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The Lawbringer: Diablo sells lots, Blizzard dodges another bullet

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Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Mathew McCurley takes you through the world running parallel to the games we love and enjoy, full of rules, regulations, and esoteroic topics that slip through the cracks.

Blizzard has been off to a pretty good start with Diablo III, selling who-cares-at-this-point millions of copies of the game people have been waiting over a decade to get their hands on. The craziest part about the whole thing is that it lived up to the hype -- a new Diablo game that felt like a Diablo game. Good for you, Blizzard! That's not what today's Lawbringer is about, no sir or ma'am. I've got a few topics I'd like to ramble on about today.

You know those days in high school when the teacher was inbetween lesson plans and they just sort of rambled to you for that one day that they had set aside in case Federico didn't understand the "green light" symbolism in The Great Gatsby? That story happened, but I changed the names to make it more funny to the people who get the joke. Great way to start off this edition, right? Make the most inside-baseball column on WoW Insider get a little more in-jokey. Mat, you sure know how to hook 'em.

No, wait, stay. I've got lots to say about Diablo III, the potential issues with the real money auction house, and my own thoughts on the cross-realm compromise and dodging the dreaded "merge." I think you'll have plenty to say in the comments after today's topics -- they are some of my favorites.

Diablo III sold enough copies

It both confounds and infuriates me that analysts, Blizzard, or anyone is talking about the number of copies of Diablo III were purchased during the first 12-hours, 24-hours, short weekened, long weekend, yadda yadda. At this point, Diablo III sold enough copies. Enough copies to break records, enough copies for it to be a hit, and enough copies to secure Blizzard's place as king of the jungle when it comes to games that make me want to rip off my arm and replace it with a Roto-Matic Clicktron 9000.

Why do we care at this very moment how many copies of Diablo III were purchased? Can't we just play the game and then count the number of activated accounts and keys and all that to find the answer? Blizzard did finally give us the answer we were looking for, which surprised the hell out of me because of the way the Annual Pass copies of Diablo III were handled.

Here's the important part of the press release about Diablo III's numbers, just to give you an idea of how massive this game is and will be:

Diablo III sells, like, a zillions
IRVINE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. today announced that as of the first 24 hours of Diablo® III's release, more than 3.5 million copies had been sold, setting the new all-time record for fastest-selling PC game.* That number does not include the more than 1.2 million players who received Diablo III as part of signing up for the World of Warcraft® Annual Pass promotion. Altogether, more than 4.7 million gamers around the world were poised to storm Sanctuary on day 1 of Diablo III's release -- representing the biggest PC-game launch in history.

As of the first week of the game's availability, that number had already grown to more than 6.3 million.* The above figures also do not include players in Korean Internet game rooms, where Diablo III has become the top-played game, achieving a record share of more than 39% as of May 22.†


Let's break that down even more than Blizzard did. 3.5 million copies were pre-ordered and sold on launch night just from consumers. Another 1.2 million copies were unlocked for WoW Annual Pass subscribers who got Diablo III free from the promotion. Another 1.6 million copies were sold through the first week of release. That's a lot of copies of Diablo III.

So how the hell is another game supposed to beat this PC launch? Many people are calling Diablo III the messiah of PC gaming, calling to gamers to boot up their laptops and desktops for gaming again, as shown by the massive sales figures. There are people out there playing Diablo III -- a whole bunch of them -- and this game is not available on any consoles or Facebook.

No other game or game company can break Diablo's new records, so why bother trying? Just call the current record "Diablo" and then whenever something comes around that's bigger on the PC than Diablo, we'll dethrone the demon and call it something else. In the meantime, I guess whatever vague number in the 8 million category will do for the next investor call.

Does a $250 cap on real-money auctions defeat the purpose?

I won't spend too much time on the Diablo real money auction house because, well, it's not out yet, but people have asked me about the max real money bid that is in place. Blizzard will not allow an item to sell for more than $250 on the real money auction house, which many players say defeats the purpose of offering the service altogether. You can only have up to $250 in your Battle.net Balance -- all other currencies and conversions can be found here.

The real money auction house is not some flippant place that players will casually peruse. This is the hardcore of the hardcore, the people dedicated to the gods of min/max, the people who play Diablo with the utmost passion. Or, as Sacco clued me in to, a large amount of gold to facilitate other types of trade.

I'm sure Blizzard has their reasons for the real money cap and I'd like to hear them. Frankly, big ticket items will go for big ticket money on the grey market. Relax the grip a bit on the real money auction house, Blizzard. You can wait and see what the player feedback is to it first, of course. I wouldn't want to rush you. We've got plenty of time and there will be plenty of items to sell.

Cross-realm zones dodge the bad "M" word

The worst word you can utter around an MMO is "merge." Whenever an MMO talks about server merging, they are revealing to the world that the population of each realm is less than adequate to facilitate the types of gameplay offered. Warhammer Online, for instance, opened many servers for launch day but had to merge them together after initial demand went down. Not a fault of the game, mind you, but after the free month every game sees a dip. It took WoW years to get anywhere near its current success.

People have been waiting for the day when Blizzard announces server merges because it means the beginning of the end of World of Warcraft -- the Merge Horse of the WoWpocalypse. When the number of people logging into WoW becomes cause for server mergers, people get the impression that the population is low, when in reality it is just spread out.

Blizzard had two options with regard to server merges, because it has to happen at some point one way or the other. The first option is to just go ahead and merge servers. Bite the bullet, put together a comprehensive list of how the servers will be merged, and just do it. Rip the band-aid off, let the haters say WoW is dead in the water, release Mists of Pandaria shortly after, and everyone goes home a winner.

The second option is come up with some type of all-new server technology that eliminates the need for server merges because now servers interact with each other seamlessly, much like the cross-server grouping Real ID features recently added to WoW. Blizzard went with the second option, in its entirety. WoW has become repopulated again through the use of cross-realm zones.

So what was the purpose of this discussion? Blizzard is skillful and adept at dodging the common perils of the MMO industry. Much like a not-destined-to-sink cruiseship, Blizzard sails through the rough seas, crashing through every iceberg in its path. Who cares about convention? We're Blizzard, dammit. Let's never merge servers; instead, let's build technology that essentially merges servers without anyone knowing it. Pretty damn smart.

This column is for entertainment only; if you need legal advice, contact your lawyer. For comments or general questions about law or for The Lawbringer, contact Mat at mat@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

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