Recently Activision Blizzard revealed that its upcoming sci-fi themed RTS StarCraft II would not feature LAN support when the first installment hits the streets by the end of the year. Just yesterday, it was revealed that Diablo III would more than likely depend on Battle.net for the multiplayer portion, and not include LAN support.
The company cited piracy and security issues, but as one disgruntled fan wrote on a (now deleted) forum post, removing LAN only hurts the legitimate customers. After all, pirates will reverse-engineer the games and enable LAN support anyway; they'll even launch dedicate servers to enable multiplayer across an illicit Internet network.
So from Activision Blizzard's point of view--seemingly rather cocky at the moment after recent threats to halt development for the PlayStation 3--why would the company invest development funds to include LAN support in its upcoming games? After all, the company has (presumably) dumped loads of financial resources to make Battle.net the final multiplayer destination for all Blizzard games. For those fans who have already set up an account on the new Battle.net 2.0, Activision Blizzard has overhauled the free service, enhancing it visually and even offer digital downloads of older games when provided serial numbers. There's even speculation that the service will eventually offer a paid service, however Blizzard CEO and President Mike Morhaime ignored the question when asked during E3 2009, only saying that he was not ready to talk about the subject.
But let's face it: there's no replacing LAN play. When asked to write an article on why LAN support should be included in StarCraft II and Diablo III, the first image that came to mind was the faces of friends, all unshaven, sleep deprived, with bags of food and crumbled empty soda cans littering the floor. While the Internet brings the world together, LAN support brings friends together whether it's in the basement, the living room, or stretched out across the house in a crazy jungle of electronic vines. There's nothing better than to hear the anguish of defeated buddies, their cursing voices echoing off the walls. LAN support makes the game more personal, which in turn makes the experience that more enjoyable.
Of course, it's highly possible to have a fake LAN game on Battle.net using wireless connections. But what if the connections are limited, or there's no Internet access in the area? What if gamers simply want to whip out laptops on the road and battle each other without tethering or using wireless minutes? Activision Blizzard will deny that ability with StarCraft II, and that's really not fair. It's not fair that legitimate customers--those who work hard and shell out the bucks for a new game during tough economic conditions--have no say on how--or where--they get to play the game. In one sense, that's like Ford saying that your new truck can't drive on dirt roads.
Obviously, that's a bit of an exaggeration. There's a lot of passion behind LAN play, and many gamers obviously reject the idea of playing without the support. Who can blame them? On a personal level, Activision Blizzard's claim about piracy and security reasons seem bogus. The company wants its consumers to play on Battle.net only; it wants to know when and for how long gamers play the games. While this may sound like a conspiracy theory, there really doesn't seem to a be a valid point for removing LAN without further explanation. Just how is LAN a security issue, and if that is indeed the case, how was that handled with previous StarCraft and Diablo titles which actually do offer LAN support? And how exactly is LAN a piracy issue? If the game must be activated through Battle.net, gamers could still skirmish offline.
No, the reasons sound bogus.
Maybe players don't care about achievements, stat-tracking and some of the other features Battle.net supposedly will offer. Maybe gamers just want to kick their friend's ass just like the old days.
As the saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."