Saturday, 9 June 2012

You have to weather the Blizzard of sales to get to Hell

I have just had an enjoyable evening playing Diablo 3 with my wife. We have already finished it once and are trying different characters. Tonight we notice something different. Looks like the general chat is now fixed, so people can now talk across games, much like mmo players can talk across servers. This discussion again was not far off what you would expect mmo players would talk about. People trying to sell things, chatting about character builds and just waffling on in general.

Obviously I have no objection to this, and though the game is actually just 4 player co-op, it adds  a level of life to the game that I sometimes missing in single player (and quite often in multiplayer shooters and the like). Much has been made of Blizzards DRM in Diablo 3, insisting that you must be connected to the internet at all times, and while we have had a few log in problems, it hasn’t bothered me that much (I simply played something else). However on these evening we had half a dozen spam messages from a company selling in game gold. These were the sort of message you usually see in mmo’s as well, offering to give you thousands of in game currency in return for a few pounds.

Now this irked me, but perhaps not in the way you might expect. I have been playing mmo’s for years and I am well used to these kind of messages. What annoyed me was that I started pondering if the aways connected DRM didn’t have an additional, predicted, side effect for Blizzard. One that they were already familiar with. What usually happens is that the people (or more likely bots) who broadcast these messages get reported by players, then Blizzard proceed to ban the account. So they then have to go out and purchase another copy of the game. This is true of mmo’s as well, however with an mmo the online aspects are essential, whereas with Diablo 3 it is not. So potentially this could keep sales of Diablo 3 going long after anybody who wanted it has already purchased it. Hell there are plenty of very popular co-op games were you don’t have to put up with this sort of stuff, Borderlands (which owes a great deal to Diablo and Blizzard in it’s design) springs to mind.

Of course the real money auction house hasn’t gone live yet, so possibly that might kill off the gold selling, or more accurately replace it, with Blizzard taking a hefty cut. I can’t shake the feeling that as good as Diablo 3 is, I think it’s ultimate boss should be an over-sized accountant wielding the impressive calculator of continued revenue +5.

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