Diablo 3′s Botched Launch: 3 Reasons Gamers Should Care
3. A Problem Getting Worse
We know that few games are perfect, or even could be. And many outright suck. Changes are often made mid development that impact what the final game will look like. Developers often make bad decisions for perfectly sensible reasons. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of failing to anticipate what the player actually wants. But it’s one thing to release a game that isn’t very good; it’s another thing altogether to release a game that fails to function despite months of testing, or lacks promised features. Yet in recent years, we’ve seen an increasing number of games that seem to do just that.
When Peter Molyneux apologized because the original version of Fable shipped minus several crucial features he had specifically crowed about prior to release, it was something of a novelty. Today, in the era when Bioware tried to pass off 1 ending as 16 with a color palate change, and Rage’s notorious PC issues, it’s difficult to remember why people even bothered to complain. Increasingly, we’re being asked as consumers to accept fundamentally broken games at launch as the new normal.
But this is about more than simple error messages and bugs. It’s about the way gaming companies increasingly treat gamers not as customers, but as tenants. Part of the problem with Diablo 3′s launch is the fact that it requires a persistent internet connection in order to play. This means people spend their 60 dollars up front, but cannot play the game they’ve purchased unless Blizzard actually supports it with the appropriate number of servers capable of handling the crush of millions of people rushing to play. Essentially, it means we’re not making a purchase at all, but signing a rental agreement.
We can have a separate discussion of how terrible DRM schemes like this are – and they are indeed terrible – but the issue as we see it is that a landlord who refuses to let you move into the place for which you’ve signed a lease is in violation of the law. Likewise, a landlord who temporarily evicts you without warning is also flirting with legal problems. Whether we are buying their products or merely borrowing them, we should at minimum, actually get access to what we’ve paid the video game industry for. We don’t assign villainous intent to the companies in question, but we should feel quite entitled to have immediate access the second we part with our money.
Ask yourself, what if other industries adopted this kind of business model? What if every new car was released with 4 flat tires or a busted catalytic converter? Even if the broken car came with a promise to fix it for free just as soon as the parts were ready, you’d be furious at having paid full price up front. There would be congressional investigations, mass popular outrage, politicians would make very serious moral charges. The one thing no one would do, however, is accuse drivers of entitlement or lack or perspective for being a bit ruffled. Gamers shouldn’t listen to people who try to do it to them.