What the hell, guys?
Look, in this month’s regular Fanboy Indoctrination and Proselytizing Monthly magazine, right next to the article about tricking little kids into pre-ordering Mists of Pandaria, you had that whole feature about how awesome Diablo III was going to be. And, obviously, you were right. I sprinkled my incense on my Metzen-Shrine just like every good acolyte, sent in my monthly dues and went to bed with my Huggable-Tyrael Talking doll.
But, look, it’s hard not to get some of the complaints from the unwashed heathens that keep rolling across our desks. Despite my best efforts to stay on script about the Real Money Auction House and always-on DRM, you gotta admit that some of these folks may have a point.
Now, I suspect the banging I hear at my door is probably the Mike Morhaime Faith Adjustment Team, so let me be quick. You guys have been great for years and years, and you remain to my mind one of the top game creators in the world, but it is time to lose the holier-than-thou, above-it-all arrogance that seems to ooze from every comment, statement and news story coming out of the business these days.
My latest last straw was news yesterday that now customers who buy a digital copy of Diablo III will have their game hamstrung for 3 days. Honestly, when I read this I just looked at the story for a solid minute waiting for it to resolve into something logical in my mind. It did not. I mean, if you want me to spin this for you guys, I’m going to need some talking points or a powerpoint or something. I don’t get how to justify and resolve the fact that if I went out and bought a copy of D3 on your online store right now, I’d have little more than a glorified demo, unable to go past level 13, unable to advance through more than the first couple hours of the story, unable to chat with the sanctified general population, unable to play with my friends, unable even to give Blizzard its 15% tithing by buying fancy pants off the auction house until Sunday.
Look, I like to keep a fairly even tone to my articles generally, and I have been accused on more than one occasion of giving an undeserved benefit of the doubt to businesses large and small, but I can’t think of any other way to ask this question.
Are you guys completely stupid now?
I know I’m tottering closer and closer to internet diatribe territory here, and I want to be sensitive to the fact that probably my question seems like the sort of foul-tempered, gutteral mutterings one might expect from a Blizzard forum post -- look forward to my next article Why I’m Starting a Class Action Lawsuit After the Demon Hunter Nerfs. I can even now hear the Faith Adjustment Team cracking through the locks on my front door. Someone is shouting “For Aiur!” and I think that may be some kind of mental trigger, because I suddenly want to give those guys my credit card, but let me eke out a last couple of lucid thoughts here.
I believe that you believe you are doing what’s in the best interest of everyone, and I also believe that you guys have a strong commitment to creating the best game you can within the understood necessities of a more complicated games industry. But there was a time where I remember Blizzard Entertainment making and publicizing key games decisions that were clearly to the benefit of the game and gamer equally even if they were not always the optimal choice from a business. And, sure, sometimes it burned you, but it also was those kinds of decisions that propelled the company into a balanced position of financial, critical and fan success.
Let me tell you, from the outside looking in, as someone who has done all but going door-to-door to ask if people have heard the good word about Azeroth: You guys are blowing it. And, that’s fine. You know just as well as I do that you don’t need that balance to make a ton of money. You don’t need good-will, or broad based critical support. You don’t need the enthusiast press. You don’t need forums that sing the songs of your praises. You don’t need me to get on every podcast and talk about how much fun I’m having with Diablo 3. You can happily flush all of that down the toilet and still sell a hojillion copies of Heart of the Swarm, Mists of Pandaria and whatever Titan turns out to be.
And, as much as I want to come up with a meaningful, cogent way to tell you to cut this crap out of no LAN support, forcing egregious DRM in the name of semantics and now the hobbling of legitimately purchased copies, I can’t. It’ll work, for now. You’ll make a ton of money, for now.
So, let me just say as a fan, it sucks. It’s shameful, and it’s embarrassing for someone who has always tried to assume the best intentions to see the consistent march away from industry-leading games and service to corrupted, fallen hero. You guys are better than this, or at least you were.
I hear the Adjustment team now in the other room, and they’ve apparently got their Conformity Sticks out and charged. But you can still salvage what you were to gamers if it’s something that matters to your company mission anymore, though I suspect maybe it doesn’t. From one of the most ardent fans of your games over the year, come back Blizzard. I miss y—ow!
Have you heard the good news about Mists of Pandaria? It’s going to be awesome and you should preorder it today.