Blizzard co-founder finally admits in a public statement that "always-on" was designed, at least partially, for anti-piracy reasons, and that it's working well so far
Mike Morhaime, co-founder of Blizzard, the company that produced Diablo III, has openly admitted that the "always-on" requirement was not just for improving the gaming experience, as has been claimed so far. Instead, Morhaime says that anti copying was one of the reasons behind the use of the controversial "always-on" requirement, and that so far, it has helped to combat piracy.
Morhaime released an official statement in response to gamer complaints about the "always-on" DRM and other aspects of the top selling game. Before this, Blizzard has always avoided labelling the "always-on" requirement as a form of copy protection, instead pointing to its use in preventing cheating. Anti-cheating has become even more important for Diablo III, as the game features a real money Auction House that allows gamers to trade in-game items for real money - any cheating would severely disrupt the financial eco-system of the game in the same way counterfeit goods and money would.
But many suspected that "always-on" was more than just anti-cheating or an attempt to improve the game's features, and Morhaime's statement finally confirms these suspicions.
"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,” he said. “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), " posted Morhaime on Blizzard's official Diablo III forum.
But Morhaime was also keen to stress that, unlike earlier "always-on" efforts by companies such as Ubisoft, using the system to improve the gaming experience and feature set were also important considerations, if not the more important ones.
"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."
But the system also has drawbacks for gamers, including a disastrous launch, and issues relating to lag even when playing the single player game with little online interaction. For now, it seems gamers are willing to accept these drawbacks for what is considered one of the best games of the year. And having sold millions of copies already, Blizzard will see "always-on" as a financial win for the company and a victory, even if it's a temporary one, against piracy.