Diablo III: RMT Auction House

There's a lot of fuss across lots of gaming blogs at the moment about the announcement from Blizzard that Diablo III will have a real-money auction house. There'll also be an in-game-gold auction house, so it looks like there's going to be a lot of focus on the trading of items. This fascinates me - I'm a fan of the economic aspects of games in the first place, and Blizzard have paid so little attention to the economy in WoW that I genuinely reckoned it was off their radar. Indeed, Spinks was remarking on the pointlessness of gold in WoW just a few days ago. She's not impressed with the Diablo auction house news either.

But this shows that the economic game is getting some of Blizzard's attention, and I like that a lot. Here's a secret: I knew about MMOs long before I played, but avoided them for years because I thought they'd be boring and mechanical. What drew me into Anarchy Online, years ago, was the prospect of the complex crafting there, and what brought me into Dark Age of Camelot was seeing that they had housing with vendors. This economic, emergent, world-y, sandbox stuff is what MMOs are all about, dammit.

So this news about Diablo III makes me want to play it, and to be honest, it's the first news about the game that does that. Diablo II was fun, but it was a mindless click-fest of a game, interspersed with a completely choice-free storyline. There was no strategy, little enough in way of tactics, and nothing of a world to explore. Whereas it now sounds like DIII is going to have something to do.

The news that one of the auction-houses will be for real money doesn't dismay me in the least. In fact, I quite like it. This comes down to two fundamental points, which I'll expand on a bit.

First, there is no such thing as a disconnected economy. Not in trading cards, not in LARPs, not in anything. Your fictional economy has real-world connections, because your players exist in the real world. "Here's $5 for that Serra Angel card," "I'll give you my old XBox, if your character will give mine that LARP sword", and buying gold for WoW online are all the same process. Hell, in some D&D games you can get extra xp by buying a pizza for the group. So this is all happening anyway, and there are auctions on EBay right now for items and characters in Diablo II, it behoves Blizzard to bring this activity into the game, where it can be made safe, legitimate, and, of course, where they can get a cut of the profits.

Second and more important, this is downloadable content. It happens to be DLC that is procedurally generated on another player's machine, and for which they get a cut of the cash or gold. But it's still DLC, and people are already shelling out hard cash for sparkleponies and pandaren pets in WoW. Sure, it's not just cosmetic - but there's plenty of DLC out there that isn't. Dragon Age: Origins had a downloadable set of armour that was several steps better than most sets in the early-to-mid game, to name just one example. How is this different?

So - Blizzard are paying attention to the economy in a game, the functionality they're bringing in is not new, and it'll be safer and better than bidding on EBay for pixels. I'm happy with this.

Posted by Drew Shiel at August 2, 2011 3:06 PM

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