Big news came from the Diablo III camp over at Blizzard this morning. We all knew huge things were coming today when rumors spread that the embargo on the D3 press event would lift this morning. Two big things dropped: First, that the D3 auction house will use real money, and that Blizzard has released details on what the game’s beta test will look like. While they aren’t giving away the farm (i.e. no date for the start of the playtest) the fact that they are talking about it at all is a sign that the closed beta test is not far away. This is Blizzard we’re talking about, remember?
As far as the real money auction house goes, that’s what is really causing the uproar. On the surface this looks like Blizzard is just trying to pull cash in from their player base. But let’s look a little deeper at how the system works, and then I’ll tell you what I think about this.
Basically, similar to the World of Warcraft auction house, Diablo III players will be able to buy and sell items found in their adventures throughout the game. The difference being, naturally, is that the entire system is built around real world currency. Basically, if you “play the AH,” you can make some serious coin. Just like the WoW auction house, the “house” – in this case Blizzard itself – takes a flat-fee cut at the top and the bottom of each transaction. Any money transactions will be handled by a third-party company, who will also store your funds for your future purchases on the auction house, on Blizzard games, or even for a cash out. Yes, this means that you can make money in Diablo III.
Don’t go quitting your 9 to 5 though. Just remember that Diablo III is just like the two previous games in the series. The loot is random. It’s not like you can grind your way through the levels to get that epic chestpiece with three sockets and a +50 to demonslaying. Certainly, a shrewd player can make excellent decisions on the AH and make a good amount of cash (I’ve got one friend that does nothing but), but realistically most of those monies will be going to purchase equipment for your characters.
This is the first time that a game has implemented a system like this, so there’s naturally a lot of trepidation. The way I see it, Blizzard has found a way to circumvent the businesses that were already making money off the sale of Diablo II items by building a system in that at least gives them a small cut of the profits. So much as been said about the Chinese gold farmers in WoW, but there is a sizable black market for D2 items even today, and a real currency auction house completely sidesteps that problem. There’s no reason for players to go outside the game to sell their rare drops when they can do it within the game and make a profit. It’s a brilliant stroke and a slap in the face of the illegal virtual items trade, and one that I can’t wait to get my hands on when the game ships
next week sometime this year.