Blizzard Facing Investigations In France, Germany Over Diablo III

    June 16, 2012

Diablo III was a huge success for Blizzard. It sold over one million units at retail in its first month in the U.S. alone. The last PC title to do that was, well, StarCraft II. The launch wasn’t free of snags, however, as the always-online game hit major connection problems in its first few days that left many players unable to play. It has already sparked an investigation by the Korean Trade Commission and now more countries are joining in.

France and Germany are now both investigating the botched launch of Diablo III according to a report from Cinema Blend. The French investigation is due to a record 1,500 complaints levied against the developer within four days. They also demanded that Blizzard have a solution in place within 15 days which obviously won’t happen as Blizzard vehemently defends its position. Alongside the demands, they also feel that players are owed compensation for the days that they have not been able to play the game.

That’s all sound and good, but the real kicker comes at the end. The players demand that the French UFC Que Choisir (think FTC) investigate the always-online solution for games. They feel that its unfair of Blizzard, or any other company for that matter, to assume that every player has equal access to a good Internet connection. While it’s easy to assume that everybody has access to super fast broadband, that is simply not the case. It’s a fair argument to say that Blizzard should keep less privileged players in mind.

As for Germany, it’s a little different. The Federation of German Consumer Organizations is investigating Blizzard for potential anti-trust violations. Woah, how does Blizzard violate anti-trust laws? In Germany, it’s a little easier than here in the U.S. to prove since European nations have stricter consumer protection laws. Anyway, the retail boxes for Diablo III in Germany don’t tip players off to two very important functions of the game. It doesn’t alert players that the game requires an always-online connection. The game also does not tell players that the game is eternally tied to a player’s account which prevents resale. Both of these requirements must be made apparent on the retail box for the game in Germany to not be in violation.

These issues have not made a stink in the U.S. and they probably never will. The only unfairness that I see is Blizzard getting a free pass for its always online DRM solution while companies like Ubisoft get torn to shreds by the same gamers for doing the same thing. It’s just another inconsistency in the gamer population that researchers will never understand.