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The French version of the Fair Trade Commission, the UFC-Que Choisir, came down hard on Blizzard a few weeks ago. They gave the corporate giant 15 days to respond with a solution for all the consumer complaints. Blizzard responded saying there's nothing wrong with Diablo III's service, but that did not please the French consumer advocacy group at all.
According to French gaming site, PC Inpact, they report that the UFC-Que Choisir (which has nothing to do with Dana White's organization featuring pugilists in a cage) is not entirely pleased with Blizzard's response regarding the issues brought up by 90% of French gamers who played Diablo III.
The first of the three issues was the mandatory log-in to play the game, even for single-player. Blizzard accurately recounts that they never advertised an offline mode and that the connection to Battle.net was always labeled as a mandatory aspect of the game. The UFC-Que Choisir conceded that point.
The next issue is the server-side stability on Blizzard's end. According to Blizzard, their servers are fine and have been fine in the European territory since June 2nd. According to Blizzard, if people can't connect to Battle.net it's the fault of the consumer not Blizzard. They also state that their customer support is 24/7 and always available. The UFC-Que Choisir reluctantly conceded that point.
The last issue regards the DRM, which prevents resale of the game and much like in Korea, this goes against fair trade agreements for consumers since Blizzard denies the return of the game even if you can't play it because their servers might be down, or in the case of Korean gamers, the servers are always over-crowded. The Korean FTC stepped in and forced Blizzard to issue refunds because at the time Blizzard was using Chinese servers for the entire Asian region, the server capacity was capped, which meant that the large majority of Korean gamers were unable to log-in and play the game due to the server cap.
PC Inpact states that it's not an issue that the consumer advocacy group is willing to completely forego and the large outcry from consumers must be addressed, further saying...
UFC-Que Choisir has not yet decided what action to take letter. However, the association can not overlook the many consumers who have requested in recent weeks. Especially since Blizzard has carefully avoided the subject: DRM from Diablo 3 that prevent a good use of the game and its resale.
What's more is that the DRM is in place to protect Blizzard's Real-Money Auction House, although they would be shooting themselves in the foot if they admitted this to the UFC-Que Choisir.
Let's also not forget that because of the always-on DRM the game goes from a product to a service. You're buying a lease agreement on Blizzard's terms.
With MMOs this is expected because you're playing with thousands of other players in a shared, persistent world...everyone has the same or similar experiences and you're paying to share that experience. With Diablo III, it's not persistent, it's not a shared world and it's not an MMO but it has the same kind of MMO service structures. This means that even though you're only playing by yourself or with a few friends in co-op you still have to suffer service outages like an MMO, maintenance like an MMO, hacking like an MMO and lag like an MMO. The thing is, Diablo III isn't a massive-multiplayer online title nor was it ever advertised as one.
I'm curious how the UFC-Que Choisir will handle the situation moving forward and what Blizzard will do to continue to protect themselves, especially with legal indictments looming over their heads.
I'm pretty sure there's a fun game shoveled in between the mass of corporate greed and poor service design decisions, I just wish Blizzard could put their money lust aside, develop an offline mode and call it a day.
More than anything, we've learned that after all that white-flagging over the years the French have developed a real Honey Badger side. These guys aren't backing down. I guess these guys figure that if they can't win a war with guns, they can at least win a war of words...opening up a can of pro-consumerism like Von Bulow opening up a can of hurt on Charles Lanrezac. Go France, go!
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