Now that Diablo III has been out for two months, I would like to take a step back and discuss the launch, the feedback from the community, and talk about what the future holds for the game.
We’ve had an enormous amount of feedback since the launch. I speak for everyone at Blizzard when I say that we appreciate the passion and affection many of you have for the Diablo series. We truly believe “Every Voice Matters,” so I want to thank you for sharing your experiences in an effort to help us improve the game. Your support makes it possible for us to continue doing what we do, and we never take that for granted.
The launch week of Diablo III was memorable for many reasons -- some positive, and some not so positive. We were thrilled that Diablo III had the biggest PC-game launch ever, surpassing the lifetime sales of Cataclysm (the previous record holder for biggest PC-game launch) in a matter of weeks. We’ve been floored by the response.
However, the launch had many challenges as well. It has always been difficult to forecast how many players we will have. With World of Warcraft, it was a challenge to handle the immediate demand when we launched back in 2004, and that was just in North America. We eventually expanded to other regions and reached nearly 5 million players by the end of the first year, and there were a lot of growing pains with that. However, we’ve never gone from 0 to more than 6 million players across multiple continents within a few days with a brand-new game. For Diablo III, we looked at historical sales for Blizzard games and other top-selling PC games and watched preorder numbers. We even upped our estimates to ensure we had additional capacity, or so we thought. In the end, it just wasn’t enough, and that is something we will work hard to conquer for future releases.
In response to the immediate and overwhelming demand for the game, the team worked around the clock to support all regions, increase capacity, ship additional hardware to our datacenters, and troubleshoot and fix bugs as they sprang up. While things have by and large been running smoothly for several weeks now, various game-related issues have come up that we have either already responded to or are continuing to investigate (such as the latency issue some of you are experiencing) and make adjustments for. Rather than address every subject individually, I’ll just say that even as we work to address or resolve current issues, it’s always possible that further issues will crop up. We hope that our actions in the past have demonstrated that above all else, we’re committed to delivering an awesome game experience, and we hope you’ll have faith that we will continue to keep that commitment and respond to any new or outstanding issues quickly.
We are not satisfied with breaking launch records; we want people to continue playing and enjoying Blizzard games for a very long time. The Diablo III team has made an epic, entertaining, and beautiful gaming experience. That being said, we know that it isn’t perfect. Our teams are working hard to improve the game balance, build on our design, and listen to what players are saying to make it the best game it can be.
You’ve seen some of that work already in patch 1.0.3, and you’ll see additional improvements with patch 1.0.4. On the game balance front, this update will contain changes designed to further deliver on the team’s goal of promoting “build diversity,” with buffs to many rarely used, underpowered class abilities. Another topic we’ve seen actively discussed is the fact that better, more distinct Legendary items are needed. We agree. Patch 1.0.4 will also include new and improved Legendary items that are more interesting, more powerful, and more epic in ways you probably won’t be expecting.
We’re also working on a number of interface updates, including social improvements that will allow players to more easily view their friends’ achievements, more quickly join games, and more efficiently communicate with each other. In addition, we’ll be making updates to the auction house in the future to provide players with better information through tooltips and notices, offer improved search functionality, and more.
Regarding the real-money auction house, our primary goal for including this in the game was to provide convenience and peace of mind for those players who might otherwise turn to third-party services to buy items. Black market trading sites can put accounts at risk and create many customer service challenges. We felt that the players themselves also deserved the opportunity to benefit from the extra loot they found, as opposed to having all of the benefit go to the black market/illegal trading organizations. We know the auction house isn’t perfect, but with your help and feedback, we’ll be able to continue making it a better experience for those who choose to use it. On the flipside, we are also committed to ensuring you have a great experience with Diablo III without feeling like the auction house is mandatory, which was never our intention. Thank you for all the feedback about that.
One other common topic we’ve seen in the forums is the always-connected experience, and the perception that the online requirement is nothing but an ineffective form of copy protection that has already been cracked. While we’ve never said that this requirement guarantees that there will be no cheating or game cracks, it does help us battle those problems (we have not found any fully functional cracks). More important to us is that the online requirement is critical for the long-term integrity of the game experience. I fully understand the desire to play Diablo III offline; however, Diablo III was designed from the beginning to be an online game that can be enjoyed with friends, and the always-online requirement is the best way for us to support that design. The effectiveness of the online elements -- including the friends list and cross-game communication; co-op matchmaking; persistent characters that you can use by yourself, with others, and in PvP; and some of our customer support, service, and security components -- is tied directly to the online nature of the game. These and other online-enabled features are essential to our design for Diablo III. That said, there are still improvements we believe we can make to expand the online experience and make co-op play even more rewarding, and this will remain one of our priorities moving forward. Overall, while there are some downsides to the online-only approach, I still believe this was the best long-term decision for the game.
I know many of you are also looking forward to patch 1.1, our PvP update, which will provide new experiences and give you a whole new way to apply the skills you’ve picked up while battling demons. This patch will also build on the social and auction house changes I mentioned above, and the team will continue to fix bugs and further tune game balance as well.
We’re also working on a gameplay system that will provide players who have max-level, high-powered characters new goals to strive for as an alternative to the “item hunt.” We’re not ready to get into specifics just yet, but I can say that we’re actively taking your feedback into account as we plan out the future of the game.
As always, we appreciate your candor and passion. Your constructive feedback and thoughts are valuable -- they will continue to help us be a better company. I just want to reiterate that while we can’t claim to have ever shipped a perfect game, we are committed to supporting our games relentlessly and making improvements where we can. Thank you for your support.