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    How did Diablo III’s launch go for you guys? The feeling I’ve gotten, from reading comments and forum threads, is that most of us (the hardcore fans) were expecting technical problems and B.net issues, and that we just hoped they wouldn’t go on all week (or month). When the log in problems only lasted a few hours, with a few other buggy flare ups over the next few days, I was actually quite relieved. Obviously the launch didn’t go fantastically well, but it could have been a lot worse, and honestly, I expected that it would be.

    Eve Online jabs at Diablo III's error codes.

    If the preceding paragraph is at all an accurate summation of your opinions on Diablo III’s launch, you are far off the curve, since the mainstream consensus is firmly decided that it was a debacle. I collected more than a dozen typical headlines in a big post on Wednesday, and it only takes a glance at those to see what I’m talking about. Error37 even went viral as a #Error37 hashtag on Twitter.

    In some ways, I think Blizzard might have made an error by issuing that apology letter, since all the media observing from a distance took it as an admission of failure that ramified the “terrible launch” meme.

    I titled this post Phase Two, since now that the disaster has been firmly established in the minds of non-players and media critics, they’ve move on to apportioning blame, weighing the fallout, and using the “terrible” launch as a hammer to beat on their own pet issues. The biggest focus of media coverage/hate has been Diablo III’s online-only requirement, which has become the whipping boy for all of Battle.net’s problems, and even a flash point for gamers who hate any sort of anti-piracy or DRM effort.

    A few of the more moderate samples:

  • Wired UK’s Editor says he won’t buy Diablo 3 due to the online-only requirement and thinks that sort of intrusive DRM is unacceptable.
  • Has Diablo 3’s rocky launch hurt PC gaming? Yes, says Indie designer Jeff Vogel.
  • A thoughtful editorial on Stuff NZ ponders the issue of DRM in the digital age and whether or not requiring online-only is a valid piracy prevention technique.
  • A post on Forbes tech blog uses Diablo III’s launch problems as a leaping point into a longer piece about DRM issues in general.
  • Diablo III’s DRM is the focus of most of the zero-bombing user reviews on Metacritic, and while the vast majority of those posts are clearly from haters who would have given D3 a zero for some other reason (such as the “pay to win” RMAH) even if the launch had gone perfectly, the bad launch and online-only requirement has served up their argument on a silver platter. Numerous articles have commented unfavorably on D3’s launch and features by citing the 2.5/5 Amazon score and 3.5/10 Metacritic average. These articles all follow roughly the same path: “Sure those Metacritic hates are dicks, but they have a point…” See Forbes blog, Unleash the Fanboy, MYCE, Digitally Downloaded, and 8 Bit Envy.

    Some of the other media offerings on this issue:

  • Time’s Swampland blog: Online Gaming Bad for Us and Here to Stay?
  • GameRanx: Online-only DRM “sets a dangerous precedent.”
  • Goozer Nation: What constitutes an “acceptable” release?
  • Forbes: Diablo 3’s Launch and the perils of online-only.
  • Venture Beat: Other game characters speak about Diablo 3’s launch.
  • Now Gamer: Quotes an “industry analyst” who says this was embarrassing for Blizzard.
  • AtomicPC: Is a bad launch the end of the world? And if not, why not?
  • Technabob: EveOnline pokes fun at Diablo 3’s launch.
  • It’ll be interesting to see if this controversy has legs. I doubt it, and next week when D3’s no longer the flavor of the moment and the Battle.net servers have performed well for some days, the gaming blogosphere will move on to some other circle jerk. One thing will remain forever, though. The mass media (mis)impression that Diablo 3’s launch was a complete and utter debacle. We’ll be reading and hearing references to that for years.

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