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Diablo 3: Real money auction house delayed

Blizzard’s long anticipated video game Diablo 3 may now rank as the best-selling, or fastest selling, PC game in history. But the crown jewel of the virtual battleground, the Real Money Auction House, has reportedly been delayed:

(Link) — “As we mentioned earlier this week, we’ve decided to move out our target launch for the real-money auction house beyond our original estimated date of May 22,” Blizzard said. “Our new estimated date for the launch of this new system is Tuesday, May 29.

“Blizzard first revealed the delay while apologizing for the game’s server problems. During D3′s first few days of availability, many users experienced disconnects and heavy lag. At times, the servers were down altogether. Considering that the game requires players to be online at all times whether they’re playing alone or with friends, this is a pretty devastating problem. Blizzard has decided to focus on stabilizing the servers for the immediate future.

I was wondering the other day, how would a conversion rate of in-game items and fake money into real money affect a company’s balance sheet? In the past an online community would be valued based on subscribers, ad revenues, value-added services and in-game add on sales, and growth. But hypothetically, if in-game items now suddenly have a real-world, tangible value of their own, and there are tens or hundreds of millions of such items, even if they’re only worth ten real cents each, wouldn’t they still add up to quite a chunk of real change?

Comments

  1. herp says

    I honestly think that any game giving the players options to buy in-game items with real money destroys the game. It doesn’t matter if it is $0.10 or $100.00, in the end the game will boil down to who has had the most money to get ahead.

    This holds true mainly with PvP based systems though. There is the aspect of D3 that is co-op/single player; there the money just makes the game even more boring and less entertaining.

    Where is the reward we used to get for working for the awesome piece of armor/weapon/item when you can just merely buy it?

  2. unbound says

    It will definitely be a big profit item for Blizzard. The announced fees are 15% of the sale price for commodities (e.g. consumables, mats, gems) and $1 fixed fee for things like equipment. Very little doubt that this will add up to tens of millions in profit for Blizzard each year.

  3. leftwingfox says

    I think one of the big issues to keep in mind is that all the items in the auction house were found by players in the course of playing the game, rather than added to the game by the purchase. You don’t buy a sword from blizzard, but rather you buy it from someone who found the item in the game itself. to that end, it’s no different from the auction houses that exist now.

    Trading items found in the game already exists as a mechanic in Diablo 2, unofficially. The problem is that item duplication offline so easy, that the de facto currency was the “Stone of Jordan”; an incredibly rare item that can be used to upgrade items in game. The currency is so debased that the average player will be unlikely to ever find a Stone in the game, but would need several hundred to buy a single piece of armor from another player. These were later replaced in part high level runes.

    I’m very interested in seeing how it turns out. Gold Farming and trading are a part of mutliplayer games, whether companies want them to be or not. I’m very curious if Blizzard can help balance that by alloweing and regulating the activity, rather than trying to enforce bans on it.

  4. Gregory in Seattle says

    @herp #1 – I would limit that to in-game items that have a meaningful effect on game play. Blizzard has been selling vanity items — fancy mounts that are functionally identical to other mounts, or non-combat companion animals — in World of Warcraft for some years, and I have no problem with that.

    And special items that are given as a reward — a mount that can seat two people given by getting a new person to sign up (World of Warcraft) or a nice suit of armor when you buy an expansion (Dragon Age) — are fine too.

    The problem as I see is is the implied sanction of farming, which does ruin the game. While an argument can be made that it will occur anyway so why not profit from it, openly allowing this kind of transaction will encourage farming and make it far more difficult to get a rare, useful in-game item legitimately.

  5. herp says

    @Greg #4 – I agree with that statement about limiting it to items with meaningful effect. I was implying that without actually stating it. I couldn’t care less if someone else has that fancy item as long as there isn’t an unfair advantage to the other players. I am just having flash-backs to D2 with the Stone of Jordan, mentioned by leftwingfox.

    I’m not sure that farming reducing the appearance of rare items, as long as it is merely a percentage chance-to-drop the item. I could be wrong though, ask my wife.

    I do wonder about the actual value players will put on these non-items though. Imposing a $1 fee for equipment implies that Blizzard wants the value to be higher than mere change. Has anyone had experience buying in-game items with real money? I cannot reasonably put a value on these items since I do not see their inherent value outside of the game, nor do I see any real benefit in the game with the exception of PvP.

  6. says

    openly allowing this kind of transaction will encourage farming and make it far more difficult to get a rare, useful in-game item legitimately.

    I’d argue it will have the exact opposite effect. Whether it increases farming or not remains to be seen but it will certainly make it easier for players to get ultra rare items legitimately, since the RMAH will be a “legit” way to get them. Even if you disagree about the legitimacy, I don’t see how this is a worse situation than only being able to get them by being fabulously lucky or getting them in ways that are definitely illegitimate.

    Some of my veteran Diablo friends didn’t initially like even the in-game currency Auction House at first, but they soon relented once they realized how convenient it is and how it’s not actually a bad thing that players aren’t no longer necessarily divided between the lucky and the unlucky. Now everyone can get the good stuff if they put the work in it; being lucky means you just get it a bit easier.

    I personally don’t care that some players can get awesome stuff for real money. Gear alone won’t buy you a shred of respect from your fellow gamers (this is already the case without RMAH, but it will make sure of it) but the high difficulty bosses you’ve defeated. The new high level difficulties will also mean that some unattended bot or low skill farmers simply won’t be able to (efficiently) obtain the most valuable items, no matter the hours they put in.

  7. Alverant says

    My problem is that you have to be online all the time to play it as if it were an MMO. It’s a single player game you need Blizzard’s permission to play even after you gave them $60. It’s your game and you should be able to play it whenever you want whether or not you have an internet connection. This is just a grab at more of the consumer’s money.

  8. jaranath says

    I know nothing about programming…but would remote-hosting games prevent, or at least nearly eliminate, the possibility of cheating to add/duplicate items as leftwingfox discusses in D2? If so, is that why they’re doing it?

  9. leftwingfox says

    Jaranath: Yep, that’s exactly why they did it. It should work, since that’s the same strategy they use for WoW.

    Fortunately, I don’t think gold farming will be as effective here as it is in, say, WoW. There’s no persistent world that people are sharing, so you aren’t seeing mining nodes being monopolized by career farmers. The worst that will happen is that that rare items will flood the system, bringing the price of those possible purchases way down. We’ll probably see a fair bit of inflation in the the in-game-gold-based auction house, but the Real Money house will probably see prices driven down by farmers.

  10. Gregory in Seattle says

    @herp #5 – Farming does not reduce the appearance of rare items, but it does encourage a kind of cut-throat competition for them that greatly discourages more casual players — read, those not being driven by real-world financial reward — from making the attempt. The end result is that the only people who have Rare Item X are the ones who make their living by camping it repeatedly.

    Granted, Diablo III does not have the scope of a full-fledged MMORPG. Even so, farming is going to be a problem in any shared world. If I end up with a group of farmers every time I try to get Rare Item X, I will eventually just stop trying.

  11. leftwingfox says

    Even so, farming is going to be a problem in any shared world. If I end up with a group of farmers every time I try to get Rare Item X, I will eventually just stop trying.

    Actually, they seem to have thought of that too. Loot drops individually for each player and is only visible to those players on their screen. So if you run with a buddy and the skeleton drops something, you each get a piece of loot, and have no way of swiping someone else’s goodies.

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