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Botting to a $130,000 profit in the  Diablo III  Auction House
Botting to a $130,000 profit in the Diablo III Auction House
August 11, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

"The Auction House truly was a unique way of connecting millions of players together in one place and exposing all ignorance in terms of trades and pricing."
- Bot user "Cherokee Brook"

In an extensively detailed new blog post containing screenshots and game code, Bulgarian bot user "Cherokee Brook" details how he made over €100,000 (over $133,000) in a year of exploiting Diablo III's real money Auction House.

The company shut down the auction house, which allowed players to sell items to each other, earlier this year.

Some players do miss the Auction House; many characterized it as a disaster.

At least one, apparently, was able to generate massive profits by exploiting the ignorance of fellow players. According to the blog post, "Brook" was able to use bots to complete high-speed trades, much like on the stock market -- buying items low and selling them high. He created custom searches for undervalued items and then re-sold them to other players.

There's little doubt that what the botter did was against the game's terms of use and also not much in the spirit of fairness or sportsmanship -- but it's also a fascinating and detailed look into how profiteers can exploit virtual currency-based gameplay systems.

As "Brook" has it, "I know a lot of people will say that what I did was cheating or unfair, but everyone must realize that in the end what I did was completely legal. It was only against the game’s terms of use but those have nothing to do with the law and it’s the game creator Blizzard’s responsibility to enforce those terms. Also, ask yourselves, if you had the opportunity to do what I did for a year and make as much money as I did, or even more, would you do it or would you say that it’s cheating and not fair to other players?"

The full post contains much, much more detail. For more on Diablo III from the Blizzard side, you can read Gamasutra's recent interview with lead console designer Jonny Ebbert and associate producer Tiffany Wat.

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John Trauger
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Ah yes. the old "You're a hypocrite if you judge me" ploy. Well I had the same opportunity. I can program and I can download other people's stuff and piece it together. (I doubt that "Cherokee Brook" coded everything from scratch) I could conceivably have figured out how to bot D3 and make a killing.

I didn't. It's not the way I prefer to play, so if I had collected the resources needed to cheat, I wouldn't be me.

I never played the real money auction house, but I did play the gold auction house. I made a modest 10-20 Million or so gold over about 6 months doing things manually starting with about a million gold initial investment. Enough to keep my main character in midgrade-quality weapons and armor as he levelled up, which was a marked improvement over the drops I was getting.

I miss the gold auction house, but I don't miss the real-money auction house.

Michael Joseph
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and what if it were discovered that Blizzard insiders were exploiting their personal knowledge of the system to enrich themselves? Or that house bots were being employed to increase revenue?

real money game systems have no place outside of casino games.

Robert Carter
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There was a cap on the real money market in Diablo, so manipulation of that nature would be difficult. What this guy did wasnt manipulate the market prices higher so much as buy every auction he could where people were too lazy to look up the average price of an item, or made a typo when setting the buyout price. He then resold for the standard market price, and then would reduce his price on an item every hour until sold in order to get rid of his many items, so its unlikely he ever drove prices upward.

I dont see anything wrong with this. I hated the real money auction house for how it affected gameplay, but seeing how this guy used it makes me sad I didnt see it as a game in and of itself. Would have been fun to code a bot and see if I were able to find a pattern of which items to buy at what price, resell, etc.

Saying that real money game systems have no place outside of casino games (Im assuming you mean games of chance?) is a pretty narrow view, imo. There doesnt even have to be a 'loser' to make money here, since all parties involved have to agree to a trade knowing the full outcome in advance. I give you X for Y: this trade can only be made if both parties will be happier after the transaction than before it. Everyone wins.

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
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I don't really get all the outrage over the auction house. As far as I understand, you run around, kill things, they drop loot, then you can go place them in the auction house for other players to buy with real money.

You know what I didn't like about World of WarCraft? Leveling. Sure, it was sort of fun, but anytime a player above you came anywhere near you, you almost always died. Then finally after forever, you made it into Alterac Valley. Then you had to grind for gear. Now, now you made it to the point where you belong. Online Team vs Team.

You know what I didn't like about WoW? Buying every X-PacK. Paying monthly.

Name games where you can actually make money from playing... This far, far outshines all the crybabies saying a paying user has a few pieces of better gear than them.

Marc Magi
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Like it or hate it, he does have a point when he says, "...It was only against the game’s terms of use but those have nothing to do with the law and it’s the game creator Blizzard’s responsibility to enforce those terms."

Earlier this Summer I thought I was seeing something funky during the Steam Summer Adventure Sales when real-time updates were showing heavy roll-back of points. I discovered a few days later it was caused by the use of "Steal tokens" that players could purchase to reduce another team's score by 1,000 points. However, there was a scheme originated by the Steam community on subreddit which attempted, with initial success, to level the playing field for all teams.

Steam Trading Cards values are being manipulated all the time by those with trading knowledge. However, the only manipulative method I despise is the initial ramping up of card prices for games that are about to enter "Early Access" but are not yet available for sale. For example, Boo Bunny Plague, Overruled!, and McDROID, to name a few, currently have arbitrary and misleading Trading Card "set values" of $400.00, $353.15, and $136.66 respectively. For an emergent and growing generation of gamers, having no trading cards equates to not as likely to get bought.

It's impossible in the real world to keep people from gaming financial systems and it's no different with virtual economies.

Note: See the site below for current prices. Click "Set Price" to sort the sets by descending order (most expensive to least expensive):

Justin Kovac
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People do this in WoW and every other MMO. The big difference is D3 was all one AH for the whole region vs servers/realms. Players already track the AH like a stock broker and buy/sell under and overvalued items. You can make more gold playing the AH than playing the game.

And as Marc mentions, just look at Steam Trading Cards, Dota 2 and TF2 market. Sharks will go out and directly approach people and buy digital goods off them at a low cost and resell at at x10 what they paid into it.

Robert Carter
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Not sure why people are saying what this guy did was bad. One guy was offering his item for X, he buys it for X and then another individual is willing to buy the item for X+Y, and he sells it for X+Y. everyone got what they wanted, no one was coerced, and everyone was better off after the exchange then they were before (or why would they agree to it?). I see nothing unethical with what he did.

Mikhail Mukin
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Yep. When you create a market - people would do whatever works (quick transactions with bots etc). As long as nothing is stolen and nobody is forced to trade - it is Ok for me. If not this guy - somebody else.

A few years ago financial companies were recruiting a lot of engineers from gamedev to implement those "milliseconds critical" bots for the real stock market. Nothing wrong with it.