Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime recently published a statement regarding Diablo III, addressing a number of concerns that have cropped up since launch. Interestingly, he acknowledged criticism surrounding its "always-online" requirement, and copped to the fact that it acts as a form of DRM.
"One other common topic we’ve seen in the forums is the always-connected experience, and the perception that the online requirement is nothing but an ineffective form of copy protection that has already been cracked," he said. "While we’ve never said that this requirement guarantees that there will be no cheating or game cracks, it does help us battle those problems (we have not found any fully functional cracks)."
Although boasting that it works as DRM, Morhaime did still claim that the system improves the game for the end-user.
"Diablo III was designed from the beginning to be an online game that can be enjoyed with friends, and the always-online requirement is the best way for us to support that design. The effectiveness of the online elements -- including the friends list and cross-game communication; co-op matchmaking; persistent characters that you can use by yourself, with others, and in PvP; and some of our customer support, service, and security components -- is tied directly to the online nature of the game.
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"These and other online-enabled features are essential to our design for Diablo III. That said, there are still improvements we believe we can make to expand the online experience and make co-op play even more rewarding, and this will remain one of our priorities moving forward. Overall, while there are some downsides to the online-only approach, I still believe this was the best long-term decision for the game."
I'd been calling Diablo III's online requirement DRM since the day it was announced, despite arguments from some claiming it wasn't DRM because Blizzard hadn't been calling it DRM. Doesn't matter what they ultimately claim it's for, and what "benefits" they espouse -- if developers demand end users perform tasks or jump through hoops that help a studio completely control the game experience after purchase, it's DRM in my book.