Blizzard The Latest To Kill Features, Call It An Upgrade

from the yeah,-that-doesn't-work dept

A bunch of folks have been sending in variations on the news that Blizzard has killed off LAN support for StarCraft II. The Buzz Saw points out that Blizzard seems to be taking the same old tactic of claiming that this removal of a feature is for the benefit of users, noting that this is “the best option to ensure a quality multiplayer experience.” However, the company also does admit that it was a “difficult decision” and that a larger part of the reason may have been to “safeguard against piracy.”

Either way, this seems like a move that’s designed to backfire badly. It’s all about taking away value, rather than adding value (or a reason to buy). LAN parties using StarCraft were a huge part of the appeal of the game — and even though there were many pirated versions out there, it’s part of what drove more people to buy the legitimate version. One thing that we’ve seen over and over again is that any business that focuses on “safeguarding against piracy” isn’t focusing enough on providing unique value to customers. It’s amazing that it still needs to be explained in this day and age, but you succeed in business by providing more positive value to customers, not in taking it away just because it doesn’t fit with your business model.

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Comments on “Blizzard The Latest To Kill Features, Call It An Upgrade”

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Danny (user link) says:

How much do you wanna bet...

…that about 1 year after Star Craft 2 releases Blizzard will drop a “Special Edition” or something like that which will “introduce LAN capabilities”? This isn’t about piracy this is about profit. Blizzard knows good and hell well the fans want LAN so that means they know they can dangle it over the players heads and drop only after they have drooled enough for it.

And besides what game maker thinks removing LAN capabilities will help prevent a game from being pirated. Sure as hell didn’t stop people from obtaning and/or making pirated copies of old console games.

formerly anonymous coward says:

Creating Market Demand

The funny thing about this is the main way people learned about and fell in love with SC was through LAN parties. So in effect all Blizzard is doing with this is creating demand for a product they do not offer. And one which people with a small amount of programming knowledge can creat based on their work. Then distribute for free.
In short, instead of “fighting piracy” Blizzard has created demand for a product only available through piracy. Nice job.

Kirion says:

Re: Re: Re:

I doubt this will be the case. Both starcraft and warcraft 3 uses servers only for finding partner (or creating custom game) and authentification. Once you created game – all traffic goes directly.
So it’s not like Blizzard kill lan parties. But you will need Wi-Fi router and legal cd keys for everyone who wants to play.

Phillip says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

even if the traffic doesn’t get sent up once match starts, why do I need to go out to find a match for everyone and get them all setup on the internet.

And what happens if their server go down or you service goes down, you can do anything even if everyone is present.

Steam did it right, you have to authenticate every now and then online, but you can still play offline just fine.

kirillian (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Doesn’t matter…most home routers are going to send the packets out the WAN side (to the ISP) before they bounce back after the ISPs gateway notices that the packets are headed to the same public IP that they came from…most home routers won’t know to route the packets back inside the network…so…the bandwidth will be used needlessly anyway.

Formerly Anonymous coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

@ Brooks, the way this will increase piracy is listed in comment #2.
@ kirillian, um no. Seriously don’t talk about networking if you think your router is a magic box. Even the cheapest home router will not transfer in subnet addressed traffic to it’s WAN side, ever.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“Seriously don’t talk about networking if you think your router is a magic box. Even the cheapest home router will not transfer in subnet addressed traffic to it’s WAN side, ever.”

IF the software is smart enough to point to as the receving party than yes the router will rout it inside (in fact it won’t get to the router since windows knows it’s inside the network).

If the software points to Blizzard’s public IP (much more likely) than the router will not magically route traffic back inside. It will go back to the server and then back in. Routers aren’t smart enough to know that (random IP address) will eventually come right back.

Phillip says:

Re: Re:

The point isn’t that people don’t have internet connections, and yes some people don’t, but if all I’m going to do is play with people locally why am I wasting bandwidth and latency to send all that information up to the cloud and back down to get to the person right next to me on the same switch?

If there is no LAN I will not by this game. The most fun I’ve had playing this game is on a LAN in person. We were all hanging out together playing the same game, and that was always more fun than even playing with the same group of people over the internet. Because then we would always run into some other issue with people not being able to connect, or voice chat screwing up or something else. It then turns into a bunch of troubleshooting instead of playing and having fun.

Brooks (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That is a shame, isn’t it.

Tell me, as an investor: would you buy stock in a company driven by game designers without regard to profit, or in a company driven by MBA’s focused on maximizing returns by developing very good games (but stopping short of perfectionism) while charging what people will pay, not what they would like to pay?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I would definitely prefer the run by game designers. That is the reason Blizzard is as successful as they are is because they allowed their designers to make great games.

I greatly see parallels in this to the other game studios. Became popular because they made great games, but ended up destroying themselves by trying to put the screws to their customers to make an extra buck.

Dunn says:

Re: Re: Let me...

Let me answer your question… with a question?

Would you like 50% of $100 or 75% of $25?

Good games sell. Bad games don’t.

If you’re an investor, sure… that 75% return sounds wonderful! Until you realize it’s 75% of a much lower amount because no one is buying your trash games and the company’s reputation goes to pot.

Think back to the Origin’s Ultima series… if you’re old enough. A game company, run by gamers, who put out amazing games and made a good amount of money at it.

Lord British (Richard Garriott) betrayed and murdered his father and went over to the dark side of the force – ok, he sold the company to EA, and down… down it went.

Now, the only product they have is Ultima Online. The Avatars are turning over in their graves.

Brooks (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Let me...

Right, we’re talking about extreme cases where *either* game dev *or* revenue maximization are pursued to the exclusion of all else.

The problem is that good games sell, but bad management produces such low returns that investors (aka owners) apply pressure to deliver slightly less good games at higher margins.

That’s why these companies get bought by EA, Activision, etc. And why subsequent games aren’t as good, in the eyes of gamers. And, yes, why companies like EA lose their way and become so business-centric that they forget they have to deliver very good games, just not perfect ones, to maximize revenue.

But a company run by game designers sounds like a terrible investment, because the vast majority of game devs don’t have the business skills to do all of the other stuff a company has to do: raise capital, market a product, operate customer support, and so on.

All I’m saying is that poor management will sink a company, and as an investor I’m more optimistic about EA’s ability to improve revenues than I am about small studios’ ability to produce any ROI at all… until they sell to one of the big guys.

Will says:

Re: Re: Re:

Look at the company’s success historically. The games they have made may be pirated, but they are also EXTREMELY successful.

If investors think they know better they should invest in a company that will actually need management changes. Blizzard has a very strong reputation for only producing games of the highest qualities.

Lucretious (profile) says:

This wouldn’t have happened prior to the Activision merger. This is simply corporate heads trying to cover their asses with shareholders who want to see their pet monkeys in suits deliver “full value” by protecting their investment.

The sad part is that probably most Blizz employees KNOW its bullshit yet they don’t have the balls to speak out against it.

Brooks (profile) says:

Well, sort of

To be fair, Blizzard is removing a feature that nobody has bought yet. This is more of a design decision (possibly a poor one), and not really the same as the Emusic issue where they changed the rules for existing, paying customers.

And as a veteran of software dev, it’s not at all implausible that this is just triage. This is a game that’s been in development for six years… it’s possible they either found that LAN support was turning out poorly, or that they realized they had to cut *something* to make it to market.

And, on the piracy angle, it may be that they found that as much as some people loved LAN parties, the number of people refusing to buy the game without that feature is tiny compared to the cost of developing and supporting the feature. That’s a totally reasonable economic decision to make.

I’m not defending them, and I agree that the “for your own good” canard is so tired and transparently false that it damages the brand. I’m just not quite ready to say that deciding not to bring a feature to market is the same as removing an existing feature from existing users who have already paid.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Well, sort of

Maybe your experience tells you different, but is there really likely to be a situation where internet play is perfectly fine but LAN play is bad enough to be removed? Surely apart from game matching and where the traffic’s routed to (mostly handled by the OS, I assume), it’s the same code?

Anyway, this really does stink of “anti-piracy” by execs. There’s a relatively small perceived market for the LAN games and most content execs are so irrationally scared of “piracy” that they’ll happily kill off features if it helps them justify sales figures.

Maybe I’m just cynical, but this is the sort of decision we have come to expect in the DRM-obsessed PC gaming world despite the fact that it’s likely to increase rather than decrease “piracy”.

Brooks (profile) says:

Re: Re: Well, sort of

I would expect to have significant code differences between LAN and internet play. LAN is going to either be a P2P model or a “one of us is the server” model, and that’s going to be very different code to support 10 people than the huge internet servers they’ll use to support tens of thousands of users.

Those backend servers are almost certainly not remotely related to the code shipped in-game. So stuff like anti-cheat, timing, etc, is all going to be re-implemented for a local versus remote version.

I could be wrong there; I don’t know Starcraft 2 in particular.

My guess is that they figured they could offer some kind of “virtual LAN” game whereby you all enter the same room and only see each other, but the game is managed by the internet servers.

I’m not sure it’ll increase piracy, at least measurably. I can’t see someone saying “I *would* buy it, and I still want to play it, but now I don’t want to pay.” Sure, out of sheer petulance and spite *somebody* will do that, but it’s probably a tiny percentage of their sales.

It certainly won’t decrease piracy, though. I don’t even see the argument for how it could. If the concern is phone-home, they could just build that into LAN games anyway.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Well, sort of

“I would expect to have significant code differences between LAN and internet play.”

I wouldn’t. The servers would be doing the same exact coding as the LAN server just more of it.

“My guess is that they figured they could offer some kind of “virtual LAN” game whereby you all enter the same room and only see each other, but the game is managed by the internet servers.”

That’s possible but there is no way for the company to properly setup a virtual LAN that isn’t reliant on their servers. Thanks to things like smiler network configurations (how many of you have networks?) DHCP (how many don’t?) and routers inside routers (DSL is setup this way a lot). The only way to work that properly and without problems would be to have a constant and consistent connection to the server. This brings up problems with slow internet connections causing latency between two people on the same switch.

“I’m not sure it’ll increase piracy, at least measurably. I can’t see someone saying “I *would* buy it, and I still want to play it, but now I don’t want to pay.” Sure, out of sheer petulance and spite *somebody* will do that, but it’s probably a tiny percentage of their sales.”

Can you say “Spore”?

Phillip says:

Re: Re: Well, sort of

Nice try there, but not even close. Even if you crammed your house full of people and were able to Start a WOW server you would have an empty server that game is made to be played with massive amounts of people.

Most RTS games cap out at 8-12 people per match and thus are all made with LAN support, except apparently SC2.

What other RTS has come out in the last 10 years without this feature? I can’t think of one and I love and have played a lot of them.

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Well, sort of

it’s possible they either found that LAN support was turning out poorly, or that they realized they had to cut *something* to make it to market.

This may be true, but it’s besides the point. The issue is not why a feature was removed or even whether it was removed before or after the release. As you allude to, the issue is the blatantly transparent falsehood that these changes are made for the benefit of the consumer. Fair enough if you believe that removing a feature will help decrease piracy or that you’re overbudget and have to cut a feature. But don’t treat us like drooling idiots that will accept the lame line about doing it for our own good. That’s the galling part.

Bradley says:

How are they killing off a feature that doesn’t exist? They didn’t remove LAN play from SC2, because SC2 isn’t out yet, and therefore hasn’t had LAN play.

Not to mention they wanted it integrated with – which is how they support their authenticators, trophies, achievements, etc. It’s no different than Steam.

I really think this is a case of fanboys crying than anything else. No one has tried SC2 over yet – how could you possibly know the experience won’t be better than an old-school LAN party without first even trying the new system?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

–No one has tried SC2 over yet – how could you possibly know the experience won’t be better than an old-school LAN party without first even trying the new system?

Because there is *always* some lag over the internet. There is no lag on a lan. Plus, how do you know your 128kbit uplink can handle you and 12 of your friends playing at once trying to send up to over a tiny upload pipe. (no competition, that’s ALL there is. Too far for DSL and no FIOS)

Jared Heinrichs (user link) says:

Re: Like Steam....

You obviously don’t know what you are talking about. STEAM is a program to distribute games online. Some games benifit from central cloud Statistics. How ever, native Valve games like “Team Fortress 2”, Left4Dead etc.. all have LAN Play! Any game that is not developed by “Steam” like “Unreal Tournament 3” LAN play is up to the developer. Most games have “LAN ability”. Steam also has “Offline Mode”. This make the interface a bit more responsive when you are not online (but on a LAN) or when you are on a buggy internet connection.

I have to admit I always pirate games to try them. Most games that I play more then once I typically buy. I don’t buy games that bring something to the table or have lasting power. I can see Star Craft 2 being one of those without LAN play.

I will not buy SC2 without LAN play.

The Buzz Saw (profile) says:

Re: Re:

@Bradley — This whole issue has NOTHING to do with “LAN vs” quality. I believe Blizzard when it says that 2.0 is going to be freakin’ amazing. I have no doubts about that. The issue here is that LAN lets people play the game in a place where Internet is absent (or really slow/laggy). Internet access is not quite omnipresent like electricity and water are. Even on the university campus here, there is Internet everywhere, but all game-related sites/ports are blocked.

I participate in Starcraft LAN parties quite frequently. The decision to remove LAN play removed all incentive for me to buy the game. No, I am not so naive to think that the LAN supporter boycott will make a dent in Blizzard’s finances. We are simply expressing our distaste with this decision and have chosen not to buy this game.

Designerfx (profile) says:


blizzard is really stupid to do this. Just watch how huge the backlash is going to be on this. Won’t be the first time. Then again, they sold out to activision, wasn’t it? Little surprise.

I can’t wait to tell my friends who work at/own retail electronics locations if they don’t already know about this (this is about a week old, Mike), as they will basically not carry the game.Sure as heck won’t suggest it to friends either.

Sadly, Monitor making companies such as panasonic, sony, etc have been doing this concept for years (40+). Not only that, but when they add the “features” back in, they charge a premium for it. How do you think TV prices have remained constant at certain inch-sizes for decades (adjusted for inflation)?

Have there ever been companies that sold out, that actually didn’t do greedy things after selling out?

spencerMatthewP says:

One internet connection just won't work

Everyone brings their box to a single place and gets on the lan just like they always have. The difference is now every machine is going through the lan to the internet to play the game. So instead of 10 machines having their own gigabit connection to share information on the lan, those 10 people are sharing one single 1/2 megabit connection (common upload speed) and going over the internet to a single server.

Talk about lag time. It’s simply not enough bandwidth to do it justice. You can’t cram that much data through that small of a pipe to make it fun anymore. What a terrible idea. While I’m sure that Blizzard has done something to make the network communications more efficient, it would not be possible to make it so efficient that a single location lan party would be any fun.

RIP Lan party, we barely knew thee.

Matthew (profile) says:

Not your Father's Blizzard

Blizzard has forgot one of the features that made StarCraft 1 so popular. “Install Spawn”, the feature that allowed you to install the game on many computers in order to do — guess what? — LAN Parties!!! They weren’t worried about Pirates back then, they even encouraged mooching, because they knew once you got your hands on a “demo” version of StarCraft, you would be hooked into buying the real thing.

This is a bad decision. I still do LAN parties with StarCraft, and was really looking forward to doing it with SC2. Of course, I will still buy SC2, but now I will wait until it is $50 for all three games, instead of at full price.

Sergio says:

Re: Not your Father's Blizzard

Install Spawn is why I bought WarCraft II and StarCraft back in the day. My friend came over and installed WC2 on my computer so we could play over the modem. Since that only lets you do multiplayer with 1 CD, I ended up buying it to play the single player and to play with other people who didn’t own it yet.

Couple of years later, did the EXACT same thing with StarCraft.

Even Command & Conqure (WarCraft’s Competition back then) did a similer thing. It came with 2 CDs, half the game on one, half on the other. They did that so you could lend a CD to a friend and play against eachother on modem play.

Oh how they’ve forgotten what made them great in the first place!

The Cenobyte says:

The big guys lost awhile ago

Honestly most of the big name games that come out now are not worth the money. I find a lot of smaller games from smaller companies with more vision and interesting game play and month or years later I get the big name ones and then still wonder if I got my $5.99 out of them.

Starcraft was great but nothing I have seen tells me they are really going to add anything to the game play experence other than some new units and some pretty graphics.

Rob (profile) says:

This will definitely be a different experience than playing on LAN in that it ummm… just won’t work. Let’s say you have a 4×4 game going on on a LAN — the computers are communicating directly with each other at 1 Gbps. If you wanted to play that same game on, all the computers on the network have to send all of that data out one upload pipe, which is usually about 2 Mbps, which leaves each machine with 250 kbps upload speed, which is NOT ENOUGH!! Not to mention the fact that you will always have lag, 100 ms over internet at best vs.

Matt Bennett says:

I don’t know that LANs are particularly popular anymore, except among a very small subset. People did LANs before mostly because suffieciently fast internet connections weren’t that common. That isn’t the case anymore. is free, they just want you to won a legitimate copy to play on their servers, I don’t think that’s so unreasonable.

Jacob says:


1) My college is 100% wifi.. and the signal is weak at our dorms. Some days I could play WoW without problem, and sometimes I couldn’t get on for days.

2) Connection to is blocked at the university for some ungodly reason

LAN, even if YOU don’t need it, is an essential feature to some of us. My roommate and I bought new starcraft discs mid semester and played via lan like crazy.

So lets see, I can’t play LAN with my friends… I never play RTS games online… So that leaves it to a single player game. Now, I can buy this single player game – or pirate it.. hmm. -$60 for activision right here.

Why can’t they just incorporate steam’s model? That way I can authenticate when I’m off campus (where the game is not blocked) and play? Never thought I’d say this in my life but – Screw you blizzard.

minijedimaster (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And your POINT IS?? Seems to me if they had the ability to include LAN play ELEVEN YEARS AGO then it should be easy to implement now. On top of that, I have three computers in my house. So now this means that if I want to play this game against my son WITHIN MY OWN HOME, I have to purchase the game TWO OR THREE TIMES? Screw that and Blizzard!

Phillip says:

Re: Re:

and guess what I played a few games of it just last week. People still play it because it was a great game that you could pick up and play a quick game every now and then.

Plus at my last job some of us would stay late on Friday and play a few LAN games of Starcraft, but there is no way we could’ve done that if we had to connect to As that was blocked, however since we could play we got 6 new people to buy this ELEVEN year old game just ONE year ago.

Danny says:


Which brings up a good point.

Even without MLG what would stop some group from trying to somehow add in LAN capabilities. I don’t know if that would be possible but if it is this is going to lead to people trying.

Assuming it would be possible to do so Blizzard has not only failed to eliminate piracy but may acutally increase the likelyhood of it.

Paul B says:

I lost a lot of respect for Blizzard for doing this.

@ 4 Youd be surpirsed- but thats not even the point- they’re taking out a feature that MANY people use- and saying its for the users benefit.

Even if only a few people used it- they should keep the option.

There should be a boycott, people want this feature and Blizzard doesnt give a shit.

yellowbelliedcoward says:

Starcraft is NOT a MMORPG

What Blizzard is forgetting:

WoW got pirated plenty, lots of private servers were and are around. It’s just not much fun to play a MMORPG without the’Massive’ part.Big private servers may be fun, but they’re still not as good as battlenet, being able to be part of a huge community made it very appealing.

You can play any RTS 1on1 just fine. So what worked for WoW won’t necessarily work for Starcraft 2.

Could someone tell me how long it took for private WoW servers to pop up? A few months?

Do you think it will take more than 2-3 months at most before someone manages to make it possible to play on your LAN with Bnet emulator/bypass of some sort? It’s a pretty popular game, so I doubt it will be long before users put what THEY WANT in the game.

Formerly Anonymous Coward says:


Who are you arguing against? You quoted me, but not the prior statement.

from kirillian “Doesn’t matter…most home routers are going to send the packets out the WAN side (to the ISP) before they bounce back after the ISPs gateway notices that the packets are headed to the same public IP that they came from…most home routers won’t know to route the packets back inside the network…so…the bandwidth will be used needlessly anyway.”

“my response @ kirillian, um no. Seriously don’t talk about networking if you think your router is a magic box. Even the cheapest home router will not transfer in subnet addressed traffic to it’s WAN side, ever”

This was in the context of a non internet LAN game. Kirillian has already stated “the packet came from the same pulic ID” I am not pretending to know how Blizz will code. I was responding to someone saying something to look like they know what they are talking about when they have no clue about my field of expertise. I am just trying to rebutt inaccurate information. So do not strawman it.

minijedimaster (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Just because YOU don’t go to them anymore doesn’t mean NO one does. iain!=entire world. LAN party issue aside, as I pointed out a few posts up, what if I buy this game and want to be able to play against a family member on one of the other computers in my own house? Now I have to buy a $50 copy of the game for every computer I own? No thanks… pass. Will not buy this game at all now. RIP Blizzard.

Different Mike says:

I remember buying Warcraft 2 because.....

I remember Warcraft 2 had a feature where you could install the game on as any computers on a local network as you wanted and you only needed a disc to remain in whichever computer you were using to host the game. The other installed copies could play the LAN games, but could not host or play single-player. I was introduced to Warcraft due to this, and ended up buying it (as well as StarCraft, and Warcraft 3 and it’s expansions) specifically because of the fact that I got hooked on the game through playing on a LAN.

I wonder how many sales they would have made, but will not make due to the elimination of this feature.

Redphantasm (profile) says:

LAN via web

Having played the original Starcraft at many a LAN party, I can tell you I don’t really care that SC2 won’t have LAN.

Every LAN party I’ve been to in the last 5 years has hosted the games over the web on a private server, rather then run through the headaches of setting all computers up on a local network.

I doubt they did it for any improvement, but rather for the raw costs. Why add a feature that 98% of the players will never consider using?

Phillip says:

Re: LAN via web

Apparently you need to go to LAN party’s with more intelligent people.

If you are all together all the computers SHOULD already be on the same local network and it is easier to setup a private LAN game of Starcraft than a private online game.

On the LAN no one outside can connect with you. In Starcraft the only way this works is if you add a password to your game that everyone knows so no one else joins in before your group does.

Enrico Suarve says:


I used to play LAN games with a bunch of friends all the time (not for the last year due to work)

On many occasions I was introduced to a new game via these parties, the cleverer ones (such as some of the old delta force games) used to allow you to play on a LAN as long as just one of you had the actual CD

End result – these games got played more as you didn’t all need copies, on most occasions if the game was remotely good we would all buy copies so we could practice in our own time and not just be executed by the one guy who actually owned a copy

So the ability to pirate at LAN parties in effect drove us to buy more copies, games that didn’t allow this often didn’t get a look in. You’ve got to be pretty convincing with your one copy to get 8 guys to all rush out and buy it, whereas any salesman will tell you getting a product into a customers hands is a much surer way of driving a sale…

Buy then what do I know? I just played the games and bought them after all

And to the guys saying “just all go online”, yeah great but meeting and being in the same room is way more fun, and if you are going to do that for most games you need a pretty good connection for 8 people to share from the same location

Anonymous Coward says:


This is partly about DRM, but not completely. It is also, I believe, an attempt by Blizzard to seize control of the very large competitive gaming events. This is done in many countries, but most notably Korea. Now, with Starcraft 2, ALL large gaming events will HAVE to go through Blizzard… either set up on bnet, or with special dispensation to play through a lan.

It’s a control issue. Somebody’s making money off Starcraft? Blizzard wants to control the entire chain. It’s foolish, but it’s the type of foolishness you’ll often see in companies.

It’s not the first mistake they’ve made with Starcraft. They are splitting the game into three parts, and selling each for full price. If you want to play with somebody who has the 1st and 2nd, you’ll need the 1st and 2nd.

They’re seeming to act a lot like SONY did before the PS3 was released… which was the start of the worst series of ridiculous blunders I’ve ever seen a company commit. If I was an investor, I’d be scared.

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