Diablo 3 has only been out for two weeks, but it is already running into some trouble. In addition to an unstable auction house, the real-money system on an indefinite hiatus, and server hiccups, Blizzard is now facing a FTC investigation in South Korea, following reports that Blizzard has refused to refund Koreans who bought the game.
According to Korea Times, the FTC has stated that they raided Blizzar’d Seoul office on Monday and, “secured related documents and other evidence with which it will determine whether Blizzard broke the law.”
Users frustrated with frequent server shutdowns asked for refunds, which Blizzard refused to honor, citing sales contract terms. These same issues have come up in other regions, with anger directed at Blizzard’s insistence on always-online DRM. If the game did not require connecting to battle.net servers, server shutdowns and maintenance would be unnecessary.Forbes reports that Blizzard keeps online-only for the (indefinitely postponed) real money auction house:
…in order for this to work, there can’t be ANY chance of item duping or fake gear or any of the issues that plagued Diablo 2. In order to ensure this doesn’t happen, EVERYTHING in the game has to take place on Blizzard’s servers, as no amount of hacking should be able to produce faux items to sell in the store if everything is stored off-site. Always-on DRM is not in place for piracy’s sake, it’s for the good of the auction house.
They also write, however, that:
…there is no reason that single-player games should come without the option of playing offline. Diablo III could easily have offered players the choice to have their single-player experience on or offline, and only allowed always-online characters the chance to hop into a co-op session. This would solve the auction-house issue…
Despite the fact that most users are confident that Blizzard can iron out its mistakes and get things running smoothly, there are those that want their refunds and aren’t getting them, causing a flood of complaints to the FTC.
Kim Hyung-bae confirmed that the FTC was receiving, “many complaints from Diablo 3 users,” and that they were investigating Blizzard. Other officials said the probe is meant to determine whether Blizzard has, “sold the game based on what they describe as an “unfair” contract so that people cannot receive refunds even if they discover problems with the game. They said they are studying whether the company should be held liable for ‘ill-preparation’ for unexpected traffic.”
Where South Korea chooses to file FTC complaints, most other disgruntled users are satisfied with bombing Diablo 3’s Metacritic page with ratings of 0, so that it’s currently sitting at an unhealthy 4.1 out of 10, with 58% of users giving it a negative review. Note, this isn’t because it’s a bad game—almost everyone agrees it’s awesome. It’s a vote of no confidence. They don’t support the system Blizzard has attached to the game, in the same way users flooded Mass Effect 3 with poor reviews due to discontent regarding Day 1 DLC and a tremendously unsatisfying ending. It’s not the game they hate, it’s the policies attached to them.
How this probe into Blizzard will turn out remains to be seen. It’s likely that they will be required to provide full refunds to all unsatisfied customers, and potentially change its sales contract to meet the FTC’s criteria for fairness.