Outside of the obvious excitement surrounding the Diablo 3 Release Date (which has been confirmed as Tuesday May 15, 2012), there's a lot more I have to say about this subject now that it's been finally announced.
Global Simultaneous Release and Region Free Confirmed
It has finally been confirmed that Diablo 3 will have a global launch date and a region free game. This is something that has never been officially announced or confirmed by Blizzard in the past. But, it's something I've been talking about for a long time now as you're well aware; South Korea and the US launching on the same day. I have been often criticized or called a conspiracy theorist for daring to suggest that Diablo 3 will be launching worldwide simultaneously and that it will be a "global game" (ie, region free). Although the Russian retail/download will not be available until 3 weeks after the launch date, but Russian players can still play the game on the same date as everyone else.
Because it's launching on the same date for all countries, their servers and infrastructure need to be prepared for each of the regions ahead of time. It appears that Russia is the one country out (the game release itself is being held back for 3 weeks) which is quite unusual given that equipment (servers) isn't an issue as they are using the European servers and the Russian localization (as well as the game) are completed.
The reason that Russia can still play on the launch date is because this is a global game. When you buy Diablo 3, you buy Diablo 3 and you can play it in any country.. it's their first "region free" game. This has still not been officially announced or confirmed on the front page yet (which shouldn't come as a big surprise), but you can find these new details in the Presale Details.
What region will I play in?This is very odd though because one country is suddenly not included ("sort of") in the global launch. Russians can still play the game (download or purchase from non-Russian site), but Blizzard is not allowing their Blizzard Store's Digital Download to be available until June 7.. even though it's ready, they can download it today, it's a region free game, and it's already localized into Russian.
Diablo III is a global game. Players can choose to play on game servers based in the Americas, Europe, or Asia, regardless of what region they are connecting from. Certain restrictions apply. Further details will be posted on the Diablo III Community Site prior to release.
Note: your game-client version does not hinder your ability to select which regional game servers – the Americas, Europe, or Asia – that you play on.
Basically, they can still play the game, so it's still a "global launch", but the game is being withheld in the region specifically for an extra 3 weeks.
Hopefully, you understand why the "Region Free" information and benefits are still being withheld so publicly from the customers though. Or, should I say for such a long time.. because eventually it will be revealed on the forums now that the Digital Download is live and more people read the FAQ pages. Between now and when it was first mentioned months ago, there have been a TON of new Battle.net Regional and Payment Restrictions put into place. Even though it's a region free game, Blizzard has made it very difficult for one country (like Australia) to purchase the much cheaper digital version in the US.
Blizzard, You Announced It Wrong!
Today is March 15 2012 and the Release Date is exactly 2 months away on May 15 2012.
It's highly unusual that they're announcing on a Thursday and also during a very unusual time (pre-scheduled for 6AM). Many should be raising their eyebrows over this.. because the release date could (and should) have been announced this past Monday or the previous Monday.
There were also many Battle.net announcement posts taking place on these Mondays in preparation for the announcement, but it appears that they delayed it by an extra few days. Why? There was no point.
Also in this specific case, the time to Release is shorter than their past timetables.. typically I'll say "2 months", but that includes 1 or 2 additional weeks because they have always announced on a Monday. This is interesting because this time they've skipped the Monday, and shifted the release ahead by 1-2 weeks.
At least Bashiok was correct this time when he stated that they typically announce release dates "two months before release."
We probably won't end beta until shortly before release, and traditionally we've tried to announce release dates about two months before release. I couldn't speculate how invites might ramp up or down when the beta finally comes to a close, it definitely is not coming to a close yet though.Based on the confirmed Blizzard employee leak on the SomethingAwful forums, we now know that Blizzard was fully aware of the Release Date well before the Q4 2011 shareholders call. (This is the Blizzard employee who leaked all of the new Rune & Skill changes before the announcement and then quickly tried to delete his mistake.) Bashiok even confirmed that they changed their announcement date earlier that week (of the shareholders call.)
On Feb 29, 2012 when the Staff Reductions were announced, Mike Morhaime said in the official statement that the Diablo 3 release date would be announced "in the coming weeks." The layoffs have been known internally by senior management since late 2011 (at least), and this mistake seems to indicate that his message was composed probably 3-5 weeks prior. Knowing that the actual Release Date Announcement was on just the second week from this official statement, it should have said "days ahead." Forum posts questioning this mistake were quickly deleted by Blizzard. Based on Blizzard's previous use of "weeks ahead", it should have meant a minimum of 8 or 10 weeks.. remember the Battle.net Balance announcement? :)
It's Ready, So Why Not Earlier?
As you're well aware, I was expecting a release date announcement on Monday February 6 with a release date of Mid-April (given Blizzard's trend of approx. 2 months notice) because it made more business sense. But, instead I trusted Blizzard when they had said an Early 2012 Q1 release (so it absolutely couldn't possibly be Mid-April).
As for the actual release date itself, I have no idea. I don't have enough information to make a reasonable prediction. Let's just say that I will be very surprised if they release the game at the end of March (but it's what I'm hoping and aiming for based purely on Blizzard's Q1 promise.) Usually their games are released at least 1 month before the end of the quarter, so that they have excellent revenue for the quarter to show off to their investors. Mid-April makes better business sense, but I'm giving Blizzard the benefit of the doubt here and I'm going to fully trust them.They're still releasing it 1 month before the end of the quarter, but Monday February 6 made the most business sense. It was a PERFECT time to announce it. That Blizzard leak and Bashiok's comments have confirmed that the fixed release date was known before this time, and it was definitely going to be released at this time until something changed.
ATVI stock has continued to plummet since the Feb 9 Quarterly Shareholders meeting. So, why would an important announcement be moved from a critical business date to an arbitrary date one month later?
April 17 was also a completely feasible date for release, even right now knowing that the game is completed and ready (the Digital Download is currently ready and built, and was already prepared a long time ago.) Retailers are also apparently receiving shipments of the game. So, why not April 17? Why was the announcement shifted 1 or 2 weeks ahead, and the release date shifted exactly 1 month ahead?
There's something else I need to look into to confirm this, and I'll update this post when I learn more. Very strange events are afoot, and if you didn't believe previously that Blizzard would just shift something to an arbitrary date (that didn't make logical business reasons), you now see a prime example of it happening.