Korea Sues Blizzard Over Diablo 3 Set-up

Hon­estly, I’m shocked no one here in the states has thought of doing this yet.

The gov­ern­ment has launched an inves­ti­ga­tion into Bliz­zard Enter­tain­ment over alle­ga­tions that the Amer­i­can com­puter gamemaker has refused to refund Kore­ans who pur­chased its lat­est real-time role-playing game Dia­blo 3.

The Fair Trade Com­mis­sion (FTC) said the firm is sus­pected of hav­ing vio­lated the country’s law on elec­tronic com­merce and com­mer­cial con­tracts. The FTC said Tues­day that it raided the firm’s Seoul office Mon­day and secured related doc­u­ments and other evi­dence with which it will deter­mine whether Bliz­zard broke the law.

The inves­ti­ga­tion comes only two weeks after the release of the game, which has sold more than 6.3 mil­lion copies world­wide.
Larger-than-expected traf­fic to the online game’s sev­ers made it extremely dif­fi­cult for its users to access the game, par­tic­u­larly on week­day nights and week­ends, accord­ing to Bliz­zard Korea.

Some buy­ers of the game vented frus­tra­tion over server shut­downs and asked for refunds, but the com­pany refused to do so, cit­ing sales con­tract terms, which the FTC says is dis­ad­van­ta­geous to consumers.

Bliz­zard said it dou­bled the capac­ity of servers Fri­day and pledged to improve ser­vices fur­ther in order to pre­vent a recur­rence of the problem.

Despite the move, major por­tals have already been receiv­ing mes­sages denounc­ing Blizzard’s poor ser­vice. Hun­dreds of users have filed for­mal com­plaints with the FTC, call­ing for an inves­ti­ga­tion by the regulator.

We have received many com­plaints from Dia­blo 3 users,” said Kim Hyung-bae, a spokesman for the FTC. He admit­ted that an inves­ti­ga­tion into Bliz­zard is under­way, but refused to elaborate.

Why is this hap­pen­ing?  The gang over at Rea­son explains.

Dia­blo III is the lat­est (and the largest) rep­re­sen­ta­tion of rel­a­tively new trend in com­puter gam­ing, requir­ing con­stant Inter­net con­nec­tion and access to a company’s servers in order to play, even if the game does not have mul­ti­player com­po­nents. In Dia­blo III, up to four play­ers can run around slay­ing demons together and ignor­ing its tragi­com­i­cally awful sto­ry­line, but it can also be played com­pletely solo. Even alone, though, play­ers must have a work­ing inter­net con­nec­tion at all times.

The con­nec­tion require­ment exists for sev­eral rea­sons, most of which are con­nected to fight­ing piracy and cheat­ing. If you’re a non-gamer won­der­ing why Bliz­zard would care if peo­ple cheat in the games they bought, the game has an online auc­tion house that will even­tu­ally allow peo­ple to buy items in the game from each other for real-world money. In Dia­blo II (which did not have such an auc­tion house and did not require con­stant Inter­net con­nec­tion), the game’s “econ­omy” suf­fered from hack­ers fig­ur­ing out ways to dupli­cate items in the game and sell­ing them to other play­ers in a vir­tual black mar­ket. In Dia­blo III, parts of the game are on the play­ers’ com­put­ers, but some assets are on Blizzard’s servers to make it much harder for hack­ers to engage in vir­tual coun­ter­feit­ing and manip­u­lat­ing the mar­ket. The issue is com­pli­cated and con­tro­ver­sial and no doubt it will be a focus of dis­cus­sion with Hit and Run com­menters below for any­body who wants to drill down deeper into the subject.

What has hap­pened here is that Blizzard’s servers are cur­rently unable to accom­mo­date the num­ber of peo­ple who want to play their game. So even those who have Inter­net access might not be able to play their copy of the game because of prob­lems on Blizzard’s end. The com­plainants are demand­ing refunds because they can’t play their games when they want to, even though the games them­selves are not bro­ken, a com­pli­cated con­sumer issue that is bound to get more com­plex as games and infor­ma­tion become less and less tied to per­sonal pieces of equip­ment (like a PC).

Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters fur­ther, Dia­blo III isn’t a subscription-based game like World of War­craft, which has a monthly fee. Bliz­zard has cred­ited World of War­craft accounts in the past when unex­pected server prob­lems ren­dered the game unplayable for long lengths of time. Con­sumers pay for Dia­blo III entirely up front. There’s no mech­a­nism for deter­min­ing the value of being unable to play for two days in a month, for example.

Dur­ing the course of my game­play of Dia­blo III, I’ve suf­fered through two pro­longed server out­ages.  The first was on the day of game launch which showed the strain of what Bliz­zard — a French Com­pany with its US arm once being called “Bliz­zard North” — had not antic­i­pated for gamers.

The sec­ond was after the first patch to game was added on Wednes­day.  Bliz­zard told users it was hav­ing server issues try­ing to coor­di­nate gamers across the globe to the new updates.

It ticks you off, espe­cially since the major­ity of my game play has been solo, with maybe six hours total over the Memo­r­ial Day Week­end being co-op play.  But on one level, I under­stand why Bliz­zard is try­ing to avoid hacks, piracy, and other shenani­gans in its game (and the game’s black mar­ket econ­omy which tends to exist out­side of it).

Then again, I could be my friend with a dial-up con­nec­tion.  He’s told me he can’t play the game at all.

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