Blizzard probed over Diablo 3
By Park Si-soo
The government has launched an investigation into Blizzard Entertainment over allegations that the American computer gamemaker has refused to refund Koreans who purchased its latest real-time role-playing game Diablo 3.
The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said the firm is suspected of having violated the country’s law on electronic commerce and commercial contracts. The FTC said Tuesday that it raided the firm’s Seoul office Monday and secured related documents and other evidence with which it will determine whether Blizzard broke the law.
The investigation comes only two weeks after the release of the game, which has sold more than 6.3 million copies worldwide.
Larger-than-expected traffic to the online game’s severs made it extremely difficult for its users to access the game, particularly on weekday nights and weekends, according to Blizzard Korea.
Some buyers of the game vented frustration over server shutdowns and asked for refunds, but the company refused to do so, citing sales contract terms, which the FTC says is disadvantageous to consumers.
Blizzard said it doubled the capacity of servers Friday and pledged to improve services further in order to prevent a recurrence of the problem.
Despite the move, major portals have already been receiving messages denouncing Blizzard’s poor service. Hundreds of users have filed formal complaints with the FTC, calling for an investigation by the regulator.
“We have received many complaints from Diablo 3 users,” said Kim Hyung-bae, a spokesman for the FTC. He admitted that an investigation into Blizzard is underway, but refused to elaborate.
Other FTC officials said the probe is aimed at confirming whether the firm has sold the game based on what they describe as an “unfair” contract so that people cannot receive refunds even if they discover problems with the game. They said they are studying whether the company should be held liable for “ill-preparation” for unexpected traffic.
It’s too early to see any results of the probe but some investigators expect the regulator to issue an order mandating Blizzard to provide a full refund to all unhappy customers.
Diablo 3, out nearly 12 years after its incredibly successful predecessor Diablo 2, was one of the most anticipated releases in some time both here and abroad.
According to game ranking firm Gametrics, Diablo 3 accounted for 16.16 percent of user time at PC rooms within a day of its release. The rate has increased to nearly 40 percent, it said.
Users choose one of five classes ㅡ Barbarian, Wizard, Monk, Demon Hunter or Witch Doctor ㅡ to fight the titular demon Diablo in single player quests and can level-up online in a Battle.net multiplayer platform provided by Blizzard.
The Diablo series is dubbed a “game of evil,” for its storyline and the fact that it is expected to account for many sleepless nights by avid gamers here.
Blizzard is well known for its constant patches and bug-fixes (12-year-old Diablo 2 is still very well maintained and played often), but thwarting constant hackers and illegal programs being slipped into the game is another task for the firm.
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