Shout at the Diablo

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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The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com. The Fool owns shares of and has written calls on Activision Blizzard. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Amazon.com, Take-Two Interactive Software, and Activision Blizzard. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic long position in Activision Blizzard. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.


Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (4)

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  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2012, at 10:52 AM, ryanalexanderson wrote:

    A good section of the gaming population was alienated by the fact that you -had- to be connected to the Internet to play at all, even in single-player mode. No standalone fun for you!

    If they hadn't done this, then most people would have been fine playing by themselves. Bad, bad move, say I.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2012, at 12:00 PM, Jbay76 wrote:

    I agree. In fact, I expect the gaming industry to tank in the near future towards the trend to make games only accessible online meanwhile inhibiting the playing of used games. If they don't tank, it'll be becuase they reversed their policies.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2012, at 1:53 PM, Indianagol wrote:

    Everyone complains about the required presence of internet connectivity but yet they still buy the games.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2012, at 4:56 PM, Groovetoon wrote:

    Take-Two released long awaited Max Payne 3 yesterday which has so far received a metacritic score of 88 and praise from players. The game will support Xbox360/PS3 and PC platforms.

  • Report this Comment On May 16, 2012, at 7:26 PM, Jrod81 wrote:

    First, I'll admit that I have purchased the game and have tried to play on release day, having a very bad experience.

    However, long term I don't see the first day issues impacting the long term success of ATVI or the Diablo franchise. They will sort out the technical problems, and assuming the game underneath comes close to expectations, things will be just fine. Not that this is the forum for reviews, but my first impression was that D3 took the popular fast game play of D2 and melded a light version of Blizzard's World of Warcraft for build a solid platform. This should (eventually) appease the loyalists and build a strong foundation for expansions on this game (likely again at $60 in ~18 months).

    I'll admit I work for a non-tech Fortune 500 company, and there's been a fair amount of chatter among my coworkers regarding this release. I'll wager to say we aren't a select group and Diablo 3 despite the day 1 issues could still be a huge value to ATVI and a broader audience than typical, due to the historic value of the Diablo franchise that has dated back to a different generation of gamers in the late 90's.

    Regarding the online only aspect, this will allow a greater recurring revenue stream than any game of this type in the past. While it may be a slight inconvenience currently, with the Real Money auction house, ATVI will cash in on a market that existed for Diablo 2, but gave them no value whatsoever. I think this is a brilliant decision, and offers greater monetary value to expanding the number of players over just an audience for expansions.

    (no position in ATVI and not opening in next 72-hours as I'll likely be too busy with the game in question)

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2012, at 4:23 AM, lowmaple wrote:

    The last time I played diablo WAS 10 years ago I wasn.t impressed. However forcing you to play online is where the money is.

    if the game good people will play. Like the person above if I like a game I hardly sleep for three days. If people are to mad to play obviously the game isn't any good. Now longer ATVI.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2012, at 4:25 AM, lowmaple wrote:

    sorry about the missing 's and o

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2012, at 7:26 AM, Frankydontfailme wrote:

    Diablo 3 is mind glowingly fun. We'll see if its sales outpace expectations.

  • Report this Comment On May 17, 2012, at 7:46 AM, jacbthom wrote:

    First day issues is nothing new with Blizzard, happens all the time with every major World of Warcraft (Wo) patch release.

    Thing that concerns me is that they "gave away" D3 to existing WoW users that signed up for a year. So there is lost revenue there. The only possible recurring revenue will come from "real auctions" where Blizz can take up to a 15% cut. But not sure how popular this will be, and if its even worth it

    In the mean time everyone is waiting for the next release of Wow (possibly Nov) Mists of Pandaria ...can someone say drunken kunfu pandas?!

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