Diablo 3’s Long Term Financial Plans?


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A fan brought up and issue we’ve kicked around a few times, and got a semi-answer from a blue.

The Evil Question

I just think about old Diablo games and new one connected to server. We don’t have to pay for service. Just buy game and play it… I just thinking how long it will be supported – maintained? I just hope they will release serverless version of the game if they will shut down this original one. What things going to be? Some people spending all life there…

I can only presume that Blizzard will have servers in place for many years to come.
Vaneras: That is a safe presumption I would think 🙂

Diablo II has been out almost 15 years now for an example, and you can still play that on battle.net.

True, except D2 hasn’t seen any real support since about 2003, in terms of patches with new content. And during the run up to D3, the devs repeatedly said it wasn’t realistic for Diablo 3 to be like Diablo 2, running for free on B.net servers forever. Perhaps that plan has changed, or perhaps sales of the various console versions, and ongoing expansion packs are sufficient to keep Diablo 3 profitable, but the whole “ongoing source of income” thing was one of the main motivations for the Real Money Auction House. That system was revealed back in August 2011 (to general fan support), and then and during the next years, much of the fan debate was in terms of, “okay, RMAH might not be your thing, but they have to fund the game somehow, and an optional RMAH beats a mandatory monthly fee or a cash item shop.”

A thrown out comment from a CM on the EU forums obviously doesn’t constitute a formal declaration of corporate policy, but since the RMAH shut down I’ve been curious how they were going to keep the lights on. I asked Travis Day about that during my interview at Blizzcon 2014, (check transcript at the 4:00 mark) but failed to follow up on the larger financial issue after he answered the part about why they don’t just sell us more stash space.

F2P!

F2P!

So what do you guys think should happen or will happen? Diablo 2 and Starcraft have both existed for years (decades!) on the old “buy a game and play it online for free” model, but that’s not a model many (any?) companies support anymore.

Running secure servers with character storage and regular content updates from a dev team is expensive and capitalism is merciless, which is why virtually every other online game has an old-school WoW-style subscription fee, or, more likely, operates one one of the never free, F2P models with revenue paths that vary from “ethical and optional” to “vampire squid.”

Will Diablo 3 remain free and playable online (only?) forever? Even after the expansions end and the devs have all moved on to Overwatch Diablo 4? I think we can rule out the return of the RMAH, but if/when the game needs more revenue to keep going… what will the devs do? Will we see some of the milder F2P features like an item shop that sells aesthetic improvements (like transmogs or pets or capes), or microtransactions for more stash space or additional character slots? Or paid DLC with new levels and items, like a shooter selling new map packs?

I’m curious what you guys think, so let’s survey on Diablo 3’s Long Term Financial Plans:

What do you think will be Diablo 3's future financial model? (Pick up to 3.)

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Click through for the results of past votes we ran about the RMAH and related issues in Diablo 3.

How do you feel about the D3 Auction House?

  • 1) Like it alot. (37%, 1,665 Votes)
  • 2) Like it except for the RMT. (27%, 1,241 Votes)
  • 5) Hate it. Especially the RMT. (17%, 763 Votes)
  • 3) Not sure/no opinion. (11%, 519 Votes)
  • 4) Don't want, but it's not a biggie. (7%, 330 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,518

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How do you feel about Real Money Trading in video games?

  • 2) It's okay. Time is money. So long as the $ doesn't guarantee an insurmountable advantage. (35%, 1,673 Votes)
  • 5) Hate it. Real $ should have no place in video gaming power balance (29%, 1,405 Votes)
  • 4) Opposed on principle, but the D3 model is tolerable, since it's just player to player trading. (21%, 1,009 Votes)
  • 1) It's awesome. Money should afford advantages in everything, including gaming. (9%, 433 Votes)
  • 3) Don't know. Don't care. (5%, 246 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,766

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What should the Diablo 3 Expansion do with the Auction House?

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Why has Blizzard turned against the D3 Auction House? (Pick all that apply.)

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Do you currently use the Diablo 3 Auction House?

View Results

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Comments

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  1. I've often wondered this myself. I wanted to purchase the game again when it had the holiday sale for my 4 year old nephew who has played Diablo with me many times before, but I don't work so couldn't get it. Still, I like the idea of him having his own account to play (if he wanted to) when he's a teenager. 🙂

  2. “True, except D2 hasn’t seen any real support since about 2003, in terms of patches with new content. ”

    That has to be some kind of typo because D2 OBVIOUSLY AND CLEARLY got content patches after that.

    New Runewords, New Events, New Respec and so on and so on.

    lol You couldn’t even be more wrong. A statement like blue is red is closer to the truth.

    • If you consider a couple of dozen new items added over 10 years to be ongoing content support, that's fine. They've added more stuff, like respecs went in 2009 or so, since the D3 team wanted to test out how they'd work in D2.

      The comparison is to what people expect from D3 today, with major new content and game systems and leg items every few months, and plenty of fans complaining that's much too slow as it is. If D3 added "content" the way D2 has since 2004, fans would consider it abandoned.

      • I never said at any point in my post that it is “10 years of ongoing content support”. Pointless to put words in my mouth.
        Also that was clearly not all of the things that were added, like I pointed out in my post.

        There were also the new events that added more hours of gameplay than all of the Call of Duties SP campaigns sum up in the last 10 years.

  3. I've been a little perplexed by their reluctance to monetize the game. Sell us stash space. Sell us transmogs. Banner art…anything cosmetic. and character slots.

    Monetizing the game would give the company incentive to actually work on it at a faster rate. It would make their primary goal to keep us in the game. It seems evil but it works so well at the corporate level. And as the common joke is that Bobby bucks wants your money, it amazes me they haven't gone this route after the AH closure. (which itself was a stunning event that I never thought possible though wanted badly)

    It just seems to me that this sort of game begs for this type of monetization. PoE has shown it works perfectly. As long as you aren't selling power it works.

  4. I too have struggled to understand why they haven't found a way to put microtransactions in the game, especially if it will help keep the team large enough to make some of the changes they clearly want to make happen faster.

    There are tons of quick things that could be done that wouldn't be equivalent to pay-to-win. Stash space, character slots, and transmogs are at the top of that list, but second gear/skill hot key for non-GR could also be nice. Also, if they insist on keeping crafting mats and gems in the stash, increasing the stack size for some small price would be totally worth.

  5. When you run a traceroute because "omg ping so bad", you put on the same IP of a WoW server, so I believe the WoW crowd are paying our server bills – and I think they deserve that 🙂 (I dislike MMO's so much that I think that kind of people should pay an extra for such tastes, allowing ARPGs to be free to play after the initial purchase – because ARPGs are fun and MMOs aren´t 😀 )

    Seriously, now, bnet server IPs:

    https://us.battle.net/support/en/article/performing-a-traceroute

    D3 Americas = WoW Americas
    Europe = WoW Europe
    Korea = HotS and HS Taiwan and Korea
    Taiwan = WoW Taiwan
    Australia = WoW Oceania

    Since all D3 servers seem to be tied to cash gra… games that generate monthly revenue, I think they are "forever" fine. Imo, no d3 sales money goes to servers – just because wow alone more than pays for those nowadays (and they will try to replace it with something else if it ends someday). D3 money seems to cover dev. costs, size of team, etc. Eventually this part will fade someday (other games), but they will use server budget for other games in benefit of the remaining players – or at least, the server structure looks like that. I.e. when someone makes a ddos against wow, they ddos d3 as a free of charge bonus.

    So no, blizzard doesn't run servers for free – someone is paying for it.

    I'm glad it isn't me, that's why I'm not eager for microtransations or throwing my few pennies at a multi-bilionare company. The downside are some leg spikes on wow expansion releases – and when 1 game goes down, everything crashes and burns.

    I don't know who is paying for bnet 1.0 servers, but maybe there's just a good amount of cash flowing around to keep those servers up and running.

    Even if the game is broken – in the sense that there's always a couple huge "fixes" every year – the franchise is important enough, as in – "it's important to keep d3 alive just to explain who are those guys on Heroes of the Storm".

    • Those are most likely just servers in the same datacenter that Blizzard uses to test network path issues. If the issue seems to be in the datacenter, they know to look at their own service. If it seems to be on the path, then it's likely the players ISP or one of the backbone networks that the connection traverses. In short, I don't think that has anything to do with where the funding for the servers is coming from.

    • People seem to have a weird idea about what "a server" actually it's. It's just a computer running a piece of software that accepts client connections. That's it.

      The IP address will be of the datacenter that hosts (physically stores) the servers. There will definitely be separate dedicated HW for WoW, and separate dedicated HW for Diablo 3. WoW clearly will pay for the WoW servers, but there's no revenue from D3 to pay for the D3 servers. Of course all of Blizzard's revenue goes into a big pot and is used to pay all expenses, but the point still stands that the D3 service itself isn't bringing in a cash stream to pay for the D3 server HW, maintenance and bandwidth.

      • D3, however, brought in a large amount of money up front, and then brought in another large chunk when ROS dropped. That's what's used to cover (well justify is probably a better word) the expenses of the current infrastructure. It's when it comes time to life cycle a few years after the last expansion that the lack of consistent revenue will become an issue.

  6. Enable offline mode = Cost of servers solved.

    • I assume Blizzard has data that shows the online only leads to much higher sales by making piracy a non-issue.

      I think our only chance of ever seeing offline mode in D3 will come years from now, when/if they stop putting out expansions and thus figure the ongoing sales will be minimal, hence piracy won't be a big issue. And might even help, since it would let new people play and serve as advertising for future Diablo products.

    • I visited a friend who had D3 on his PS4, and played a little w/ him. For s–ts and giggles, we joined a random public game, and egads, the hacks. Oh, the glorious glorious hacks. Not amateur hour junk like botting, TPPK, or dupes. Fully customized and optimized gear sets w/ absurdly broken numbers, cooldown and cost free teleport for all classes, etc. The real deal hacks. Stuff that were hilarious to watch for a few minutes, but made the game pretty much unplayable. Once you go offline, it's a strictly single player or couch co-op game. You can't have any multiplayer at that point. Just like open B.net for D2, even when compared to closed B.net.

  7. I believe RMAH was an experiment in monetization. Blizzard would never bank on an untested income source.

    Besides, D3 is most likely a loss leader to attract attention to their real money maker. WoW pulls in about $1.2 billion annually. That's compared to $600 million for d3 launch.

    Servers and bandwidth cost nothing compared to these figures.

  8. …except Vampyroteuthis Infernalis (literally "Vampire Squid from Hell", and also the scientific name!) is a filter-feeder…
    <a href="http://youtu.be/G4U0vG2bxy0">here.</a&gt;

  9. To my knowledge, most MMO’s these days are actually free to play. The few MMO’s who do try monthly subscriptions seem to fail hard and revert to free to play within a year (Star Wars: the Old Republic, Lord of the Rings online, Warhammer online).

    It seems WoW is actually the exception to the rule instead of the other way around.

  10. Ugh, this particular topic (like the art debate) never fails to cause some major unrest for me whenever it's brought up again. To summarize:

    1.) Financing Model
    Both D3 games so far were very regular boxed products with rather high initial prices. They were by no means free games that just had to rely on making money through in-game sales/DLC/microtransactions.

    2.) Price/Product Correlation
    As suggested above, comparing the product to its' initial pricing, I would expect to already have paid for several years of server upkeep in advance. This is especially true for the expansion which re-used the existing framework and partly previously discarded content; basically offering one more act of content for the 2/3 price of the first four.

    3.) Microtransactions outperforming Expectations
    Despite being a premium-priced boxed product, D3 already had a bonus micro-transaction system in place with the auction house in order 'to cover long-term server expenses'. When initially announced, real money item prices of a few cents to low, single-digit dollar/euro sums were projected. Prices ended up being much higher than initially suggested, thus trumping Blizzard's anticipated additional income.

    4.) "Ongoing Support"?
    Considering the state in which the games shipped (especially classic D3), it remains rather questionable whether there is continued support going on for the released products or whether they are still being finished while already being sold. Blizzard has stated several times that they did not plan to offer additional post-release content since D3 was not conceived as an MMORPG with a monthly fee, so patch content is probably better considered as already compensated stuff which didn't make it in time for release. Read up on "Perpetual beta" as a development principle.

    5.) Savings
    Finally, of course, it has always been entirely Blizzard's decision to enforce a server connection requirement even for the substantial part of single player games. If the money they made/saved by preventing piracy, preventing private resale and the ability to ship an unfinished and insufficiently tested game through their online-requirement doesn't cover up for supporting the manageable masses of enthusiats who plan to play this long-term, then frankly nothing ever will.

    I'm quite sure there are still many, many more points to prove that introducing further methods of monetisation to D3 would be gilding the lilies in terms of costs of operation. Like many arguments, this particular issue seems to derive from the impression that Blizzard refuses to offer MMORPG-style service for the game while still claiming MMORPG-style production liberties for its development. Of course, all of this is just subjective opinion based on regular active observation of D3's development and marketing process.

  11. It is too soon for doom and gloom. RoS did very well, so I don’t see a reason why we should not see at least two more expansions. Diablo 4 is not even on table at Blizzard at this point in time, I bet.

  12. I expect them to support it until D4 is out the door. I am kind of surprised D2 is still going, but am happy because I still play it every couple of ladder seasons.

  13. There is one simple answer for all those “problems” with D3… PoE

    Sad to say it coz I’m Diablo fan (played D1,D2,D3) but thats true :/

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