By: Stephen Crane
If you've been online this past week, you've probably already heard the troubles gamers had playing Diablo 3 on launch day. Logging into BattleNet through the game was almost futile due to server overload and the now iconic "error 37" that has been the mark of Diablo 3's launch week. There are many complaints, and plenty of legitimate blame to go around, however what we need to understand is the business sense and cruel math that went into this launch.
With so much precedence, Blizzard should have not been surprised by the number of players crowding and clogging the servers. they should have had a rough estimate of the number of players just from the number of us who pre-installed the game digitally and who pre-ordered physical copies. Heck, Diablo 3 was Amazon's most pre-ordered game ever. That should give a good clue as to how much bandwidth is needed for servers.
So why were gamers kept from playing? Sadly, the answer is math. Day 1 is most likely always going to be the busiest day so companies are left with the interesting decision of how to deal with the influx of players. Do they buy as many servers as possible, figuring they can be repurposed for other launches in the future? Do they rent extra servers to make it through the first week? Both of those options are viable for subscription based games where user retention is important, however Diablo 3 does not work on subscription, but on initial purchase.
That leaves the most economically viable option: do nothing and deal with the initial anger. That's exactly what Blizzard has done. It does, after all, make sense. Eventually our anger will subside and considering how long Blizzard games tend to be played for, this will be something we all laugh about in the years ahead.
That being said, Blizzard most likely wasn't expecting this much anger, and has issued an apology. They recognize how incredibly frustrating the lag has been as well as our inability to play a single player experience. Blizzard has also pushed back the roll out of the real money auction house most likely so public opinion doesn't render it a useless feature, and hopefully to make sure there are no bugs in the system.
Blizzard will maintain that the lag and server issues are due to them being unprepared, but I am not convinced. There is a cold math that adds up, and all the signs pointed to requiring a huge excess of server space on launch week. Sadly, there is no easy solution, either. There is a much deeper reason behind the always online system they put in place, and it isn't strictly a DRM issue, either. That will be a topic for another time.
Until then, all we can do is stay angry. We need to let developers know our issues with this type of launch and this type of system won't go away. We've waited 12 years for this game, we should be able to play it day 1 without any hassle.
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