now when you go sell back those old games that you know you’ll never play again, you can just go ahead and buy something with no sell-back value at all. It may seem like Gamestop is folding, but realistically, it’s not going to bankrupt their Impulse system nor their own digital distribution. And for right now at least, it’ll be the only physical store to buy those Steam cards, so maybe they’ll make a few bucks off of it. I can go to Target and buy CDs, just like I can go to Target to buy Apple Itunes cards…
EA and Activision reached a settlement in the ongoing legal battles surrounding Activision and Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella. It’s like a ridiculous episode of some crappy law drama, really. You’ve got big boys fighting each other, two intellectual properties that perpetuate shitty gaming stereotypes, developers getting fired without bonuses they said they feel were deserved, and corporate espionage. Seriously. Activision started a “Project Icebreaker” to go through West and Zampella’s work email, computers, and phones, digging around for evidence of misconduct. The original claim between Activision and W&Z is still moving forward, though, even after Activision gave $42 million dollars to the “Infinity Ward Employee Group.”
Speaking of over-played military FPS’s, a rumor’s out that EA will be releasing a premium Battlefield service, similar to CoD: Elite. It’ll have new dogtags and camo, and blah blah blah. Damn games are getting expensive…
Other stuff happened this week, specifically 38 Studio’s legal problems with Rhode Island. But that shit’s too depressing and nebulous to get into right now. When the dust settles, that’ll be the time and place for commentary. Our thoughts go out to the employees and the families affected by this. Oh yeah, and the taxpayers who may have to shell out $100 million over the next eight years or so to pay back these loans…
Probably the best news of the week, though is that Gamers Garage Episode 217 is out. Go check it out; this week’s podcast is pretty awesome.
Now get out there and have a great weekend.