Diablo III: A Lesson in Ownership

I always told myself I wasn’t going to turn into an old man who sat on the porch and tilted his rocking chair back and forth, popping his dentures in and out of place while discussing the finer points of “how it used to be.”

Still, today’s haphazard launch of Diablo III reminded me of the days of my youth, when you could purchase a game, take it out of the box, and — oh, I don’t know, play it?

Bear in mind, I don’t care about Diablo III one bit. I’m happy for the folks who are excited about it, but PC gaming isn’t for me. Still, friend of the show Jason does care about the game, and he went to the midnight release to pick up his copy and play for a little bit before going to bed for work in the morning.

Turns out he didn’t get to play at all. That’s because Blizzard’s servers produced a litany of problems last night that screwed up character creation and produced multiple glitches — and that was for the handful of people who could actually log on. Remember, in an attempt to stop people from hacking and breaking the game’s economy, Diablo III’s singleplayer experience has to be played online. So even the poor folks who just want to adventure on their own and not join in with friends are screwed, because they have to connect to Blizzard’s servers to play.

To me, this feels like the continuation of a trend that I don’t particularly like. Coupled with the news that the next generation of consoles may try to shut down used gaming altogether, it’s another step toward removing ownership from players to help protect the sacred cow that is video games. Sure, the industry is in the middle of a slump right now, with year-over-year sales plummeting. I get that companies are trying to leverage against that. But the question boils down to something simple: What exactly are you paying for when you buy a game?

At this point, the utopia for game companies appears to be giving you access to a single playthrough of their cinematic experience, then taking the game away and dangling it over your head like you’re a child. You want to have a better ending, Mass Effect 3 fans? Too bad. Not interested in online play, Diablo III lovers? Doesn’t matter. Want to share that game disc with a friend so he can play too? That’ll cost you 60 more bucks, son — you don’t own a damn thing. Oh, and best of luck if you like that console-exclusive character, preorder weapon or DLC-only campaign.

I’m sure Blizzard will get things straightened out soon. By all accounts, most people are starting to be able to log on now, although there was some emergency maintenance this morning that proved to be another roadblock. (EDIT: Apparently that’s not the case and there are still issues as I write this, 24 hours after release. Whoops.)

But this is still the latest example of control being taken out of the players’ hands, and as a player, I can safely say that I’m not a fan.

4 thoughts on “Diablo III: A Lesson in Ownership

  1. I tend to take a negative view of these trends as well. My optimistic side is hoping, however, that these kinds of debacles will becomes less frequent as technology progresses. But it definitely seems that the unwritten rule of games that require you to be online (whether they’re MMOs or games with draconian digital protection) is that they will be broken on day one. Maybe the lesson is don’t try to play right away?

    1. That’s kind of a sad lesson. lol

      The technology improving is a good point. Eventually, you’d think developers would have to be taking something away from the mistakes of their huge game launches. I think it has to be our hope at this point.

  2. What do you get when you buy a game? The license. When you buy a DVD, or a music CD, or any other digital merchandise, you aren’t buying a copy that you own and can do whatever you want with. You’re buying a license that has very strict perimeters with what you are allowed to do with it set by the people who own it. This is how it’s always bee. If you start a DVD you’ll notice that FBI thing that flat out tells you what you are legally allowed and not allowed to do with the disc you bought. You don’t own Diablo III, you don’t even own a copy of it, Blizzard owns it, because they created it. Don’t like it, then hope you never have to work in a field were your paycheck is at the mercy of online piracy.

    1. Right…except there’s not much point in a license if Blizzard’s servers don’t allow its players to use it. Then consumers are paying $60 for a useless disc.

      As for the parameters, this used game restriction is unprecedented. Sure, I should expect some form of punishment if I copy and distribute a DVD. But there’s absolutely nothing that stops me from giving Anchorman to a friend to let him watch it before he returns it. In fact, this new used game lockdown would prevent you from using your game on more than one system that YOU OWN — like if your PS3 died and you had to buy a new one. So yes, piracy is a problem and publishers need to be paid for their work, but this is too far.

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