Regional Servers But Not Regional Users

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Apparently, incgamers borrowed some more original content from this blog. Check out their latest post here. This time though, it was an entire copy & paste job from here. :)

Linking the source sure would be nice, rather than just saying "it came from some random internet user". Plus, their readers should be aware that it was an inexperienced translation that I did myself and not an official translation by Blizzard. :)

Azzure doesn't believe the game is delayed due to the RMAH in Korea because it's only one regional server and should not affect any other regions.

However, I wanted to clear this up.

This is the belief of many, and it's the strongest argument being used by forum users; i.e. Blizzard wouldn't just hold back all regions if they could simply turn off the RMAH in Korea or just not release the game there. (This is one item I forgot to mention in the "What's Really Holding Diablo 3 Back" post, but it's so old now, I'm not going to go back and update it when I can just post my thoughts here.)

Before I get started, here's an older post and video with Robert Bridenbecker that might help explain the real issues.

You see.. even though there are regional servers and there is a RMAH for each region, the users themselves are not restricted as to what region they play in or what RMAH they use.

It's not something simple as disabling the RMAH in each region. It's a player issue, and if Korea is not approved, this actually becomes a user account logistical nightmare for both Blizzard and PayPal.

Diablo 3 will be Blizzard's first "region free" game. As Robert explained, "When you buy Diablo 3, you're buying Diablo 3." You can play it anywhere in the world, it's not region locked, and players can select any server they want, any language they want, and play on that region's RMAH. There are no barriers or currency restrictions. Whichever region you play on, you're locked into that region's currency. That's it. :)

(* UPDATE: Just a clarification. When you first install the game, you're "locked" into a specific region's RMAH but you can change it later if you can provide "proof" that you moved.. like a scanned photo ID. You can still play in any region and also use any Gold Auction House, but you're "locked" with the one RMAH that you selected first.)

It's all very cool actually. It means that Australian players can buy D3 from the US Website for a reasonable price and can start playing right away on their own region based servers. (You know.. now that I'm talking about it, this is assuming that Digital Downloads will be made available. I wonder if Blizzard won't have DD's this time around for D3 because of the price point difference in other countries?)

Do you see where this could become a major problem?

Even if the RMAH is disabled in Korea (and they only have a Gold Auction House), what's to stop Korean players from just participating in the Real Money Auction Houses in other regions?

Blizzard needs to have advanced security precautions in place to prevent Korean citizens from accessing ALL RMAH's on all regions. And, what about Americans traveling abroad? They still need to adhere to local laws too! :)

Not just Americans, but I'm talking about ANY nationality that travels to Korea. If they're physically in Korea, they must obey their laws and regulations. And the problem here is that any visitors can use VPN services that makes it look like they're connecting from another country, even though they're physically in Korea.

This... is... HUGE.

Are you beginning to see just how critical it is that they receive approval in Korea? They need approvals in EVERY country too.

Not only that, but there are other factors to consider:

1. If the game is rejected, Blizzard's best option is to simply not allow Korean users to play the game. This makes playing the game illegal in the country, and since Blizzard would not be supporting it, they can't be held liable for Korean players playing the game. It would be the government's responsibility to crack down on it.

2. They would need to make a new D3 game for Korea specifically, pushing back their release date by several months. It would be a region locked version of D3, with Korean-only servers. A different version of D3 that all other countries would be using.

3. PayPal also needs to manage all of this. They need to watch bank accounts, incoming/outgoing transactions to make sure they're not from Korea, monitor visitors logs.. all to make sure D3 isn't being illegally used in Korea. Korean players could easily RMAH-lock themselves onto an outside region. It doesn't matter, though, if they're Korean but located outside of Korea.

4. How can you prevent Korean players or minors from playing the game? Account information can easily be faked (in China, many players just use their relative's ID cards to register so that they avoid the age restrictions). Korean players can simply say they're based in Russia or China, and use any of thousands of proxy/VPN services available.

5. Blizzard wants a simultaneous launch in all regions with the same features. Diablo 3 is the same game everywhere, as Robert explained. You can play it anywhere in the world.

6. There might be other things happening at the same time that coincide with the launch that are important. For example, everyone setting up PayPal accounts in advance or Digital Downloads.

7. They want all players to start using the RMAH immediately upon launch. It's critical to the future success of the game, they want players to start using it right away, they need numbers to prove it's success to their shareholders (and justify why the subscription model was not used), and it's also not a good idea to add it as a new feature in a future content patch.

8. What if a Korean RMAH-locked account is outside of Korea, but they continue to use a Korean-based IP address? :) Will sending in proof of relocation be sufficient, how do they confirm it's real if they're still coming from (what it appears to be) Korea? Managing all of this will be brutal, and probably not something currently prepared for (leaving #1 or #2 above as their best options).

9. One country alone can cause D3 to be completely redesigned from scratch, making Diablo 3 a region-locked game and throwing them back to the drawing board on the Real Money Auction House and their relationship with PayPal.

The big one, though, is restricting users in Korea from accessing any other region.. which is not how the game was designed. Blizzard providing and supporting gambling illegally in another country would be very bad. And, as I've said, the game can only be pushed back so far. If there are more delays in January, expect options #1 or #2. There are substantial pros and cons to having a "region free" game. :)

I hope other publishers or developers are following this. If they intend to create new real money trading systems for their own games, as alternatives to the dying subscription model, they need to consider all of the potential issues.