The Real-Money Auction House is just getting off the ground and Blizzard is already hit with the first attempt at a class-action lawsuit. The legal wrangling comes courtesy of disgruntled internet cafe owners. That's right, players, gamers and consumers aren't mustering legal action against Blizzard but internet cafe owners are.
Okay so try to follow this because it gets a little ridiculous, but the Korea Times [via Kotaku] is reporting that Korean internet cafe owners who purchased bulk copies of Diablo III are aiming to take Blizzard to court and sue over compensation because a lot of gamers are coming to the cafes but not staying because they can't play Diablo III due to all the server outages in Asia.
Kim Chan-kuen, head of Internet PC Culture Association (IPCA) told The Korea Times that...
“We are planning a class action lawsuit against Blizzard Korea, as users and PC room owners are suffering from constant server malfunctions and server check-ups for Diablo 3 while the company avoids responsibility,”
Not to be upstaged, Blizzard finally made a public statement in response to the allegations that the company is mishandling responsibility for the server upkeep of Diablo III as well as dodging accountability, saying...
“The extended checkup time was due to our efforts to fix an item copying bug,” ... “We recently added servers to solve the problems of malfunctions, and are on the constant lookout to maintain proper connectivity for users.”
The bug took the entire Asia server offline throughout the entire weekend, meaning no one who played on the Asia server was able to play the game at all. This was due to an item duping exploit that practically crashed the Diablo III economy on the Asia server.
Here's the real kicker, though: Instead of having PC cafe runners in Korea buy individual copies of Diablo III, Blizzard provided them with free copies of the game (although it's not clarified if they were boxed or digital, as there is no operating loss from digital copies) and in turn the cafe owners must pay a monthly royalty fee for each copy of the game that's installed on a different cafe computer. If I didn't know any better, that almost sounds like a legal racketeering bracket.
Regardless, Diablo III is hugely popular in South Korea but as our news posts have been indicating and as the IPCA representative states, gamers in the Asia server territory range aren't able to play the game, meaning that the cafe owners are losing money because people can't play the game, while at the same time the cafe owners have to pay Blizzard royalty fees on a game that's not quite turning the profit they thought it would.
The actual cue of the legal action came from Blizzard Korea's offices procrastination for any sort of fix to the problem because the Blizzard Korea office claims they have to wait on word from the North American Blizzard offices before taking certain actions. Well, the IPCA were not going to pay Blizzard royalties on a product that didn't work or wasn't being fixed fast enough by the company. In other words, the mass loss of potential profits was the only reason a lawsuit is getting underway.
This isn't looking too good PR-wise for Blizzard, especially following up on the fact that the Korean FTC recently raided Blizzard's offices over claims that the company wasn't offering refunds to Korean consumers who tried to play the game but found out they were unable to due to server crowding and server outages.
I'm pretty sure with the Real-Money Auction House in operation and Blizzard whipping out the ban-hammer, it won't be long before more lawsuit claims start popping up.
It seems like I say this a lot, but Blizzard could have easily dodged a bullet by providing gamers with an offline mode. Yes, there would still be the server outages due to capacity overload and whatnot, but gamers who paid for the product and internet cafe owners who are hosting the game would at least still have the option to play the game either via LAN or in solo mode, offline.