Blizzard, Master of Illusions

There are news that, for those who spend a lot of money on World of Warcraft, there is a free copy of Diablo III waiting for you and you also get a free mount!

The trick is: You need to buy a full year of World of Warcraft. Yes, full year.

Just to check the prices I logged on my old Battle.Net account. The only options I found were monthly ($14.99), 3 months ($41.97, $13.99 per month) or 6 months ($77.94, $12.99 per month). At first I thought they would add a new model, but it’s not there yet. But let’s imagine they will keep the trend and do it $11.99 per month, or $143.88 total. With this you can buy 2 copies of Diablo III. Or you could get one copy and have some cash as cushion for the lost sales in the real money AH.

Also, let’s be honest: If you have both, would you actually play both? I have the slight impression that you would be safer cancelling your World of Warcraft for about 3 months, play Diablo III till you reached some comfortable level, saw everything you could and then return to World of Warcraft (or, basically, you’d be paying for one game and playing the other a lot more). And then there is the catch: You must do this before 2011-11-18. I pretty much doubt Blizzard will release Diablo III before that — and I think it would be a real dick move releasing exactly on that day, so you start paying your World of Warcraft exactly when you are going to spend a lot of time actually exploring Diablo III.

That was the first illusion they were planting today.

The second appeared on “My Games” in the Battle.Net while I was faking a “resubscription” to check the prices. There, I saw this:

No, dear sirs, I did not get a beta key of Diablo III. This is just Blizzard way of trying to entice Battle.Net users to think they already got a Diablo III key (or something).

(Also, I bet the “Tyrael Horse” is as annoying as the “Celestial Stead”.)

Edit: TillEulenspiegel, on RockPaperShotgun post nailed it:

1) They don’t want people leaving WoW to play D3.

2) The marginal cost of each player playing D3 online (ie, the only way possible) for a few hours is negligible. So this costs them a few lost sales, but that’s about it.

3) People who have less time to play D3 (because they’re also playing WoW) are more likely to buy stuff on the RMT auction house, thus fueling the economy.

It’s a cunning plan.

Why Ubisoft Can Have DRM But Blizzard Can’t?

This last week I’ve been bashing Blizzard for adding some sort of DRM but pointing that I’m enjoying Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood a lot, which have the same sort of DRM. Sounds kinda hypocritical, doesn’t it?

Just to start, I’m not against this kind of DRM, as long as it makes sense. For example, it makes sense for World of Warcraft and Rift, on where things don’t work with a single person. A single person realm/shard won’t have an economy, you won’t be able to do all the things and the whole end-game is centered around the end game dungeon/raids (and expert rifts, in the case of Rift).

(I believe no MMO should have its end-game centered only on raids and dungeons — like Blizzard is doing with World of Warcraft and their belief that adding more will bring those 1 million players back — but that’s a whole different discussion for another time.)

For games like Assassin’s Creed and Diablo III, it isn’t bad if you will do something that involves other people. For example, for the Auction House on Diablo III, that’s ok; for the multiplayer combat in Assassin’s Creed, that’s ok. But on single player, when I don’t want to deal with other people, it makes absolutely no sense.

There is also the gameplay in this: For Assassin’s Creed, there is no way you can sit and play for 10 minutes. The story is complex, the controls require some fine graining that you can’t get with touchpads (maybe the “nipple mouse” on Thinkpads will work, but I’m still not quite sure about that either) and there are lots of cut-scenes (too many, I guess: I’m tired of seeing my character cutting recruits fingers when they reach the assassin level). So although it’s not ok to add DRM for single player in this, it still requires you to sit down, find a comfortable chair and be ready to stay sat for some good time. It’s not a quick fix for anything.

Diablo, on the other hand, is the “quick fix for RPG” type of game. Story is the least important thing in the game: All you want is a quick run to get some loot. Who can’t remember doing Mephisto runs in 7 minutes (or less) just to give a chance to get something of value. And Blizzard announced that Diablo III will be even more casual, which we know what it means: It will be easier to get good gear. It’s loot piñata galore! It doesn’t make sense that I have to run through a check list (Is my modem ok? Is my ISP ok? Is there anyone else downloading something? Am I downloading something? Is my OS downloading a patch?) just to play 5 minutes.

But none of this is a super high reason for being ok for some and not ok for some: When Ubisoft added DRM, they said there would be a DRM in the game that would require constant internet connection (and they later payed a high price for that). Blizzard, on the other hand, keeps claiming that the reason it’s in the game is because “when people reach level 20 or 30 or 40 and they want to play online, they will have to start over”. And they are saying that mantra over and over again instead of coming clean and saying it is DRM. If they came, right from start, saying “We had to add DRM to stop piracy ‘cause we found that there are [insert huge number here probably with 6 or more zeroes] pirated copies of Diablo II and we lost [take previous number, multiply by 100] dollars in revenue, so we are sorry we had to resort to this thing”, most people would say “Oh well” and buy it anyway. But weasel words wins nobody affection, and Blizzard screwed this up. Again.

This Is Not The Blizzard You Once Knew…

Today, listening to the The Mailbox (which I recommend watching/listening, just to give a different point of view — it’s different even to mine, in this case), with Totalbiscuit discussing the info released for Diablo III, he said

… and don’t you dare blame this on Activision. Blizzard has made these decisions, they are not separate entities. These ideas are Blizzard’s ideas.

That’s one thing that I thought yesterday. Best World of Warcraft expansion? The Burning Crusade (at least, visually talking). ARPS? Diablo I and Diablo II. Warcraft, StarCraft… all those marked the game industry. And all those lost their talents.

The Blizzard you once knew, made by people who understood what was fun and what not are not there anymore. If you want the old Blizzard respect for players, you’ll have to knock on Ready At Dawn (God of War for PSP), Red 5 Studios (Firefall), Undead Labs (future zombie MMO), Runic Games (Torchlight) and ArenaNet (Guild Wars) doors.