Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Will Diablo 3's launch be successful?

As we are getting closer to Diablo 3's release, I'm becoming more anxious at the idea that, what if the launch isn't successful? I'm not talking about the game itself. I am confident that Diablo 3 will be one of the most successful games ever. But I am wondering if Blizzard's servers will be able to handle a huge influx of players from day 1.

Many games, when they launch, are riddled with bugs and other issues, sometimes making them unplayable until a patch is released. That Diablo 3 will get a day 1 patch is almost a given, and that's perfectly normal, considering that the digital pre-order I downloaded is not complete and that even printed discs have discrepancies between them and the playable content on release day.

Release-day patches apart, my biggest concern is that the servers will hiccup when a few million people try to log in simultaneously. Blizzard announced today that the launch will be global and it will happen at the same hour, probably midnight PST. In a way, that will help to attenuate some of the login issues because not everyone will be available to log in in the middle of the night.

For my part I'm planning to go to bed early on the 14th, and then wake up at night to see if I can log in. I'm 2 hours ahead of Blizzard's headquarters, meaning that it will be 2 a.m. local time when the game launches. Hopefully I can get 6-7 hours of sleep and then, if I can log in without any issues, I'll be partying all night.

Some of my fears may be irrational. If we think about it, when was the last time Blizzard botched a game launch? I truly can't recall. It might have been back in the days of early WoW. But those days are long gone. For the Cataclysm expansion I was able to get in a few minutes after launch. I can't even remember when I last saw those dreaded login queues that we were forced to bear many years ago.

On the reverse, I'm confident that Blizzard has learned a lot about server loads and balancing, and network technologies with WoW. I'm hoping that experience will come into play with Diablo 3. It would be truly disastrous if the game wasn't playable for the first few days, or gods forbid, for the first week. That's why it sucks to much that the game can only be played online.

I'm trying to draw a parallel between Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2's launch. I haven't played SC2 but maybe some of you have. Were you present at the launch? How was it? Was everyone able to log in immediately? Were there any problems during the first hours/days? I'm thinking that SC3 and D3 are both similar in this regard. Both games' predecessors could be played locally, on a LAN and on, while now they are online-only. OK, SC2 can be played offline but for the most part it is tied to Both games have a huge fan-base and both sold (or will sell) millions of copies. Maybe I'm wrong on this but that's why I want to hear someone else's opinion.

So what are your thoughts on this? Are you one of those who will try to get in the moment it is released? Are you optimistic about the launch? Do you think there will be issues at the beginning?

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