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Was Reviewer Access a Bridge Too Far?

Pre-order package options

The Game Awards
Halsey at The Game Awards

It all started on December 8, 2022, during The Game Awards. Following a performance by Halsey of her song “Lilith” and, what was, perhaps, the best video game release trailer of all time, Blizzard announced that Diablo IV would be released on June 6th. A collective cheer could be heard from Diablo fans around world. After months and years of hoping and speculating, we knew for sure that we would finally be getting this amazing new game in 2023.

Right after that, Blizzard began selling pre-orders, which included the Standard, Deluxe, and Ultimate editions. We all accepted this, because offering multi-tiered pre-order packages has been SOP in this industry for a long time. That is, until fans began to realize they could start playing the game up to four days early with the Deluxe and Ultimate editions.

That revelation was met with some mild backlash about how Early Access was unfair to players who could afford only the Standard edition. Others complained that Blizzard had already welshed on its promise about no “pay to win” in Diablo 4. Nevertheless, the uproar seemed to dissipate fairly quickly. This may have been because it is well known that many gamers wait until after a game releases before deciding if they want to buy it. The subsequent announcement that everyone who pre-ordered any edition would be given open beta access also helped to appease the mob.

Make Your MakrMake your mark

Then came Bizzard’s tweet on May 26th about the “Make Your Mark” challenge; a nice way to show some love for those in the Diablo community who are devout Hardcore players. The first 1000 players who reach character level 100 on Hardcore mode will have their IGNs immortalized on a Lilith effigy. It seemed like a really great idea initially, until folks started reading the fine print, which stated that the race to 100 would commence on June 1st.

This obvious wrinkle was met with even more backlash about how Early Access players would have a huge advantage in earning this reward. I mean, what can you say? It is difficult to argue with that kind of logic. On the other hand, any hardcore player who starts during Early Access will be well ahead anyway, regardless of whether the actual race itself begins on June 1st or June 5th. Having this kind of promotion at launch was bound to be imbalanced one way or another. Maybe it would have been better to wait until Season 1 to do it. In the end, it is a Blizzard game after all, and, so, here we are.

The last straw

As if to add insult to injury, right after the Make Your Mark tweet, we also started hearing from content creators about double-secret reviewer access. We were treated to a parade of Fight Club-esque Twitter posts and YouTube videos letting the world know that the cool kids had already been playing the full game, but, no, no, no, they couldn’t talk about it. Realistically, this was, again, nothing new. These same creators had also been given access to a “friends and family” beta way back in September of last year so they could begin sharing their general impressions of the game. However, there still is, and always will be, a segment of the Diablo community who simply can’t and won’t accept the fact that special access is an essential component of developing and marketing a new game.

Rod FergussonThat didn’t stop Rod Fergusson from attempting to appease the mob, though. In another tweet on May 26th, he offered an appeal that pointed out how the Diablo glitterati would still have to restart their games on June 1st. Well, to no one’s surprise, that went over like a lead balloon with the “unfair advantage” crowd. It probably would have been better to just have left it alone, or to make it clear that those creators would automatically be ineligible to receive the reward.

DiabloJust have fun

As for myself, I really can’t be bothered with any of this. Yes, I did purchase the Ultimate Edition, but that’s because I am a lifelong Diablo fan, and I wanted the extra goodies. I’ll be unable to take full advantage of Early Access because I will be busy with another important activity all that weekend.

So, where does that leave me? Well, as usual, I just want to have fun playing the game and I know I will regardless of any marketing schemes Blizzard has up its sleeve. I have always been a casual player, and, from what I experienced during the open beta and Server Slam, Diablo 4 is going to provide me with countless hours of quality entertainment for a long time to come.

Keep it “pure” and simple

I know there are many more gamers just like me here in the PureDiablo community. This site exists especially for those of us who enjoy playing Diablo games the way we like to play them. Bells and whistles are nice, but the most important ingredient for a good game is the camaraderie with other like-minded gamers. In fact, PureDiablo recently added a Player Match-Up forum specifically for that purpose.

I am very much interested in your opinions on this matter, so please leave your comments below. In the meantime, I will look forward to seeing all of you soon in Sanctuary.

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