This year has to be one of the most anticipated Blizzcons ever. Not only will there be a playable version of Wrath of the Lich King, but we’ll more than likely see the WotLK opening cinematic, but we’ll more than likely get updates on Starcraft II and Diablo III.
With all this anticipation, many people tried to get tickets on August 11 when the Blizzard Store started selling tickets. Nobody was able to get tickets, and the store had become slow, then started spitting out errors just as people were confirming their purchases, and then the site went dead altogether.
Blizzard announced that nobody had been able to buy tickets when the store opened and that it would be brought up as soon as possible. In what was probably the biggest spammng of “refresh” in the history of the internet, people kept trying the Blizzard Store, hoping to get their tickets before people realized that the store was back up.
Slowly, the site came back up, and went back down. Over and over again, the store teased people into believing that tickets were available, only to pull the rug out from under them. People were finally reporting that they were able to buy tickets and got their confirmation emails. Other people reported clicking the last button they had to, only to be brought to the Murloc Error Page, leaving the user to try again.
This is where the story takes a nasty turn. Those people that did try again found that they were charged multiple times for their purchases. What this means was that the store’s server marked the transaction complete, but returned an error to the user. The user would naturally believe that the transaction didn’t go through and tried again. One person even reported being charged 30 times for a total of $3000!
The problems didn’t end there. Towards the end of the afternoon, people found they had 1 or more tickets in their cart, they go to check out, and get an error that the tickets were no longer in their cart and that there were no more tickets available. Ticket sites like ticketmaster.com will “hold” the tickets for you for a few minutes. I’ve seen it average at 3 minutes. This reserves those seats for you for that session for three minutes and the tickets stay in your cart for that time. With the Blizzard Store, even though the tickets were in your cart, they weren’t held for your sessions like ticketmaster.com does. Needless to say, this caused a lot of people to complain that Blizzard shouldn’t have done that, and I would have to agree with that feeling. If something’s in your cart, the electronic store shouldn’t take the items away from you on a whim.
Afterwards, Blizzard announced that there was still a block of tickets left and will be sold at 8PM PST. Were these “reserve” tickets from the multiple transactions people saw earlier? I haven’t found any evidence to say whether or not they were. The server went down about 2 minutes before, and came back up about 1 minute after the hour. Some people were able to snag tickets, others saw the tickets in their cart disappear as the tickets were listed as “sold out” again.
This leads me to the conclusion that Blizzard should not have handled the ticketing themselves. It should have been handed off to a system that has the capability of handling this kind of scenario. Don’t think for a minute that ticketmaster.com couldn’t have handled it. When thousands of people are trying to snag Springsteen tickets in the NJ/NY area and the site manages to do reasonably well, 12,000 Blizzcon tickets would have been a joke to the ticketmaster servers. I would have gladly paid an extra $5 for a ticket if it meant a smoother transaction for myself and others involved.
I hope in the future that Blizzard does a better job at handling this kind of scenario. Several good people from my raiding guild aren’t going because of this mess and it’s a shame because they’re some of the best players in the game.