Region-Free But Payment-Locked

Posted by Daeity On Friday, December 16, 2011

Here's something Lon-ami alerted me to that I didn't know about.

It actually relates to some of my earlier posts (and comments) where I was expecting Diablo 3 to have regional payment restrictions.. even though it's a region free game.

Usually games are region-locked, and can only be installed or used in certain countries. Diablo 3, however, will be region free. You can buy it in China, and then play it in Australia and on Australian servers.. or play it anywhere else you want, who cares. :)

Apparently, Blizzard had already addressed this a long time ago (2009) by way of a minor forum post. This was actually a pretty big deal, with long reaching and long lasting impacts, and it appears that Zarhym intentionally kept it was a "minor" update on the forums to keep it low key.

These were just virtual items, and there were no legal restrictions in place preventing them from selling these "region free" virtual products in any region that players selected. Locking them down to specific regions was a decision made by Blizzard, and it was completely unnecessary UNLESS they wanted more money (players could no longer shop around for better pricing) AND/OR they had future plans to eventually convert the Pet Store into a "Blizzard Store" where they where they could also sell other stuff (like games, expansion packs, digital downloads, or game time) instead of just virtual pets. :)

I don't use this word too often, but that move was just plain greedy.

Most players didn't even know about the cross-region pricing differences, and hardly any players even took the time to take advantage of it. Even with such a small number of players actually buying virtual pets cross-region, and most not even knowing about it, Blizzard still wouldn't leave it alone. They needed to tightly squeeze that sponge just to get a little more water out of it.

This is the main reason why they'll never adopt a global payment system like PayPal. That is, unless, they can develop a new method to truly lock players down to their regions and prevent users from shopping around in other countries. Blizzard wants all players to use their own local payment methods and only purchase "local" games, forcing you to pay more.

You know what's funny about the Diablo RMAH? Blizzard is encouraging players to engage in a global market of selling items back and forth between regions. It's perfectly okay for users to engage in cross-region sales, as along as Blizzard prospers. But if Blizzard sells something to you, it's locked down regionally and players will, on average, pay the absolute most for the product. :)