How does a games publisher determine the success of a product or a business model? Mostly, profit. In the business world, it is the only reliable measure of whether you’re making sound business decisions or not.
Activision-Blizzard wound up with more than 50 million reasons for thinking that the online-single-player game model is a good one – and that was before they even launched it.
Activision-Blizzard’s always-online model didn’t deter pirates (who were reportedly able to play the game days early, and apparently continue to do so without server errors). They don’t matter. This model isn’t about piracy anyway.
It’s more about Real Money Trade (RMT). Keeping that connection live and verifying everything end-to-end all the time is what allows Activision-Blizzard to maintain a firm control of the game economy, and prevent the marketplace from being voided.
For all the objections to the model – and I’ve heard plenty, since it was announced – there seems to be nothing in Activision-Blizzard’s language that suggests “don’t do this.”
US pre-orders alone took US$50 million from gamers’ pockets (and that’s not counting online sales), all before launch day. Add in the rest of the world, and Activision-Blizzard probably made a profit before they even released.
Now that is a message that a publisher takes to heart. You might complain. You might hit the front page of /r/gaming on Reddit. But that doesn’t stop many of you from actually buying the game, and even doing it without knowing much at all about it.
So, the online-single-player model? I expect to see more of that from Activision-Blizzard (and perhaps others). Diablo players have made it clear to the publisher that the online-single-player model just isn’t enough to stop them buying a game.