Diablo 3′s Botched Launch: 3 Reasons Gamers Should Care
2. Bad for Gaming
But setting aside the inconvenience for customers, diabacles – sorry, debacles – like this are also bad for the gaming industry.
A parable: Sony co-founder Akio Morita’s excellent autobiography, Made In Japan, mentions how, as a young boy in the 1930s, he toured several Detroit auto manufacturing plants with his father. When he returned 30 years later, this time as a powerful Japanese business leader, he did the same tour and found that these factories still used the same machinery, the same labor management, the same everything. His conclusion was that they assumed they’d never have competition, and thus had no interest in changing to suit an evolving business climate or changing consumer needs.
That’s important to keep in mind when you consider what happened in the late 60s and early 70s. It’s considered a cliche for a reason to point out how much maintenance American cars require, but it needs to be noted how much that used to be a much bigger aspect of owning one of them, so much so that standard purchases came with lengthy service plans. As the Japanese and German auto industries muscled in on Detroit’s business, they did so with cars that simply worked, and worked for a long time. They also made them more fuel efficient, in part due to not having access to vast oil reserves like the US did. When the oil shocks of the 1970s took America by surprise, American consumers were pushed into the arms of Japanese auto manufacturers and discovered that not only did they save money on gas, they also saved money from not having to spend so much money just keeping the things running.
But it wasn’t just maintenance and fuel efficiency. At every turn, the US Auto industry has resisted any kind of change that suits actual resource and economic conditions. The problem is so acute that whenever Detroit has started to surge, as it did in the late 90s and early 00′s with the enormous popularity of SUVs, they simply go back to old habits: Big, expensive, high maintenance gas guzzlers, only to have their asses handed to them whenever the economy shivers.
The video gaming industry doesn’t have Detroit’s excuse. It has been a global concern since its beginnings in the 1970s. But as certain companies become bigger and more powerful, they’ve begun to adopt a similarly intractable outlook. It shouldn’t come as a shock that more than a few people have commented on the way Diablo 3 seems to be the first game not released under Blizzard’s time-honored ‘when it’s ready’ schedule, but was instead pegged to an arbitrary (and, we speculate, investor friendly) release date. Similarly, evidence suggests that Mass Effect 3′s notoriously bad ending was also the result of the game being rushed to meet a release date. The results were different, but the process appears to be the same: either each company suffered from a massive bout of incompetence, or they did a cost/benefit analysis and determined that they could get away with inconveniencing their customers more than they could get away with upsetting the people who dictate release schedules. Either way, they shipped an inferior product when they didn’t have to.
That is an astonishing business model. It assumes customers will never grow weary of being jerked around, that they have infinite capacity for forgiveness, and that they have nowhere else to go. And for now, maybe they don’t. But it won’t be like that forever. Hubris like this bodes ill for an industry still fighting to be recognized as a legitimate creator of cultural product… especially if it is successful in convincing the customer to give their good will without any expectation of reciprocation.