Aug 1, 2011

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Diablo III Gets Auction House, Uses Real Currency

Diablo III Gets Auction House, Uses Real Currency

Say what you will about Blizzard’s massively successful MMORPG World of Warcraft, but no one can deny what a large and dedicated fanbase the game has generated since it launched in 2004. With such a focused community of gamers, all of whom can connect with each other it was only a matter of time before black market sales of in-game goods spread throughout the seedy channels of eBay and deeply-buried forum threads. While Blizzard does its best to keep up with the onslaught of sales for in-game weapons, items, and even characters or whole accounts, there’s only so much that can be done to counter the will of 11 million subscribers. However, it appears that Blizzard has learned its lesson on player economies and is focused on halting would-be Diablo III traders, even before the game launches. Blizzard has announced through their official website that the upcoming beta testing period of Diablo III will include one of the game’s new features: a fully-functional auction house that will allow players to buy in-game assets from other players using real money.

Blizzard’s official overview of the Auction House paints the picture of a safe, secure, and monitored way for players to trade “nearly everything found in the game, including gold” for either real world currency or in-game gold, a decision that players can make on an item-by-item basis. Players can also choose to trade directly with another player and can handle purchases and trades using the Auction House interface for any of the characters tied to their account without having to log out. The Auction House will be entirely community-driven; Blizzard will not be posting any items for sale, with the idea being to allow players to develop the economy naturally and according to demand. By reeling in what were once considered “black market” item sales and offering interested players an easy-to-use interface for the same activities, Blizzard hopes to “protect players from the scams and theft often associated with questionable third-party sites by providing a secure, completely in-game method for purchasing and obtaining the items they want for their characters.”

Blizzard’s intentions seem pure at the outset; as stated in the official Auction House FAQ, the system is primarily designed to stem the tide of customer service requests and player issues that result from item and account theft. By recognizing the demand that players have demonstrated for this kind of trading and making it an acceptable and monitored practice within the game, everyone interested in paying real currency for items has fair and equal access to player-driven prices and a safe scam-free system. However, Blizzard may also be using the Auction House as a way to snag a cut of the player economy. On the subject of transaction fees, Blizzard states:

“A nominal fixed transaction fee will be deducted from the seller for each item listed in the auction house. This fee consists of a fixed charge to list the item, which is assessed whether or not the item is successfully sold, and an additional fixed charge that is assessed only if the item is sold. Because the listing portion of the fee is charged even if the item doesn’t sell, it will be in the seller’s interest to list items he or she believes other players will be interested in, and to do so at a competitive price. Specific details related to the transaction fee for the currency-based auction house will vary by region and will be announced at a later date. Please note that we plan to waive the listing portion of the fee for a limited number of transactions per account. In other words, for these transactions, the seller will only pay a transaction fee if the item is successfully sold, and that fee will not include the listing charge. We’ll have further details on this as well at a later date.”

It appears that the transaction fee system will behave in a similar manner to the Auction House fees that are deducted from player inventories in World of Warcraft, with a limited number of fee waivers for first-time sellers looking to try their luck selling rare loot or gold to characters in need. In addition, Blizzard intends to offer various payout options for the items that players sell, including placing the funds in a player’s account or connecting a third-party financial account like PayPal or the player’s bank account. However, this enticing option will not be without its own costs. On the subject of redeeming one’s Auction House winnings in other accounts, Blizzard states, “For players who opt to have the proceeds of their auction house sales go to their third-party payment service account instead of to their account, Blizzard will collect a separate ‘cash-out’ fee. Specific details regarding these fees will be announced at a later date.”

We want to hear from you about this controversial Diablo III announcement. Do you view the addition of a real-world auction house to the game as a simple ploy of monetization? Or are you on-board with Blizzard’s mission to reel in black market trading and offer a safe and user-friendly alternative within the game? Whichever the case, it seems Blizzard has recognized the prevalence of in-game item sales for World of Warcraft and decided to accept and integrate the practice into the meta-game of Diablo III. Stay tuned to Vivid Gamer for further updates on Blizzard’s highly-anticipated RPG.

[Source: Blizzard]