Do not come between the Korean public and their Blizzard video games. It would not go well for you. Ever seen any of the footage of the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in Seoul back in 2007 when they first showed off StarCraft II? It was bananas. People were weeping. It would be like if, in August 2020, the NFL announced a sequel to football and Joe Montana was somehow 30-years-old again and ready to play in this new and exciting version of the sport. Every World of Warcraft update is practically a national holiday. Diablo III’s release was so big that it’s created an international incident with Chinese players logging onto Korean servers to get a taste of the game and virtual war breaking out between the nations’ players.
International conflict isn’t the only snafu coloring Diablo III’s release in the country though. The Korea Times (via Shack News) reported on Tuesday that the Korean government has started a full investigation of Blizzard Entertainment in the aftermath of customer complaints about service and refusal of refunds following the game’s troubled release. Officials raided Blizzard’s offices in Seoul to gather documents and other evidence that the company had broken the law.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, Blizzard is suspected of breaking its contracts with Korean consumers and the country’s laws related to electronic commerce. Part of the issue is that many users in Korea are still experiencing the problems that plagued U.S. players when Diablo III came out on May 15: They’re unable to log in to play the game at all. Diablo III requires players to be connected to the Internet at all times through Blizzard’s Battle.net network, but the overwhelming number of players—6.3 million by early sales counts—caused Blizzard’s infrastructure to repeatedly collapse.
Many customers demanded refunds based on the problems but Blizzard has refused to return money claiming that sales contract terms, which players must agree to in order to play, cover these exact issues. FTC officials have said that while Blizzard is correct, it may have sold the game using “unfair” contracts and that the company is liable for its “ill-preparation” for the game’s commercial reception. A refund may well be in the future for a number of Korean Diablo players depending on the FTC’s decisions.
Blizzard is in a tough spot. As much of a hassle as its Internet connection requirements are for paying customers, the cheating, piracy, and black market commerce surrounding its games need to be curbed somehow.