Monday, September 26, 2011

Who will profit from Diablo 3's delayed release?

By now most of us have heard with dismay that Blizzard is delaying Diablo 3 into "early 2012". Well, as much as it saddens me, I'm also glad that they are working hard to polish the game and exterminate as many bugs as possible.

While Diablo fans might be inconvenienced and frustrated by this delay, there are some factions that - I'm willing to bet - are rubbing their hands in glee (and perhaps sighing in relief) at the news. I'm thinking of a couple of games that will be released in December of this year, namely Bioware's Star Wars MMO and Torchlight 2.

Star Wars The Old Republic is not a direct competitor to Diablo 3 but it is a strong rival to WoW. As WoW has been kinda declining lately, SWTOR was perfectly positioned to sweep away some of the players who had become bored with Blizzard's game. There was only one small problem: Diablo 3 was rumored to be released in the same period.

While Diablo 3 is a valid competitor to Blizzard's own game, WoW, as far as Blizzard is concerned, it doesn't really matter if 1 million players (say) transfer from one of their games to another. Well, there is the matter of monthly subscriptions but the point sticks: the player base and revenue remain in the family.

SWTOR has a release date of December 20th. I am willing to bet that many WoW players will jump into it (not withstanding patch 4.3 which will be same ol' same ol') and also many Diablo 3 fans, tired of waiting for D3, will buy it.

It looks like a win for Bioware. Even if reality won't be so dramatic, I'm certain this turn of events is more advantageous for Bioware than if Diablo 3 had been released in December.

With Torchlight 2 things are more straightforward. The game is a direct clone of Diablo and while the developers claim that they are not in competition with Diablo 3, we all know otherwise.

I tried the original Torchlight. I was hyped about it, was going to buy it but luckily I tried the demo and didn't like it one bit. Many others liked it, considering it a veritable Diablo clone. I beg to differ. In my opinion it was a mediocre clone but that's just me. An entire community sprouted around this game and for a few good reasons, I will admit.

Torchlight 2 is supposed to improve upon its predecessor. In what ways, I'm not sure because I didn't follow its development. It does seem to have some advantages compared to Diablo 3. The price is so low ($20) that it could easily be bought on impulse. It has an offline single-player mode, as well as no DRM. It offers LAN multiplayer. It supports modding. Notice that all these features are absent from Diablo 3. Oh well, different markets, right?

Well, not so much. There are, of course, the die-hard Torchlight fans who will buy it. There are those who are pissed that Diablo 3 doesn't offer these features and will probably buy it. And now, with D3's delayed released, there will be a significant number of Diablo fans who will say "f*ck it" and buy Torchlight 2 just to pass the time until their long-awaited game is finally released. I have a feeling that a lot of these people wouldn't have bought Torchlight 2 if Diablo 3 was released in December.

This is just my non-expert analysis of the situation. One thing is certain: we all wish for Diablo 3 to be released sooner but we all like the level of polish and refinement Blizzard's games are imbued with, even from version 1.0. All we can do at this point is to suck it up and keep twiddling our thumbs.

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