You know how for a while now I've been talking about the region free aspects of Diablo 3, even though they were never officially announced?
I used Australia as a primary example; because games cost so much in AU, they could easily purchase Diablo 3 in a cheaper country but still play in their own. It's a global game after all. I was fully expecting Blizzard to put certain restrictions in place to prevent this from happening.. including keeping the whole "region free" feature of the game pretty low key and blocking sales to other countries.
It appears to have just happened.
A Sacrifice To The Money Gods
According to the Press Release, Diablo 3 will be launching worldwide for all available countries except that the game cannot be purchased in Latin America or Russia until 3 weeks after the global launch.
Starting that day, gamers with a thirst for fast-paced action and adventure will be able to purchase Diablo III at retailers throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, South Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. In addition, gamers in the regions above as well as in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil will be able to buy Diablo III digitally via Blizzard’s Battle.net® website.Seems a little strange, wouldn't you say?
Players in the listed Latin American countries and in Russia will be able to purchase Diablo III at local retail locations starting June 7. Digital availability for the Russian version of the game will also begin June 7.
For one, there aren't actually any "Russian servers".. they will be playing on the European regional servers like tons of other players. Many Russian players have already been playing the beta and latency hasn't been a problem. The game is also ready for Russia. It's done and it's region free.
Even the Russian localization is fully completed:
In addition to the English version, Diablo III will be fully localized into Latin American Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, European Spanish, Italian, Polish, Russian, Korean, and Traditional Chinese.And Blizzard has confirmed in their official statement that Russian players can start playing right away with everyone else on May 15, but that they simply need to purchase the European version instead:
You can also purchase the European version, which includes all the languages of Diablo III European region, including Russian. Then you can play from May 15 (but in Russian - from June 7).The servers, the infrastructure, the accounts, the game, and everything else are fully prepared for release and play in Russia.
So, what critical missing piece could possibly be holding back selling the game in these regions? Absolutely nothing. This is just a very clever business strategy... maybe. Put on your tinfoil hat.
In the Latin American countries, users will not be able to purchase Diablo 3 in retail stores until 3 weeks after the global launch. The Digital Download is available to them, though. In Russia, users cannot purchase from retail stores or even as a Digital Download.
Russian fansites are speculating that Blizzard is "just being greedy" by trying to force Russians to purchase the European version. However, this could just be a side-effect of something else.
These countries consist of minority player counts, so they're not specifically being forced to purchase the more expensive version of Diablo 3 from other countries, but rather the opposite is happening. They're being sacrificed for every OTHER country, so that these other countries can't purchase the much cheaper alternatives in Russia or Latin America.
You see, because D3 is a region free game, a EU player could easily purchase the much cheaper Russian version of the game, but still play in their own country.
Purely coincidental, but Blizzard has various Battle.net Account purchasing restrictions in place for Latin America Digital Downloads already, but there are very minor restrictions in place for Russia being purchased as a Digital Download. :)
This is why in Russia the game is not available in either medium, but in Latin America, players specifically can't purchase from retail stores, but they can still get the Digital Download.
Three weeks also happens to be the highest sales period for new game launches. After 3 weeks, it won't matter as much if players from other regions start buying from the much cheaper Russian and Latin America retail sources. Latin American prices might be pretty normal for US/EU players, but in countries that order from other Latin American countries, there are huge cost savings.
(Note: If you're interested in purchasing more copies of Diablo 3, you might want to keep Russia in mind. Between now and then Blizzard might put in some new EU security restrictions for Russia.. but right now, it's open.)
In earlier posts, I also suspected that they would "suddenly" disable Diablo 3 gifting.
I also suspect that you won't be able to purchase and give the gift to a friend. The Digital version of Cataclysm (and other games) are transferable right now, meaning that they're not locked to a Battle.net account. Diablo 3 will probably be different on launch day.This was confirmed in the same "low key" posting about Diablo 3 being region free.
Can I pre-order a copy of Diablo III for a friend?This was another method Blizzard is employing to prevent other countries from purchasing Diablo 3 and simply transferring to another account. Prepare to put on your "shocked face" when they remove this restriction sometime long after the game launches. :)
Each pre-ordered copy of Diablo III is automatically attached to the Battle.net account that purchased it. It is not possible to transfer a digital copy of Diablo III from one account to another.
The Russian fansites got it right that this is for "greed reasons", but maybe it's not for the reasons that they think it was.
I'm still having a hard time believing that they did this.