Blizzard Puts Fun Before Profit, Kills Diablo 3's Auction Houses

rated by 0 users
This post has 8 Replies | 0 Followers

Top 10 Contributor
Posts 26,739
Points 1,209,595
Joined: Sep 2007
News Posted: Tue, Sep 17 2013 3:35 PM
When Blizzard launched Diablo III, one of the game's most controversial features was the inclusion of a real money and standard auction house. This was an optional component of the game that allowed players to purchase items and equipment for real money. It ran concurrently with the game's traditional auction system and no one was required to use it. Gold could be bought and sold on the RMAH -- if you wanted items that were available on the "regular" auction house, you could buy gold with them on the RMAH, transfer it to your character, and then use it to purchase equipment.

The entire system was billed as an experiment in funding and game design -- an experiment Blizzard has decided to end. Today, Blizzard Production Director John Hight posted the following to a blog:
But as we've mentioned on different occasions, it became increasingly clear that despite the benefits of the AH system and the fact that many players around the world use it, it ultimately undermines Diablo's core game play: kill monsters to get cool loot. With that in mind, we want to let everyone know that we've decided to remove the gold and real-money auction house system from Diablo III... Please note that the shutdown will occur on March 18, 2014. We will keep everyone informed as we work through this process.
Aside from tipping its hand on when the new expansion, Reaper of Souls, might ship, this announcement is an interesting example of how the company is putting fun before profit and a hint of what the real impact of the Auction Houses was. It's something I can speak to.

How Buying on the Auction House Kills The Game

I started playing Diablo III again early in the spring. I wanted to come back to the game and evaluate the new patches, the loot changes, the Paragon system, and the various other mods for the classes, characters, and quests. I was enjoying the game enormously but had begun to hit a difficulty wall as far as progressing further into Hell. My equipment drops weren't providing the stats I needed, while the standard auction house prices for the particular gear I wanted to try were far above my price bracket.

At the time, the price of gold in Diablo 3 $0.25 per million. At four million gold per dollar, I bought up 40 million gold for $10, bought the equipment I needed, and tore into the game. I was not a spendthrift -- I still have the bulk of the 40 million on my character -- but I outfitted myself in various sets of gear for different playstyles. At first, this was enormously entertaining -- I shredded enemy packs that had stymied me previously and found myself dying significantly less.

Then I got bored. Nothing that was dropping actually fit the sort of gear I needed, which means I spent more time hunting the auction house for ideal combinations of randomized attributes than I did actually playing the game. Playing Diablo 3 had become a game of "Hunt the perfect breastplate" not "Kill the evil monster." It felt directly tied to my wallet, which I emphatically dislike, since even 40 million gold will only take you so far.

But the problem with Diablo III isn't just that the RMAH pulled down the game's design by introducing real money and turning the game into a "He who buys the most gold, wins" event. Here, I think it's critical to refer back to World of Warcraft.

The Difference Between WoW and Diablo III

Back when I was playing WoW, from Classic - Early Pandas, I spent a great deal of time looking over entire websites dedicated to tanking in a raid and the proper gear / strategies for doing so. The difference was, while getting that gear was varying degrees of difficult, I knew exactly what Tovah needed for progression. If I needed a tanking shield, and Gruul dropped a tanking shield, then it was important to kill Gruul. If your main healers needed better healing gear, you killed the bosses that either dropped that gear directly or dropped tokens that could be turned in for that gear. Loot distribution in WOW changed tremendously from 2005 - 2012, from static drops off fixed bosses to a token system that awarded players with objects that could be turned in for the gear of their choice. What didn't change was knowing which gear you needed and how to get it. Whether you were grinding 5-man bosses in traditional dungeons to earn Tokens of the Bandersnatch (not an actual item) or killing 20-man bosses in weekly raids, WoW always gave you a gear progression path to follow.

Diablo III, for the most part, doesn't. Uniques have more predictable stats, but the vast majority of equipment is a grab bag of features. You might end up with a rare sword that carries every single stat you're hoping for -- or fairly useless boost. This means grinding the same areas repeatedly hoping to get lucky -- or -- taking advantage of the auction house. But the problem with the auction house is that even the traditional version is automatically the best place to find your gear.

That's a problem, because while it doesn't cost me money, it's still depressing. With all boss drops randomized and the best chance of good loot coming from non-boss mobs, the appeal of grinding towards a particular item or items is basically nil. Killing the AH's can work, but only if the loot system becomes something players can actually depend on to serve up the gear they need to play the game effectively. That's going to require an enormous overhaul of the entire loot distribution system, but it's not impossible. 
  • | Post Points: 125
Top 150 Contributor
Posts 635
Points 5,705
Joined: Sep 2012
Location: Canada
RWilliams replied on Tue, Sep 17 2013 4:04 PM

"Then I got bored. Nothing that was dropping actually fit the sort of gear I needed, which means I spent more time hunting the auction house for ideal combinations of randomized attributes than I did actually playing the game."

Well said. This is the reason I hate in-game stores in MMOs; while it's rare to see one that sells actual equipment, things like XP boosts and other enhancements can suck the fun right out of things before long. I don't feel like I ever accomplish anything if all I do is haul out my wallet. That said, I've fallen victim to it in the past... sometimes it's just far too irresistible. The MMO I have most fun with doesn't have an in-game shop though, so maybe that says something.

While I commend Blizzard on this move, I feel that the third-party market is likely to pop up right afterwards. Unless of course the company has some cool plan to make that impossible while not removing the ability to trade in-game - but that seems unlikely.

  • | Post Points: 5
Not Ranked
Posts 2
Points 10
Joined: Sep 2013
CodyIrwin replied on Tue, Sep 17 2013 4:23 PM

welp looks like d2jsp will see alot of traffic again.

  • | Post Points: 5
Not Ranked
Posts 2
Points 10
Joined: Sep 2013

I'm glad to see this and hope other gaming institutions see the light. Gaming has become very cash oriented and still certain companies are laying off employees to reduce costs and boost profits. This proves that in-game cash items will float enough profit to keep a game fiscally viable enough to maintain good customer support and creativity.

  • | Post Points: 5
Not Ranked
Posts 25
Points 245
Joined: Jul 2013

I'm sure they made plenty of profit, even after the huge marketing budget. I'm wagering Runic did, too, with a much better game (Torchlight II) and a lot less marketing.

  • | Post Points: 5
Not Ranked
Posts 1
Points 5
Joined: Sep 2013
vaughan2 replied on Tue, Sep 17 2013 7:37 PM

The whole pay-to-win was not that bad in this game because you did not have to fight another player (yet) and it was mainly a single player action game, the RMAH just gave incentive to play the game.

I agree with RWilliams the third party buying will become more popular, why not keep the legit and safe way.

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 100 Contributor
Posts 1,082
Points 11,720
Joined: Jul 2009
Joel H replied on Tue, Sep 17 2013 8:16 PM

What are you going to spend it on? No more auction houses. D3 doesn't have a "Gambling" feature the way D2 did. You can negotiate with players, I suppose, but that's not the same as buying off the AH.

  • | Post Points: 5
Not Ranked
Posts 12
Points 80
Joined: Mar 2013

I think you're looking at Loot 2.0 (console has a small subset of these features).

Smart attributes, less drops but more quality ones are good.

Mystic for re-rolling item stats (ROS - think WOW where you can re-roll certain stats on your toon.)

Today in the current state of the game it is relatively easy to get 2-3 legendary items in a run thanks to to the fact that:

1. You don't die as often due to the difficulty and you can tune it to your capability.

2. Magic find % comes with Paragon levels and group play.

So I think if they implement Loot 2.0 features I think it's easier to get upgrades that benefit your character so there's no need for the AH.

There's no gambling feature like D2 but there are gold sinks where you can craft armor pieces that guarantee a primary attribute of your choice. 50k a craft.

  • | Post Points: 5
Not Ranked
Posts 24
Points 225
Joined: Feb 2006
Location: United States, Pennsylvania
JimmyB replied on Thu, Sep 19 2013 11:41 AM

Class move, Blizzard. You've restored my faith. :)

  • | Post Points: 5
Page 1 of 1 (9 items) | RSS