Yesterday should have been a big day for Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq: ATVI ) . Diablo III -- a game that Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) had recently proclaimed to be the online retailer's most pre-ordered PC game of all time -- hit the market on time.
After seeing both Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: EA ) and Take-Two Interactive (Nasdaq: TTWO ) push out the release dates of significant titles earlier this month, it was good to see a prolific title hit diehard gamers on the date that it was promised.
Unfortunately for gamers, there's a big difference between having a game and actually playing it.
Reports of server outages throughout the day marred the game's debut. After waiting for more than a decade for a fresh installment in the Diablo series, waiting out an Error 37 server outage was too much.
Nothing kills a new game more than bad word of mouth from early adopters, and that's just what polluted Twitter, Facebook, and gamer forums when buyers were unable to play.
They also talked down the game's ratings in a knee-jerk rage. On a scale of 1 to 10 at MetaCritic.com, the game clocked in at an abysmal 3.5. On Amazon.com, 264 of the first 465 ratings are for the lowest rating, one star. The average rating on the site is 2.5 out of five stars.
Just to be clear, the objective reviews are generally positive. Players bumping up against server issues are just knocking down the rating out of spite.
Could that be enough to destroy another Activision Blizzard franchise? If the server issues continue, absolutely.
Diablo III should've been special. The game introduces an Auction House format, in which gamers can buy virtual goods from one another with Activision Blizzard collecting 15% of the transactions. Can the game overcome its early stumble, so Activision Blizzard can cash in as a transaction middleman? That's the only question that matters right now.
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