By Alexander Villafania
MAKATI CITY, METRO MANILA—Last May 15, the Philippines became one of the first countries to have launched one of the most anticipated video games this year, US-based publisher Blizzard's Diablo III.
The game's local launch was organized by Philippine publisher IP E-games, which had previously launched StarCraft II, another Blizzard game. With both games already under IP E-Games's belt, the company is dead set on bringing on a stronger partnership with the giant global publisher.
Despite having a seemingly quiet launch in the Philippines, IP E-Games executives are expecting that Diablo III will be a hit. There were at least 5,000 pre-orders going to E-games from local players.
"We anticipate that Diablo III would be a huge hit in the Philippines and we see this as a long-term partnership with Blizzard," said Heidi Anne Garayblas, chief operating officer of IP E-games.
Garayblas said that under their partnership with Blizzard, they will be selling the boxed copies of Diablo III in the Philippines, much as what it did with StarCraft II in 2010.
She identified several retail partners where it will distribute the games. Among them are Datablitz, i-Tech, Mineski, PC Hub, PCQuest, Digital Hub, Digital Walker, Warzone, and ADI.
The distribution of a triple-A title by E-Games is a departure from its original business model of distributing game clients. Its main revenue source are prepaid cards that allow players to purchase in-game virtual items to improve their character.
In addition, the games are in local domains that allow full control over the game environment and economy.
In the case of Diablo II, in-game virtual items are bought in an "auction house" that is controlled by Blizzard. Local players can also play with others outside the Philippines.
Since Diablo III requires an Internet connection, players will connect to the Asian server of Blizzard's Battle.net online gaming service.
Garayblas said that they are working out with Blizzard regarding revenue share with Blizzard especially since Diablo III will still have future purchasable expansion packs. For now, revenues still come from selling the boxed games.
Much of this anticipation is banking on the popularity of the Diablo series since it was introduced, albeit unofficially in the Philippines in 1998. Back then, Internet cafes started offering Diablo I, along with other video games that helped prop the net cafe business.
Diablo I's success was later followed by Diablo II in 2000. Due to the growth of household-based PCs, Diablo II became popular among gamers at home.
Incidentally, many players in the Philippines were able to bypass the online connectivity requirement of both the early versions of the Diablo series as they only wanted to play the single player campaign.
Still, Garayblas said they expect more Filipinos to go online to play the game.
"There's are a lot more you can do when playing online, especially with the speed of our local bandwidth. There will be a lot more to see when we have the player-versus-player update for Diablo III."
loQal.ph (http://loqal.ph/) is a website owned and operated by Filquest Media Concepts, Inc. It works under the principle of giving voice to the voiceless, empowering Filipinos and uplifting the image of the Philippines by highlighting its unique culture. To do this, the loQal.ph team produces stories, video, photos and other multimedia content types to inspire and celebrate Filipino achievements, ideas, products and places.