By Cho Mu-hyun
Blizzard Korea, the subsidiary of one of the world’s leading game developers, is facing a class action suit amid repeated protests from users for poor server management.
“We are planning a class action lawsuit against Blizzard Korea, as users and PC room owners are suffering from constant server malfunctions and server check-ups for Diablo 3 while the company avoids responsibility,” Kim Chan-kuen, head of Internet PC Culture Association (IPCA) told The Korea Times, Tuesday.
The plan comes as Blizzard Korea is under scrutiny by the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) for its poor product return policy. The government agency raided its Korean offices last month and is deciding on whether to fine the company for violating electronics commerce laws on its return policy.
IPCA opened an online cafe Monday called “Diablo 3 damage lawsuit group,” asking users and PC room owners to join the organization in filing a lawsuit against the American game company’s Korean office.
The IPCA is asserting that Blizzard Korea is intentionally ambivalent to user complaints of poor server management for the role playing game that was launched last month.
“We have something like 700 to 800 members in our cafe. We have received numerous complaints since early June from PC room owners and users, and decided to represent them.
“Korea accounts for a large percentage of Blizzard’s total revenue, and considering how much domestic users contribute to the firm’s profit, its consumer services are severely disappointing.
Kim says that the organization wishes the American game company to realize the seriousness of the issue.
The organization has held multiple internal meeting to decide the appropriate figure they wish to ask for in compensation and are consulting legal experts, said Ahn Sung-yon, head of IPCA’s public relations, and will decide on a future course of action within this month. Ahn added that other forms of protest, which are yet to be specified, are also under consideration.
PC room owners were initially able to install Diablo 3 at their businesses without paying royalties when the game was released on May 15.
As of June 1, however, they must now pay Blizzard Korea certain amounts of royalties depending on how many games are installed. The IPCA says the game company is constantly miscalculating the money it collects from PC room owners.
“Blizzard Entertainment’s failure to respond quickly and merely telling users to wait for a reply from headquarters despite constant server malfunctions and miscalculations of royalties is conduct that ignores domestic PC room owners and consumers,” said Kim.
The most recent incident that caused an outburst from users was a prolonged server checkup that started on Sunday and ended Monday. Blizzard Korea initially posted on its website that the Asia server will go through a 2 hour server checkup that eventually lasted over a day.
“The extended checkup time was due to our efforts to fix an item copying bug,” said a Blizzard Korea official. “We recently added servers to solve the problems of malfunctions, and are on the constant lookout to maintain proper connectivity for users.”
Diablo 3 was released worldwide last month with high expectations from Korean users, which serves as one of Blizzard’s most loyal customer bases. According to the firm, the game broke internal sales record with 2 million pre-orders and selling more than any of its previous games upon release.
The official said the overwhelming popularity was more than expected, and was the reason for server malfunctions.
“As with all foreign company subsidiaries, it is the usual method of operations to wait for confirmation from the headquarters before any measures are taken. The time that it takes is different case by case, but we are working hard to answer users’ complaints,” said the official.
게임업체 블리자드 코리아가 잦은 서버장애와 미숙한 서비스로 집단소송을 맞이하게 될 전망이다.
한국인터넷PC문화협회 (이하 인문협)의 김찬근 회장은 본지에게 “PC방 업주들과 이용자들이 디아블로 3에 있어 서버장애와 회사의 책임회피로 큰 불편을 겪고 있다”며 “블리자드를 상대로 소송을 준비 중”이라고 밝혔다.
블리자드의 한국지부는 현재 공정거래위원회에 전자상품거래법과 관련 위반사항이 있는지 검토를 받고 있는 상황이다.
인문협은 월요일 온라인 카폐를 개설하여 소송에 참여할 PC방 업주들과 이용자들을 모으고 있다.
김회장은 “현재 카페에 약 700에서 800정도의 회원을 모았다”며 “이번 6월을 시작으로 PC방 업주들과 이용자들의 민원이 끝임 없이 들어와 그들을 대표하기로 하였다”고 밝혔다.
그는 또 “한국의 블리자드의 매출에 큰 퍼센티지를 차지하고 있는 국가”이며 따라서 그에 걸맞은 서비스를 지원해야 하는 것은 당연하다고 말했다.
인문협은 블리자드 코리아가 문제의 심각성을 인지해야 한다고 덧붙였다.
인문협의 안성용 홍보팀장에 따르면 집단소송 외에도 다양한 시위활동을 계획하고 있으며 협회내부 토론들이 진행 중이라고 말했다.
6월1일을 기점으로 블리자드 코리아는 PC방에서 과금을 하고 있다. 인문협에 따르면 오과금이 불만이 협회에 무수히 들어오고 있다. 김회장은 “오과금과 서버장애도 불과하고 본사의 연락을 기다리라는 블리자드 코리아의 행동은 국내유저들을 무시하는 행위”라고 못 박았다.
디아블로 3는 5월15일 출시 이래 서버장애로 유저들의 큰 불만을 사고 있다. 10일에는 사전에 2시간이라고 통보된 서버점검이 27시간이 넘어 유저들의 불만이 쇄도했다.
블리자드 코리아 관계자는 “최근의 장시간 서버점검은 아이템 버그를 고치기 위했던 것”이라 말하고 “외국업체가 본사와 토의 후 향후 방향을 결정하는 것은 당연한 일이라고” 회사 입장을 밝혔다.
이 관계자는 또 “디아블로 3의 초기 접속자가 생각보다 많았다”며 “지속적으로 서버개선 방안을 마련할 것”이라고 말했다.