Was Blizzard’s Diablo III Language Option Removal Legal?Posted 27 June 2012 by Flux
On June 8th, Blizzard abruptly locked the language options in some versions of Diablo III. This mainly affected the Russian and Brazilian markets, where Diablo III was not available until June 7th (3 weeks after the rest of the word), and where many eager players had bought international versions of the game which they were playing in English.
This caused a lot of anger from players who suddenly found the language of their game changed and locked, and it especially angered game resellers, who bought digital copies of Diablo III from Blizzard, for resale in their local markets, and suddenly found themselves stuck with devalued copies of the game since they couldn’t sell them in a variety of languages. This issue spurred a recent editorial from Games On Net, which argues the legality of such a maneuver.
The case of the serial key sellers hinges on what Blizzard said to them before release. They’re claiming that Blizzard sold them fixed-language games promising that they were the standard editions. If this is true, then it’s possible that the serial key sellers have a case to sue Blizzard for fraud. However, it’s also possible that the key sites simply didn’t pay attention at time of purchase, and passed this ignorance onto their customers.
Unfortunately, we can’t know which of these scenarios happened. The only way to work this out is to know the private discussions between Blizzard and the key sites. Without this knowledge, speculating on who said what is pointless. Proving fraud is difficult, and requires more than someone simply losing money. It would have to be shown, for example, that Blizzard purposefully misled the serial key sites. We don’t know this.
However, what we do know is that serial key sites are calling for gamers to stand behind them. So what we can do is to look at whether gamers themselves have legitimate reason to be angry at Blizzard.
As we’ve seen in other recent editorials, gamers do not have many/any rights in the current structure of software EULAs and DRMs, which means that pretty much anything publishers do is by definition “legal” since they’re the ones who write the rules.
It seems to me that many players did not care about virtual property rights years ago, when we were buying physical copies of games and could play them as we liked, offline, on our own machines. As that option becomes more and more a thing of the past, as with Diablo III, it’s spurring more protests and legal issues, since any change the publishers make now affects all players — even those who never wanted to play the game online at all.