Three possibilities for Diablo III’s release date

Diablo III

Between a Best Buy store display claiming a 1 February launch for Diablo III and recent reports from Korea revealing that the Korean Game Rating Board has derailed Blizzard’s plans for a simultaneous worldwide launch for the game, what are we supposed to believe?

Here’s a quick summary of the exciting Diablo III developments which happened in the past week or so:

  • Joystiq reported that a Best Buy store has put up a store display showing a 1 February launch date for Diablo III.
  • To complicate matters, UK retailer Gameplay claims a 3 February launch date on their website.
  • The Korea Times reported last Wednesday that Blizzard was forced to delay the global launch of Diablo III because the Korean government agency responsible for game content, the Game Rating Board, refused to classify Diablo III over concerns that the Real Money Auction House (RMAH) is a form of gambling.
  • Then, this report by VentureBeat has Blizzard basically confirming that the situation in Korea has affected Diablo III’s launch date, but that the company is still committed to a global launch for the game.
  • Blizzard Community Manager Micah “Bashiok” Whipple subsequently posted an update to Twitter yesterday morning, saying: “Diablo III does not have a release date. Any store or person claiming otherwise is guessing.”

We also know the following details:

  • The “first quarter 2012” release target has not been shifted, meaning the Diablo III launch date will be in either January, February or March.
  • Blizzard is still committed to a simultaneous worldwide launch for Diablo III.
  • Similar to StarCraft II, Blizzard has confirmed that gamers in Southeast Asia/Australia/New Zealand will have access to North American servers on launch day. Basically, if they get the game, so will we.
  • The game, as it stands in the current closed beta, is final. See this compelling analysis by Daeity from the Digital Castration blog for more details.

Based on all the recent developments and details known to us, there are only three possibilities:

  1. Knowing that the Korean Game Rating Board is likely to approve Diablo III, Blizzard has committed itself to a launch in the month of February. This means that the simultaneous worldwide launch will go ahead as planned.
  2. The Korean Game Rating Board does not approve Diablo III. Blizzard still goes ahead with the launch of Diablo III in the month of February. This means that the game will launch worldwide without Korea, and possibly without the full capabilities of the Real Auction Money House implemented.
  3. The Korean Game Rating Board does not approve Diablo III. Blizzard delays the launch of Diablo III until the company is able to come to a compromise with the Korean government agency. This means that the game will be delayed worldwide, possibly beyond the first quarter.

Saying which of these three scenarios is most likely to happen is pure guesswork. I would hazard that given the above-mentioned retailer activity, which is typically dependent on physical indicators like physical ship dates and supply chain issues, scenario #1 is fairly plausible. However, as expected, Bashiok has denied this to be the case. I don’t count on myself to be right though, so you shouldn’t either.

In any case, it sure is telling how interconnected the gaming market is for a government agency in a relatively-small Asian market for Blizzard, as far as sales are concerned, to be able to cause so much headache and delay an absolutely massive game for the rest of the world.

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