A Game That Gets Better Each Time You Beat It, Diablo 3

Goreshot The Immortal, a unique Colossal Golgor that had a mortar attack ability and shielding, was right at an entrance/exit in Act 3 during my Nightmare play through. He was not alone, he had minions, and though each of his minions had far fewer hit points than Goreshot, they shared his abilities. Together they formed an almost invincible force that slayed my enchantress companion, my summoned “Water Guy”, and my level 43 monk, Dalei Camel. Then they did it again. And again. After my third death, I had finally whittled away Goreshot’s hit points to the point that I was able to take him and his minions down, and I loved each and every failure leading up to that point.

Playing through Diablo 3 on normal difficulty is pretty uneventful. The challenge you receive from monsters that are uniques and specials, in the normal difficulty setting, is limited. It’s not until later on, in Nightmare difficulty, that you start to strain to defeat specials and uniques, and that’s when Diablo 3 really starts to be fun. I will admit, playing through Diablo 3 on normal difficulty was disappointing at times. I was never worried about what was in the next room, or around the next corner. Even when the reinvented Butcher made an appearance, I was not frightened like I was in Diablo 1. When I faced the Butcher during my Nightmare play through I was on edge. As I near him again now, in Hell difficulty, I am both looking forward to and dreading the lines, “Fresh meat!” As Diablo amps up the difficulty, it equally amps up the fun.

The level of difficulty is not the only thing that changes in Diablo 3. As you progress, and the creatures you face become more dangerous, the quality of the items dropped, improve. As you face down that fourth special monster, after already defeating three of them, you are not only anticipating his death but the items that drop because of it. In normal difficulty the items that dropped were usually not going to immediately replace the ones you had already equipped but as you progress in difficulty the items that drop become better and more rare in appearance. The reward for busting up a unique monster amps up with the difficulty of the game. It keeps you wanting more, even after dying over and over.

The true test of Diablo 3’s replay value and design quality will not be established until the last difficultly level (Inferno) is defeated. If I keep coming back for the battles versus specials, uniques and bosses, and the shinies that follow their demise, then I will know that Blizzard once again got the recipe for click and reward right. I will also, by that time, actually believe I am nephalem.

Yes. Yes I am.

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Quality Created Marketing: Blizzard’s “Unintentional” Boon From Flexible Release Dates

Blizzard’s policy of not releasing a game until it is polished and absolutely complete has worked out for both Blizzard, and for their game buying fans. With each games’ announcement, the online community explodes. Free marketing abound! With each delay of a Blizzard release, free marketing abound! When the game finally hits the hands of its wanting fans the level of anticipation has reached the same height of a Protoss Carrier.

Per Blizzard's Diablo 3 website (FAQ section).

For Blizzard, this practice of releasing games only when things are perfect has been awarded to them due to the money they’ve generated via World of Warcraft [WOW]. It also helps that each game they release, that has an extended development phase, is an award winning, financial success. With ample cash on hand, Blizzard can stretch out their development, alpha and beta phases. Many other gaming companies can not afford the luxury of having a negotiable release date, and in the case of Blizzard, the release date is not just negotiable but very flexible.

What was originally just the practice of giving its gamers/fans the most faultless iteration of its next game, Blizzard has created a marketing strategy original to the gaming industry. The constant delay and changing of release dates has now turned into a buzz machine for Blizzard. With some of the most appreciated and accepted games in the PC arena (Diablo, WarCraft, WOW and StarCraft) it’s understandable that Blizzard wants to get each release right. I do not think the delays in release are intentional but obviously Blizzard is aware of the storm it creates every time it even mentions another delay.

You can find the devil on Amazon.

When subscribers for WOW started to fall off slightly and Blizzard stock started to bleed (both happened in late 2011), I wrongfully predicted that Blizzard would, for the first time, hurry a release. I thought the pressures of share owners would finally put the squeeze on Blizzard and they would release a game before they wanted to. I am happy to be wrong. Perhaps Blizzard share holders have some faith and understanding of what makes Blizzard, just as polished as its games.

Once again, a Diablo 3 release date announcement is expected soon. Once again, the internet and gaming media are a buzz. Once again, Blizzard gets some free marketing. Once again, I am drooling at the opportunity to personally rip Diablo’s horns from his head.

Doomsday is Coming: Q3 Diablo beta = holiday release!

Well we made it. The Saturday May 21st Doomsday didn’t happen but don’t worry, the pits of hell still may open up this year. Diablo 3’s [D3] beta will go live in Q3 and perhaps some Activision-Blizzard boardroom bullying will push the actual game out the door just in time for some holiday game bingeing.

With the D3 beta confirmed to be out as early as July will Activision-Blizzard make a push to release D3 before years end? Most who are familiar with Blizzard’s molasses like development  would say no but there is more going on behind the scenes, and in the boardroom, then usual.

Blizzard reported a first for its other mega franchise (World of Warcraft [WOW]), a drop in its monthly player subscriptions of 5%. Around the release of this news Activision-Blizzard stock took a dip. If the subscription drop in WOW accounts becomes a trend expect the stock reaction to follow suit. The same week the news regarding WOW subscriptions went public so did the news about the D3 beta and Activision-Blizzard stocks made a rebound. This wasn’t mere coincidence. This was a cause and effect occurrence. Cause, drop in WOW subscriptions, drop in stock price – Effect, announcement of D3 beta, rise in stock price.

Will drops in WOW subscriptions hasten D3's release?

With a more competitive massive multiplayer online market [MMO], more free-to-play [F2P] options of high quality and MMOs with developing loyal fan basis (SEE EVE Online) will the drop in WOW subscriptions and stock prices continue? I can assure you that those individuals on the Activision-Blizzard board are asking themselves the same question. It is the answer to that question that may influence the final release date of D3. It may be one the first times were we see Blizzards total control of when their games are released be heavily influenced. Blizzards attention to detail and ability to polish their games before release will be challenged by this development but what better publisher to face that confrontation and succeed than Blizzard.

The End Is Nigh! Prepare your hero!

We might just see the master of all betas cycle into a much desired holiday release. Hells gates and Doomsday could be upon us this winter. Deckard Cain and the heroes of Sanctuary are required again!