Blizzard announced this week that it was canning the almost-unanimously loathed Real Money and Gold Auction Houses in “Diablo III.” According to a post on the game’s official website by production director John Hight, both auction houses will be closed on March 18, 2014.
In a video conversation, Hight and game director Josh Mosqueira explained that the auction houses were being cut out because they’d become “a double-edged sword,” taking players out of the game and negatively impacting “Diablo”’s core tenet: kill monsters, find loot.
“We firmly believe that by shutting down the Real Money and the Gold Auction Houses paves the way to make sure that killing monsters in-game is the most rewarding, most satisfying, most compelling way of getting your hands on those items,” Mosqueira said. “We felt that the right decision is to preserve the integrity of the gameplay experience of ‘Diablo.’”
“Diablo III”’s auction houses were designed to steer players away from the third-party trading and gold farming sites that sprouted up around “Diablo II.” With the auction houses gone, I’m guessing that it won’t take long for a black market economy to spring up, like so many mushrooms, around “Diablo III.” Alternately, players could wade through swamps of public chats to find potential traders.
Neither sound like much fun, but this news comes in the midst of changes to "Diablo III"'s loot mechanics. The Paragon system, introduced this time last year, makes high-level gear easier to find while “Diablo III”’s first expansion, “Reaper of Souls” comes with a brand new system, called Loot 2.0. (Incidentally, you can probably peg “Reaper”’s release some time shortly after the auction houses close down.)
In short, Blizzard are hoping that they can tweak the loot system enough that players won’t need an auction house or a third-party gold farmer to get the gear they’re looking for. For some idea of how that might work, look no further that “Diablo III”’s recent release on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 -- neither versions have auction houses, and both sport some of Blizzard’s redesigned drop rates.
However, the 86ing of the auction houses unfortunately won’t affect “Diablo III”’s odious always-online requirement, despite their being one of its tentpoles. Speaking to Rock, Paper, Shotgun, a Blizzard rep explained that “While the always-online requirement made the auction house possible, the auction house was never the driving factor in our decision to make the PC version of ‘Diablo III’ require an Internet connection.
“The game was built from the ground up to take full advantage of Battle.net, which provides a number of important benefits, including persistent server-side character saves, a seamless PC multiplayer experience, cheat prevention, and Real ID and BattleTag social features,” the statement continues.
Huh, well, you can’t win ‘em all I guess.
For more information on the auction house closures, do read Blizzard’s FAQ.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter