Diablo 3 Launch and the Gaming Software Industry

The most globally anticipated game of 2012 will soon make its debut, just in time to suck up all of your free time this summer. Irvine-based Blizzard Entertainment announced that at midnight on May 15th, their Diablo franchise will release its third installment. It has been 12 long years since the release of Diablo 2, making this perhaps the longest software development cycle ever!

To celebrate, there will be several launch events held around the world, including one in Blizzard's own hometown of Irvine, at the Spectrum shopping center's Giant Wheel court. Judging by the photos of previous launch events, you may want to steer clear of the mayhem unless you are a truly devoted fan. Think Comicon flash mob!

Diablo 3 Launch at the Irvine Spectrum Big Wheel
Fiats will be replaced with fanboys in two short weeks!

Blizzard is no doubt revered for its products, which include the Starcraft and Warcraft families of games. And with such a strongly anticipated product set to debut, it was very puzzling to many to hear the company's February announcement of plans to lay off nearly 600 workers.

Considering that Blizzard's parent company Activision Software made $1 Billion in net profit last year, it seems that the cuts were rather deep: 600 employees represent over 15% of Blizzard's staff. Could it be possible that even skills in such a specialized industry can now be commoditized? Or is this just a miscalculation by corporate cost cutters?

Many fans have lamented some of Blizzard's other recent business decisions, such as the elimination of the option to play against friends on a local area network. Fans can only hope that the layoffs will not affect the operation of the Blizzard network, Battle.net, with the heavy influx of new traffic later this month.

Having viewed some of the cut scenes and gameplay on youtube and Blizzard's own webpage, I can say that the graphics were a little ho-hum considering the time invested. It is also unclear to me how players can collaborate and battle each other the way that they do in Blizzard's extremely popular Starcraft II.

In fact, one of the hallmarks of a great game is known as replayability, or the desire for players to keep playing a game long after they have completed the pre-packaged quest. The social aspects of Diablo 3 will be the key to replayability, and hence success with the post Web 2.0 gaming generation.

And so I ask you: will you be purchasing this game? And what are your thoughts on the future of the gaming industry?

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