Was Blizzard’s Diablo III Language Option Removal Legal?


On June 8th, Blizzard abruptly locked the language options in some versions of Diablo III. This mainly affected the Russian and Brazilian markets, where Diablo III was not available until June 7th (3 weeks after the rest of the word), and where many eager players had bought international versions of the game which they were playing in English.

This caused a lot of anger from players who suddenly found the language of their game changed and locked, and it especially angered game resellers, who bought digital copies of Diablo III from Blizzard, for resale in their local markets, and suddenly found themselves stuck with devalued copies of the game since they couldn’t sell them in a variety of languages. This issue spurred a recent editorial from Games On Net, which argues the legality of such a maneuver.

The case of the serial key sellers hinges on what Blizzard said to them before release. They’re claiming that Blizzard sold them fixed-language games promising that they were the standard editions. If this is true, then it’s possible that the serial key sellers have a case to sue Blizzard for fraud. However, it’s also possible that the key sites simply didn’t pay attention at time of purchase, and passed this ignorance onto their customers.

Unfortunately, we can’t know which of these scenarios happened. The only way to work this out is to know the private discussions between Blizzard and the key sites. Without this knowledge, speculating on who said what is pointless. Proving fraud is difficult, and requires more than someone simply losing money. It would have to be shown, for example, that Blizzard purposefully misled the serial key sites. We don’t know this.

However, what we do know is that serial key sites are calling for gamers to stand behind them. So what we can do is to look at whether gamers themselves have legitimate reason to be angry at Blizzard.

As we’ve seen in other recent editorials, gamers do not have many/any rights in the current structure of software EULAs and DRMs, which means that pretty much anything publishers do is by definition “legal” since they’re the ones who write the rules.

It seems to me that many players did not care about virtual property rights years ago, when we were buying physical copies of games and could play them as we liked, offline, on our own machines. As that option becomes more and more a thing of the past, as with Diablo III, it’s spurring more protests and legal issues, since any change the publishers make now affects all players — even those who never wanted to play the game online at all.

Tagged As: | Categories: Legal, Online-Only Diablo 3

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  1. Question to Flux: How long have MMO’s been around ?

    How come you never asked those questions 10 years ago ?

    And for the 300 time: HOW is this ANY different from Magic the Gathering changing card text/rules and so changing the trading of a card from 100 dollars to 25 cents ?

    It is called the rights of the game publisher.

    Your right ,as a customer, is playing a game another one makes available on their terms.

    • Question not being asked for 10 years is NEVER a good reason for not asking it now.

      Customers have far more rights than what the editors state on their terms.
      Particulary, if the editors’ terms go againts the laws, those terms are “null”. See
      also Snipeattacker answer.

      As for text changes in MTG cards I remember that older cards with original text were traded for a higher value than modified ones (Alpha Fungausaur for example).

      Cheers and relax.

  2. “As we’ve seen in other recent editorials, gamers do not have many/any rights in the current structure of software EULAs and DRMs, which means that pretty much anything publishers do is by definition “legal” since they’re the ones who write the rules.”

    Although this might be the case in the U.S., but not in Europe and definitly not in The Netherlands. Consumers have extensive rights here, and EULA’s mean nothing when a national or international law is broken. Also, when a law does not exist or is unclear, a judge will generally rule in favour of the consumer.

    Maybe it is time for consumers in the U.S. to rise up and try to finally get some consumer rights?

    • I think the lack of consumer protection in the u.s. is one reason we are seeing such a trend toward the more restrictive. I certainly think that the u.s. could do with more consumer protection than we have currently and applaud those countries that have those laws/agencies

  3. LOL.

    Consumer rights ? when these same consumers copied everything they could lay their hands on for 30 years in the history of video gaming/music? …

    That’s a good one. Because ALL the whining about on line only can be really narrowed to this one simple thing isn’t it ?

    You no longer see a Diablo game on torrents. (unless you want to have a key logger installed of course).

    All that shit on the right to own a full disk copy can be traced back to this one simple fact really: You no longer can act like a thief against the author(s).

    How about I search your Ipads, Ipods, PC’s for some illegal software/music/videos first… and then I’ll discuss those famous consumer rights for changing a text file on a server.

    • Hmm I wonder why your so fast to do this, I expect because you done this and so are assuming everyone else does. BTW any one welcome to come check my stuff for stolen goods etc as you wont find a thing.

    • “Consumer rights ? when these same consumers copied everything they could lay their hands on for 30 years in the history of video gaming/music? ……”

      This is only sophisms and very poor arguments.

      You cannot reject consumers’ rights in general because some consumers may have broken the law.

      There are marketing issues with the way Blizzard want to sell it’s product, there are legal issues when in-game dispositions allow selling and reselling of virtual stuff (char equipement).
      You cannot sweep away these issues because of pirat copy, the later has nothing to do with the former.

  4. EULAs are generally not worth anything due to the fact that you normally see the terms & conditions after you paid for the goods (The only time it can be enforced is when its referring to an on going service IE online play). The only bit that applies is the stuff that already written into law, IE copyright etc. Also if the law states you can do something and the EULA says you cant the law over rules what the EULA says. That is any contract EULA or otherwise cant remove anything the law says you can do/should have, it can add to it though. IE Copyright law says you cant make copies but the EULA says you can make 1 copy then you are allowed to make 1 copy.

    As for this case the folk who brought the “fixed-language games” have a case of fraudulent selling vs the companies that sold the game, including Blizzard if they anywhere said that these versions where full multilingual versions of the game. If I remember rightly there was a blue post that stated that they where, so Blizzard has committed fraudulent selling.

  5. I don’t know if blizzard has broken the law or not, but it certainly appears once again that they are atleast walking the line.

    It doesn’t appear blizzard is entirely worried about being ethical however. They have no problem taking peoples money and then changing/locking people out afterwards.

    All it would take is a little transparancy up front, but again that doesn’t appear to be something blizzard will do until after they have taken money

  6. It’s a really fascinating legal landscape. Exciting times!

  7. Why does everyone suddenly think Blizzard would be working with third party resellers for key only in the first place ? They advise against these third party sites and offer no support if you buy a key-only from anyone else and get scammed.

    The only website that actually legitimately sells digital keys is the Blizzard Store itself – you cannot buy a D3 key for someone else as it automatically adds to your account.

    All these other sites do is buy up retail stock, open the box, and sell on the key. Makes sense they would go for the cheapest retail stock, i.e. Language limited…

    Now I can’t vouch for all retail copies, but I have seen that the RU language limited version states it clearly on the box that its Russian only….

  8. Well, I’m brazilian. I had the option to download the english client or the br-portuguese client. I just downloaded the english client (I only talk about d3 in a serious level with english-speakers, on internet boards) and wasn’t really aware of the controversy.

    I understand why I want a boxed copy (I like boxes), but I bought the game on the pre-sale, in local currency (no international card was used/required), paid for it on a bank near my house and, after 1-2 days, I could download the game in any language (I don’t know if it’s locked or not as we speak).

    What I don’t get is: why people need resellers for digital copies? That’s not really the point of the post, but I’m curious… (for real).

    On the legal eula drm whatever issues, I hope everyone find out a solution that works for everyone. I dunno how it’s on Russia, but here, people will really complain about this if their game isn’t in portuguese anymore, due to felling disrespected.

    There isn’t really a “language barrier”, as I have a lot of friends who played D2 and know nothing/close to nothing of english back then. On a fun note, a friend of mine owns a card game store and there are kids there (usually younger brothers) playing magic in small tournments without knowing how to read.

    No language barrier on games, (sometimes stuff like kanji can puzzle people) imo. Just a player-reseller-Blizz issue – and a big one, I imagine.

  9. People outside of Russia arent really supposed to buy the Russian version of a game, since the games are typically sold a lot cheaper there. The same might be true for Brazil?
    This has been a problem for game publishers in relation to Russian versions for some time now.

    Resellers buying games from Russia to try and resell them very well knows that, so it is really hard to care about their loss.

    Sucks for customers of course, though a lot of them probably knew as well.

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