Blizzard: Money drunk and sense dry

Tell me what’s wrong with this picture. You go to a digital store-front to buy a game. You put in your credit card number and are promptly charged $60. Six hours later your game is downloaded, installed, and ready to go. It’s a dungeon crawler, so you crawl some dungeons, level up a bit and – WHAM. You’re hit with an error message thanking you for playing the starter edition of the game. The message helpfully apologizes for the inconvenience but due to a 72-hour approval process, you’re no longer allowed to level. Oh, and that gear you collected to sell to other players? Sorry, the auction house is off limits. Well hell, you may as well try some multiplayer. Except not: Starter edition.

Sound crappy? Welcome to Blizzard Land, your one stop shop for complete and total detachment from consumer expectations.

This is a real thing. Blizzard announced this week that all digital buyers of Diablo 3 will be subject to a 72 hour vetting process before being allowed to access the full game. There are so many things wrong with this it’s not even eye-roll worthy but well into “what the hell are they thinking” territory. In essence, despite shelling out $60 for the game — money which they receive almost immediately while you’re stuck waiting — every digital buyer will be treated as if they’re on a trial account until Blizzard deems them worthy of playing the full thing. Here are the limits:

  • Act I up to the Skeleton King is available
  • Level 13 cap
  • Unverified digital purchasers cannot trade items or drop items for other players to receive
  • Unverified digital purchasers are not able to chat in any public or game channels
  • Unverified digital purchasers cannot attach a custom message to friend requests, but they can send/accept friend requests, and play with their friends
  • Matchmaking available only with other Starter Edition players
  • No Auction House access (Real Money or Gold)
  • Global Play is not available.

It’s pretty evident that this is being done to stem the tide of gold spam (worthless in this game anyway). It’s also pretty evident that Blizzard does not give two damns what you think of DRM or why you think it. Don’t misunderstand, this limit isn’t DRM, but the mistake Blizzard is making here is of exactly in that wheelhouse: Punish legitimate players to get at the “bad guys.”

Except this is worse. It is morally dubious for a company to take your money for a full product — as the $60 price point would imply — and then give you something less and limited. Screw the nice-speak: It’s friggin’ wrong and ass backwards. After all, it’s not like they could just red flag common spam names which are almost universally random conglomerations of letters. That would be too easy.

When people talk about Blizzard being up on their pedestal, this is what they’re talking about. They don’t care what you think. They don’t care how you feel. All they know is that they won your heart ten years ago and made a metric ton of money on their stolen IP MMO and that you will continue to pay no matter what they do. Kind of makes you wish you’d ripped off some ideas of your own, eh?

Aren’t we happy World of Warcraft was such a success? All it’s done is completely shatter whatever it was we once believed Blizzard to be. Now they’re just another arm of Activision sucking the consumer dry while plugging its ears and saying “I can’t hear you, la la la la la.” Elders know best, after all.

I’ll say it now: I hope their next MMO fails. I hope it crashes and burns and teaches these guys that their customers are more than sheep to be led to the slaughter. Blizzard make good games. A lot of other studios do too and none of them have their heads so far up their own backside. This is a big shift for me; I don’t want MMOs to fail, even ones I don’t play. But the fact is, this won’t change without something big to knock them out of their stupor — and stupor is the right word for a company so money drunk and sense dry as Blizzard has become.

Update: Apparently they’re backing off and calling this a glitch now. Except it wasn’t a glitch yesterday when their company line was “intended feature.”  They’re also saying that the delay is based upon card processing. No.  I worked in the field and 72-hour delays are not only non-standard but flat out unusual for most transactions. As a matter of fact, most typically, if you were able to get past checkout, the funds are already “promised” to Blizzard, even if it overdraws your account. But that’s all irrelevant. Just by looking at their responses in the forum thread linked by Destructoid, you can see how the Gamespy quote directly contradicts what they’ve posted on the official forums. Back-peddle much?

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