- Related Games:
- Diablo 4
Microtransactions can be the bane of a good game, but some people have more money than free time, which is why there should be a Diablo 4 Real Money Auction House. While we don’t know much in the way of details about Diablo 4, the RMAH is something that’s due a comeback — but only if Blizzard Entertainment can avoid the pitfalls of the first go-around.
What is a Real Money Auction House?
The Diablo games are action-role playing games where players can get randomized loot dropped from monsters. Obviously, some items are better than others, and gamers are always hunting for the best gear. This typically involved farming bosses in Diablo and Diablo 2, and sometimes players would trade off their excess gear to one another. This carried the risk of scams and it sometimes took a while for you to find someone willing to pay a good price for your items.
Diablo 3 changed the game with the introduction of the Real Money Auction House. An auction house based on in-game currency was introduced, but it was the Real Money Auction House that caused the most controversy. Suddenly, players could skip hours, days, or even weeks of grinding searching for that one perfect item and let someone else do the heavy lifting for a simple exchange of some of your hard-earned dollars. Ultimately, the auction house was removed for “[undermining] Diablo’s core game play” — but that might have been a mistake.
Why did the Real -Money Auction House exist in the first place?
The Real Money Auction House was put into Diablo 3 to solve the problem of third-party trading sites. Anyone who had played Diablo 2 online for enough time would inevitably have encountered bots joining their game, advertising websites where you could buy (probably duped) runes, items, and more for reasonable prices. Blizzard Entertainment made nothing on those sales (save for the initial game sale), so it’s entirely understandable that it would want a slice of that pie.
“The auction house came out of the desire to legitimize third party trading so that players would stay in the game to do their trading rather than go to [third-party] sites, and as a result reduce fraud, scams, spamming, and the profit in hacking the game, making dupes, etc.,” said former Diablo 3 Game Director Jay Wilson in an interview with Diabloii.net.
Wilson’s reasoning seems entirely reasonable to me, and it’s exactly why it isn’t outlandish to want a Diablo 4 Real Money Auction House. Were it to be implemented, however, Blizzard would have to be cautious of the pitfalls inherent with such a system. Wilson certainly thought that things didn’t work out in the end.
“The problem is, of course, it over-legitimized trading,” he continued. “It made it too easy. I think we all know this by now and the consequences. We worried about these consequences ahead of time, but we thought the benefits would outweigh the downsides, and WoW’s AH seemed like a good proof of concept. Obviously we were mistaken.”
Ultimately, the Real Money Auction House experiment ended in failure for Diablo 3. While Jay Wilson may think the team was “mistaken” on implementing such a service, that’s only one way to look at it. The team’s implementation may not have worked well, but that’s not to say the concept can’t work at all. After all, there’s proof positive that a Diablo 4 Real Money Auction House can work today, right now.
Real Money Auction Houses work just fine in other games
Although Diablo 3’s former Game Director Jay Wilson thinks that the Real Money Auction House was a bad idea, but it’s something that could work. There are plenty of games that execute a similar concept right now and have done for years without serious issues.
The biggest and most notable examples are games on Steam like Team Fortress 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Both of these games have various functional and non-functional items that can be acquired in the game through loot boxes. The loot boxes, the keys to open them, and their ultimate contents can all be sold on the Steam Marketplace for pretty much whatever price you want. The market will only bear so much, but it seems like spending tens or even hundreds of dollars for a single cosmetic is perfectly acceptable in the current CS:GO ecosystem. Examples like this and others show that a Diablo 4 Real Money Auction House could work, but there are unique challenges for this upcoming action role-playing game to tackle first.
The unique challenge of a Diablo 4 Real Money Auction House
Although CS:GO has a way for players to buy and sell items on a marketplace, there is one staggeringly important difference between it and a potential Diablo 4 Real Money Auction House: CS:GO players don’t really use their items.
Technically the items do get “used” but not in a typical way. Pretty much everything for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive that’s sold on the Steam Marketplace is a cosmetic of some sort that has zero effect on the actual game itself. You can’t drop a thousand bucks and come out the other end with a high-powered .338 Lapua rifle that you couldn’t get otherwise.
Diablo games, conversely, deal in items that are useful. Whether it’s runes, gems, armor, weapons, or something else entirely, the vast majority of things that are traded by players are usually exchanged with the intent of using them. Prior to things like “soulbound” items, it was entirely possible for one piece of equipment to be handed down to several players over the course of days, weeks, and months.
This being the case, the existence of a Diablo 4 Real Money Auction House would mean that players could, in part, outright buy power. “Pay to win” is something that’s (often rightfully) derided by gamers and considered something unpleasant. The alternative, however, is much worse.
A Diablo 4 Real Money Auction House will make the best of a bad situation
The Auction House for Diablo 3 has been closed for years now, but that doesn’t mean the trading has stopped. It just means that it has become less secure, less trustworthy, and much less profitable for Blizzard Entertainment.
Go into google and type in “Buy Diablo 3 items” or “Buy Diablo 3 account” and you’ll see no shortage of choices for pretty much anything you could possibly want. If you want to talk about buying power, it’s hard to ignore a site that will sell you an account with fully-leveled heroes of all classes wearing top-tier gear.
Fundamentally, Jay Wilson’s original feelings are the exact reason that a Diablo 4 Real Money Auction House should be created. Let’s look at what he said again:
“The auction house came out of the desire to legitimize third party trading so that players would stay in the game to do their trading rather than go to [third-party] sites, and as a result reduce fraud, scams, spamming, and the profit in hacking the game, making dupes, etc.”
That sounds pretty darn good, given the context.
Yes, there may arguably be some downsides. Players might focus on farming items to sell them. As someone with literally thousands of hours in Diablo 2, that’s not much different from the actual game. I’ve done goodness knows how many thousands of Baal runs to level up characters or try to hunt down much-needed items, runes, and experience. I may, at the time, have been willing to trade some of my real world money to save some of that time.
EVE Online intermingles real world money with its currency in such a way that one could outright buy pretty much anything they wanted, given enough money. But they also have an economist on staff and carefully monitor their economy to keep anything from getting too out of sorts. Players can buy the things they need with real world money, CCP Games makes a profit, and (mostly) everybody’s happy.
It’s clear that a Diablo 4 Real Money Auction House could work. The failure of Diablo 3’s Auction House wasn’t in its underlying concept, but rather its execution. The idea is fundamentally sound and works elsewhere. Hopefully, Blizzard Entertainment will have the courage and creative design to try to make such a system work in its next blockbuster game. If the studio doesn’t, there will be countless third-party sites that will happily pick up the slack.