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Blizzard to shut down  Diablo 3  auction house
Blizzard to shut down Diablo 3 auction house
September 17, 2013 | By Kris Ligman

September 17, 2013 | By Kris Ligman
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    44 comments
More: Console/PC, Social/Online, Business/Marketing



"It ultimately undermines Diablo's core game play."


Diablo 3 project director John Hight has announced that the game's troubled auction house feature would be shut down by March 18th, 2014.

"When we initially designed and implemented the auction houses, the driving goal was to provide a convenient and secure system for trade," Hight wrote in Blizzard's official Diablo 3 updates blog. "[However] 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."

Diablo 3's auction house, which allows transactions in real-world currencies, has been at the epicenter of economic problems for the game in the past. Blizzard previously announced in May of this year that it was donating money raised by a recent duplication bug to charity.

In the announcement of the auction house's closure, Hight added that the team was still "working out the details" of how to remove the auction house system from the game, but said an announcement was made early in consideration of players. The auction house closure acts in conjunction with Diablo 3's planned Loot 2.0 system, which Hight said "will result in a much more rewarding game."


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Comments


Harry Fields
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I've been having so much more fun with the Xbox version than the PC version due to loot integrity. Loot earned through overcoming challenges and obstacles will always be better than loot purchased. Some people simply don't understand that. I'm glad Blizz has come around on this experiment. They understand fun way too much to allow such flirtations to ruin franchises. While it may be too late for D3, the lessons learned will hopefully apply to all future products as well.

Hugo Cardoso
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I'm assuming the loot tables on Xbox are different because I played it on PC and 99% of loot dropped was garbage. The only way I got through the game was by selling pretty much every drop I got and buying items on the gold auction house.

Ron Dippold
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@Hugo: Yes, loot on console is far different. See below.

Jonathan Murphy
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C'mon! What the hell?! Yes the Real Money Auction house is game breaking. For $10 you can deck yourself out in uber gear. Just get rid of that.

Unless you want to spend 50 hours to craft final gems, or get specific gear you NEED the gold auction house! It's a difference between 80 hours of gameplay and 1200 hours. All the people I know who avoid the AH have these kind of hours, and less gear than me! At least bring back the cube from D2. No? Continue the train wreck? This game is the polar opposite of Star Craft 2.

Ron Dippold
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A key part of this is that the loot drops are rebalanced for there being no AH.

You could go an entire game (all acts) of DIII PC and get thousands of drops, but not a single one you could actually use. If you're lucky you'd get one. So what you end up doing is grinding for gold/AH sales and buying things on AH. I even had a gold farming outfit and a loot finding outfit separate from my combat outfit.

In the console version there are far fewer item drops, which makes inventory management much nicer, and there are also more drops of things you can actually use. It looks at your class and level when choosing the item, so you will regularly find things that are better than what you have. And 'earned' equipment is so much more satisfying than something you just bought on AH.

The NEED for the auction house is only because they balanced the entire game around it.

Jonathan Murphy
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For over 9 months I had loot just sitting in the AH, RMAH collecting dust. After the announcement I made millions of gold, and later perhaps enough money to buy a console! So now I'm glad at the very least I can end it on a high note. But that's what it feels like for me. An end.

Back then you could grind in games like FF7, because they weren't common. Even then it was 100 hrs max. Today you can find games that can eat up thousands of hours. Next console generation the games that are still made to be fun will gain even more sales over the games that rely on grinding. Perhaps that's the reason why I find myself drawn to Star Craft 2?

Ron Dippold
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'it ultimately undermines Diablo's core game play'

We were telling them this before launch, and I think they had to know it at some level. Heck, they did, because they admitted they had to rebalance the entire game around the auction houses. To be fair, it was a very profitable experiment in putting gameplay second to monetization - they sold a lot of copies.

Also, to be fair, Steve Parker left and John Hight is the new guy, so perhaps the console version was his experiment in fixing what he was stuck with. Since that was wildly successful, they can now port it back to PC and sell some more copies to the people who've been sitting on the sidelines.

What's next, Ubisoft dropping online only for SimCity?

Michael Wenk
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Wildly successful? Can you please show how you think so? I mean it did well, but if you take out the free copies Blizz gave (every WoW sub that did the year thing got one, which was incidentally booked to sales of D3), it didn't do all that good. When you consider its budget (a AAA one for like 4+ years), it didn't do well at all. Obviously the RMAH hasn't given them the kind of revenue they wanted from it.

Ian Uniacke
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I'm not sure what you're talking about Michael but Diablo 3 set records for sales numbers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diablo_3

Ron Dippold
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@Michael: I was saying the /console version/ with the fixed loot system and no AH has been extremely successful, at least as far as reception goes. Almost every single review says this is how the game should have been from day one, and I'd agree.

It'll take some time to see how many copies actually get sold, especially at GTA V O'clock. But Blizz is obviously happy enough with the results that they think they can sell more copies by fixing the PC version rather than milking what's left of the AHes.

Ramin Shokrizade
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I'll remind that I wrote a detailed description of why the RMAH would undermine core game play in D3, and poorly monetize, *six months* before D3 came out:

http://gameful.org/group/games-for-change/forum/topics/smedley-s-
dream-part-1-2-predictions-of-the-diablo-3-rmah

But hey I appreciate Blizzard spending all that money to verify my models.

[User Banned]
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Kevin Keathley
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to be clear, Diablo 1 and 2 created an environment that allowed Diablo 3 to set records for sales numbers by people that had not played it yet.

yes, it was very successful, but only because it stood on the backs of better products and better developers (previous games in the series).

Randen Dunlap
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This has been my fear for Diablo, as I spent countless hours in the first two games. I feel there's been some serious damage to the franchise, and they'll likely have a much harder time on any future products with the brand, but I could be wrong.

To me, this appears to be a problem for Blizzard in general. If they don't let their developers start building new IP, and instead keep re-hashing the same franchises, it's going to hurt them in the long run.

Michael DeFazio
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Alternatively, if they continue what they are doing (admit failure) and attempt to do good by the customers, they might get into one of those "new Coke -to- Coke Classic scenarios" where the brand (Diablo) is re-invigorated by "returning to their roots".

I hear the next expansion is darker and grittier and coupled with the closing of the auction house, I'm willing to give D3 (or Diablo4) another shot. I have to admit I didnt see the closing of the RMAH coming. (Although I'm glad they came to their senses)

Michael Wenk
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@Harry - Some people don't have time to do the whole thing. Blizzard's basically thumbing their nose at those players and telling em they don't want their money.

@Jonathan - D3's real problem is the fun you get for doing it the "hard" way is actually quite low. Most people would rather play other games that are more fun. I imagine if D3 had shipped with the same PvP that D2 had, they'd not likely be doing this.

In any event, I don't really see this changing much. Interested parties will make their own auction house and then Blizz will have to do more policing. I expect that in the end they will regret this choice.

Harry Fields
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If this was an MMO, I'd understand your argument more. Diablo is a game that at it's very core, is about loot acquisition compulsion loops. If you don't have time to gather loot, you probably don't have time to play the game. It has multiple difficulties so you can essentially determine how stringent the "Gear check" is. If you're playing for story, play and aesthetics, you can get through on normal with very little trouble, especially on console versions.

Michael Wenk
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"If you don't have time to gather loot, you probably don't have time to play the game."

I can't think of any AAA game these days that cater to any small group. These games just cost way to much to make. Look at any of the big games, the successful ones cater to many different groups at once.

The interesting thing that you forget is why the the AH exists in D3. It exists for:

1) To make money for Blizzard.
2) Because several external AHs sprang up for D1/D2 (ToS be damned)

So, I can understand #1, it likely doesn't make Blizz a whole lot of money. But for #2, I don't see how they're going to prevent external ppl from making their own AH, or any kind of stores. If they do what I think they're going to do and make loot personable, well, outside of PvP, they've just lost a good part of the market, leaving really only the fanboys/fangirls.

Jeff Hamilton
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@Michael For point number 2, it's interesting - Blizzard making the secondary market "legitimate" actually decreases the perceived "cost" of interacting with it, in the eye of the consumer. This means the calculus for "Should I go use this market instead of playing the game?" likely yields *drastically* different results in D3 as compared to D2.

Anecdotally, I would never have used a RMT site for d2, but feeling that the Gold AH was "acceptable" in D3 made me gauge every piece of decent gear I got against that standard.

Additionally, on the development axis, including the Gold AH and the RMAH fundamentally altered the designers' calculations of how to balance the game. Diablo 2 was just "Make it fun" - Diablo 3 was "Make it as fun as it can be while making absolutely sure the economy is balanced". The distinction was obvious... While I got set loot off my first Duriel kill in D2 post-LOD, I got only one "legendary" in my D3 playthrough, and it wasn't even good.

TL;DR - while it sounds good on paper to undermine and legitimize the secondary item market and turn its profit margins into first party profits, the process of doing so has unavoidable repercussions for how both Creators and Consumers interact with your product.

Daniel Balmert
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@Harry

I agree with your sentiment, but it relies heavily on their ability to DELIVER compelling loot while still leaving me wanting more. There's a terribly narrow band of "fun" where I feel like I already found good stuff but that I also feel the need to find more of it. At the end of the day, I don't want a rusty chest full of SoJs sitting in town, but I also don't want to have to stress about where my next repair bill is coming from.

Troy Walker
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completely agree... 3rd party sites will crop up and be a much larger problem for them to deal with.

i'm sure the botters and hackers are super happy today...

Dane MacMahon
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Even if you consider the auction house a necessary thing to combat a black market, the game was designed to get you to spend money on the auction house.

Common sense middleground would be to rebalance all loot like the console version but still allow access to the AH for people that want it. This is counter-intuitive for capitalists however, as they want to make as much money on the AH as possible.

Also this move was surely made because they see more money in high expansion sales as a result of this announcement. Everything they have done since day one was in the interests of maximizing their profits.

Troy Walker
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I would disagree that it was designed that way.. the $AH came afterwards as a method to draw people into the idea that they too can make money on the game (and curb 3rd party sites). is there a problem with a sustained revenue flow?

the last gold-dupe really cluster-f'd that up.

Dane MacMahon
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If loot was not designed around getting you to use the AH, why was loot entirely retooled for the version without an AH?

Jonathan Murphy
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Well said Dane. It's easier to remove a game mechanic than it is to fix it.

Ron Dippold
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@Troy: It launched with the AHes. And it was very clearly balanced for them. The first two times were very fun. Then at around Act 2-3 of the third difficulty level, you will start hitting a wall. Die, die, and die more. The game becomes a tedious war of attrition with mobs.

I asked some expert players (these guys had > 400 hours each!) what was wrong with my build. They gave me some minor tweaks, but said 'Most importantly, you have to use the AH. You HAVE to use the AH.' So I did, for the first time, and lo and behold suddenly the game was playable again.

Of course by the time you get to the last difficulty level you're in an endless farming/grinding slog to incrementally upgrade your equip on the AHes so you can make it just a bit further, and you never, ever get a drop that's useful for you. That's when I quit.

Note: This was pre-Paragon levels. I don't know how that helped, if it did.

Jonathan Murphy
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@Ron The paragon levels and monster power help greatly. They also added in quests like the Infernal Machine. I think the best thing they added. The ring gives you a 35% exp boost.

It reminds me a lot of Castlevania HoD. Once Konami stopped adding content the game just became a mindless grind. It was awesome having a new level every month. Blizzard needs to do this with D3.

Dane MacMahon
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I like how they still try and spin it as if profit was not their motivation.

I still dislike that they were rewarded with massive sales. I had hoped expansion sales would have sent them a message, maybe this is an attempt to prevent that.

Troy Walker
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rewarded or earned? you make it seem like they don't deserve to earn a profit or that a company (who actually employs people) should be able to find a way to build a sustainable revenue source.

Dane MacMahon
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In capitalism you vote with your wallet. I highly dislike the auction house and always online requirement, therefore I wish they were smacked for it in the marketplace.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Blizzard could sell anything based on their reputation. Prior to D3 they had the best reputation in the industry. Gamers would buy their products as soon as they came out just based on their past experiences with Blizzard products. Juicing that reputation by putting out a gamer-hostile product does not reduce the sales of the involved product, it reduces the sales of all following products due to the taint effect on the franchise and company.

Ian Uniacke
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I'm gonna have to go on record and say that continued sales of Diablo 3 (a further 6 million on top of the initial 6 million over the first year) indicates to me that the reputation hit is largely exagerated. We'll all have to wait and see how the next game sells, but I'm gonna have to assume based on the long history of Blizzard products that their next big thing will again break sales records.

Dane, in capitalism the entire population votes with their wallet. YOU personally may have disliked Diablo, but clearly the market disagreed with you. I can't tell from your comments if you're upset that people disagree with you, or if you seem to feel like capitalism has failed...?

Dane MacMahon
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I know how capitalism works. I'm bummed not many people share my views. That applies to a lot of other current game market trends.

Important to note I am not angry, just bummed.

[User Banned]
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Nooh Ha
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Profit was undoubtedly a motivation. The other, which few seem to talk about, was undermining black market RMT which can seriously damage game economy balance, divert money away from the original developer and, bizarrely, materially increase support costs as believe it or not black market trading players would often turn to the original developer if their trades went wrong. By bringing it in-house, they control, reduce or entirely eliminate these problems - even if they are creating a load of different problems for themselves.

Dane MacMahon
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As said above, the "kill the black market" issue did not require them to alter loot drops to pressure you into using the auction house.

Curtiss Murphy
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I did not purchase D3. Rumors of the auction house and of the always online DRM turned me off. I'm SICK to death of games treating players like prisoners and ... I vote with my wallet.

Jon Boon
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Now they just need to improve on the core gameplay, add in some more randomness in the levels and monsters, remove the terrible story, and this game may actually become worth playing!

I'm banking on them removing it to try and garner back some of the core gamers for the sequel. If it fixes their "gear wall" problem, then it might actually work. Kudos to them for actually admitting that they made a mistake, though. That's a first, and hopefully it won't be their last.

Jonathan Murphy
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I noticed this problem in a lot of MMOs. Content needs to pace the gameplay. Otherwise you get bottlenecks. D3 badly needs more zones. I would have been more excited if they added 12 new zones and tore out hard mode. Blizzard should take notes from Star Craft 2. Add in a level editor!

Kale Menges
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Blizzard is going to have to get away from attempting to infuse World of Warcraft into all the other games they make. At the end of the day, when all is said and done and all the numbers are crunched, WoW is technically a complete fluke (and a diminishing one, at that), and despite the level of success it has had in the past, its business model and audience should no longer be used as a crutch. The market and the rest of the industry are in constant flux nowadays and by being married to the same product for so long now, Blizzard has stagnated and fallen behind, losing most of their ability to be dynamic and adaptive in a modern marketplace.

Harry Fields
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Yet they pushed how many million copies? Until they are held to the same standard as all other shops, they get this big shiny "pass" for past successes (including of course, WoW which *was*, for all intents and purposes, a cultural and commercial phenomenon in it's first 6 years or so). Their mantra is polish over innovation. Obsessive detail to art direction, character abilities and little things few will notice is where they excel. Remaking genres and pushing technological boundaries has not been their MO for a looooonnnnggggg time, if ever really.

John Trauger
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I just thought they took the WoW engine and retooled it for D3. Simple conservation of resources.

Apparently they spent a lot of money to make it look like that instead.

I see I'm not the only one who thinks Blizzard isn't the company it used to be.

Curtiss Murphy
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Blizzard was never 'the company it used to be.' It's just a company, like any other, that happens to have a long history of making compelling games. They make great products that millions buy, so they will probably continue on for years to come.

Tony Sundell
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Finally! Eventually playing D3 felt like taking big piles of trash to AH just to browse AH some more to get good gear. Better mechanic to get rewards by playing than browsing.


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