Diablo 3, Piracy, and You

Diablo 3 is going to be selling countless millions starting next week, so now is as good a time as any to look at one of Blizzard’s most controversial stances concerning the game. Blizzard is going to require an active internet connection in order to play Diablo 3. Meaning basically, if you are in an area that doesn’t have internet access such as a rural area, airplane, or if there’s an internet blackout, you won’t be able to play the game. Of course this makes perfect sense for the Battle.net features that Blizzard has highlighted, as those are connected to their server, but what is far more irritating is that they are disabling the single player campaign without an internet connection. Today we’re going to be looking at this practice and the justifications for its existence.

Tyrael’s wings are powered by the internet, so this makes a lot of sense canonically 

Blizzard’s official word is that by requiring an internet connection they can prevent hackers as well as piracy. First let’s look at the hacking part of this statement. Hacking was a serious issue with Diablo 2. While Blizzard tried their best to stay one step ahead of the hackers, it didn’t stop countless players from enjoying certain privileges such as the famous maphack. Hacking isn’t a problem for singleplayer games, and Diablo 2 was half singleplayer. However, the other half wasn’t, and Diablo 2’s ladder system and online community was taken very seriously. Therefore, hacking was a problem that needed to be curbed. If Blizzard wants to make its Diablo 3 portion of Battle.net a more fair competitive experience, then they will undoubtedly want to curb hackers in anyway possible. Of course this won’t stop hackers, who will find a way around Blizzard’s safeties, but it will stop many of the less talented or lazy hackers.

Quiet dude, I’m playing D2.

The second issue raised by Blizzard is more likely to be the primary reason for requiring an internet connection and that is piracy concerns. Piracy is a major problem in the entire video game industry, but nowhere is that more apparent than with PC games. The PC game industry has been rocked by piracy for many years, and it has only been getting worse. This drastic step by Blizzard can be seen as being made out of necessity rather than greed or incompetency. After all, a game as big as Diablo 3 is going to be a major target for piracy across the board.

Yeah, I don’t know why they would target the Lord of Terror either.

Of course this doesn’t mean that this practise isn’t going to irritate and annoy a multitude of gamers. Gamers tend to be a rather entitled bunch and cutting out features of a game so it can be more profitable doesn’t usually stand for them. For example, look at the outrage over various console developer’s attempts at curbing used game sales. Bioware and Rocksteady both released day 1 DLC that you could get for free with a new game purchase or preorder. Online passes are becoming standard, and, at the extreme, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries made it impossible to start a new game. These are not ideal solutions to the problem, but gamers should understand where the developers are coming from before they lash out at them. Similarly, the motives behind Blizzard’s online only Diablo 3 have to be assessed before simply condemning the company. If you are a PC gamer and want the PC gaming industry to exist in the next 10 years, you had better be strongly on the anti-piracy wagon, as it is doing some serious damage to the industry. As tempting as it is to get a game for free, you should be more interested in allowing that developer to develop new games.

Totally worth a day 1 purchase, right?

Now that we’ve looked at Blizzard’s reasoning behind restricting Diablo 3, let’s look at how much of a bad idea it is. The internet is extremely widespread and available just about anywhere, but let’s not have any misunderstandings, the internet is not available everywhere. There are circumstances in which it will not be available, and when it isn’t, your Diablo 3 game is worth as much as freshly stepped-on dirt. I am fine with all of the anti-used game approaches that developers have been testing out (Mercenaries bugs me a bit), but none of these prevent you from playing the game. I find it very difficult to get behind a policy from a video game company that can actively prevent you from using the product. It seems like Blizzard went too far on the security side when balancing security and freedom. Battle.net may be one of the largest of its kind, but it isn’t perfect. It will have outages, be off for repair/updates, and so on. It seems to me that Blizzard is going too far in this regard and is punishing the innocent more than they are trying to protect their stake.

All of the man -on-man love helps to easy the can’t start a new game pain

This gets into the major debate over ownership, and I do not intend to delve too deeply here, or I would be typing for the next three months. The intrinsic problem that people have with Diablo 3’s online only policy is that Blizzard is selling a product to them, and thus, in most people’s minds, they have total ownership over the product to do with it as they wish. Of course this isn’t true. There are always restrictions to your ownership of a video game. However, it is very rare for a video game company to put such harsh restrictions on the use of their product. In a world where region locking is becoming obsolete, it is interesting to see Blizzard try to lock out players who want to use their product in an area without internet access. This goes back to the balancing act. People want to have total ownership of their purchase, while developers want to be able to profit from their product. In a perfect world, both would occur, but as it is, many people want the product for free and the developers have to try to prevent this. While their stance is totally understandable, Blizzard is going to far with it, and risks setting a dangerous precedent.

The original A-Team… well maybe 17 years after the actual A-Team, and yes, you’re old.

Let’s not pretend like Blizzard’s online only policy is going to affect sales. Diablo 3 would be an amazing seller if people found out that it was created by Hitler himself. However, Blizzard risks imitation, and, in this case, that could have dire ramifications for the PC gaming world. Developers will always, and should always, try to protect their product from piracy. Any real gamer should want to support their favourite developers, but that is not always the case. Until a better solution is found, Blizzard’s solution may become more and more the norm. In short, let Blizzard know you’re pissed, internet, and it may prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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