Blizzard Adding Player-RMT Services To Diablo III

Well, there you go.

With the Diablo III Auction House, players will have a fully-integrated marketplace that allows them to buy and sell items, gold, and components with real-world currency (tentatively divided into U.S. dollars and euros, among others) in their respective territories. According to him, it’s based on theWorld of Warcraft Auction House, but with refinements. Diablo III‘s iteration allows for auto-bidding and instant buyouts, smart searches based on class, a shared stash, and secure item transfers.

Pardo was swift to mention that it’s not an official “Blizzard Store,” but a clearinghouse for players to have an open market to facilitate the trading of in-game items with each other. Players will be anonymous during trades, and there will be restrictions on the buying and selling of goods with real-world currency for those who choose to play in Hardcore mode.

He then outlined initial details of transactions. There will be a fee for both item listings and sales. Should players accept in-game currency, their payment will go toward their e-balance, which covers auction items, WoW subscriptions, and pets. Should players decide to cash out their items, a currently-unannounced third-party payment provider will handle the transaction and take a percentage of the sale. There won’t be any limits on item trading, but there will be a 24-hour cooling period before players can resell a purchased item.

And why are they doing this? According to Pardo, because, well, if they didn’t, you would.

“Players want this… We could take a harder stance, but with Diablo, we think [the Auction House] will end up being a good thing,” he said. The fact that in-game bartering and selling had “become a metagame of its own,” in his words, was another motivator for launching the new feature.

Left unspoken of course, is that with the arbitrage fees from Diablo III Blizzard will make enough money to fix the Greek debt crisis. I’m sure that was a very minor consideration, though.

As a game developer, I can see Blizzard’s logic behind this move. There’s obviously plenty of a market for RMT transactions, and in the long term a clear benefit over and above the strictly financial in channeling them into an outlet controllable by people who at least theoretically have the game’s best interests at heart. And given that it’s similar to a system I had designed for a free-to-play title, that makes it even more difficult to argue against!

But as a player – I have no interest to pay to win. At all. For me the ideal F2P experience is one offered by titles such as Lord of the Rings Online – one where I can play on or off at a whim, and occasionally dig into my wallet for conveniences such as a horse or such, but never feeling as though I was missing a huge chunk of the game play by keeping my wallet in my pocket. Explicitly pegging the in-game currency to a real-world analog (the implication of Diablo III’s announcement)  — well, that certainly is a fairly huge chunk of game play to bypass.

Is this a good decision? For Blizzard’s business, yes. For Blizzard’s design, yes. For Blizzard’s players? Probably not, though the actions of people who can’t resist the immediate gratification of RMT make it inevitable.

From a long term standpoint, I think this also makes it fairly clear that World of Warcraft and Starcraft II will be the last Blizzard titles that aren’t driven by RMT. Thanks, usual suspects!


51 thoughts on “Blizzard Adding Player-RMT Services To Diablo III

  1. Jerid says:

    So, seeing there’s actual dollars going to be changing hands, doesn’t that mean it’s going to be reportable (taxable) income?
    If so… do you really think that Chinese Gold Farmers are going to start submitting US Tax returns?

    • Wasn’t it like you have to pay the sales tax/VAT to the country your customer is located? 
      Not to forget you would have to potentially pay income tax on your sales.

      Of course they might be able to pull off an ebay and say that it is all “private auction” and not their responsibility.

  2. Delta says:

    What if someone gets their Bnet account hacked? The hackers could run up fraudulent charges. Blizz would be held criminally liable because they took their “cut.” In short Blizz profited from a criminal act.

    That’s just one of MANY problems I have with this.

    • Some Dumbass says:

       Have users manually enter CC info each time? Have a separate account for transactions? Disabling credit card transactions with an external (email-associated) device?

      Well, I don’t know what your “MANY” other concerns are with RMT in Diablo, but I hope that they aren’t as effortlessly swept aside as credit card hijacking.

      • Delta says:

        If you read what Blizz has said none of those solutions will work. You have to “link” some kind of financial account information to your Bnet account.Then your transaction is credited to your Bnet account, not your credit card or your financial account. So you must have real money in your Bnet account in order to buy anything. You won’t be earning any interest or anything on the money you have parked in your Bnet account. However Blizz can and will.

        If you sell something the money goes into your Bnet account not your financial account. I assume after a certain amount of time your financial account will be credited when you “cash out.” The question I have is how much time between when you cash out and you get the funds.

        Also, no one knows what kind of financial account is going to be required. That makes a big difference. All Blizz has said up to this point is “some kind of financial account.”

        How easy would it be for a hacker to change that information? Like say to a dummy financial account then cash out and close the dummy account.

        It sounds like Blizz is going to act sort of like PayPal.

  3. This completely kills my interest in playing D3 or any other Blizzard title going forward.  I’m not naive about the role that profit motive plays in the games industry, but Blizzard has really gone off the deep end since Activision acquired them.  

    One of the beautiful things about gaming as a niche activity is that not everything had to be monetized to the Nth degree.  It seems like those days are gone now, so maybe it’s time for me to take up a more pure activity like competitive tractor racing.

    • goodgimp says:

      In the mainstream big-budget AAA productions, maybe, but there are all sorts of gems to be found in the indie and small/medium dev studios.

  4. mox says:

    lol.  Arguing about how Blizzard is going to possibly make the mechanics of this system work without incurring liability of some sort is like wondering how the alien invaders are possibly going to figure out the logistics of interstellar meat transport without freezer burn. (oh, the meat is people).  Hackers?  Lawsuits?  IRS?  They will throw a bazillion dollars at the problem and still make eleventy billion more the next week.

    • Delta says:

      True, sad but true. All anyone can do it try not to get ****ed in the process. Because ordinary people are always the ones thrown under the bus when it goes wrong.

  5. dartwick says:

    Oddly enough I dont really have a problem with this(of course I dont know all the details yet.)

    Any one who has played D2 to extremes, is well aware that the majority of high quality trades are currently done through 3rd party site, it really makes sense for Blizz to take this on themselves.

    As long as its only trading for items other players find in game Im cool with it.

    • Some Dumbass says:

       Good point Dartwick, although one did not have to “play D2 to extremes” to see a half dozen spambots promoting off site transactions in the various highly populated channels, and know that bots were being made to farm boss mobs  for ‘perfect’ rare and  unique items for sale on off-site transactions, because many important item stats occurred on a randomly determined range after dropping. Often times these perfect items would be duped (duplicated) or hacked into to have exceptional stats not possible on regular uniques/rares, and then disappear once Blizzard finally got around to detecting and deleting said items (easy to do with duplicates, because of unique item IDs).

      With AH,  Blizzard has a potential means to prevent such deceitful or simply game-breaking transactions. Unfortunately, only vague  hints were provided  that they would or would not try to prevent item hacking from having a place in the market, if they do anything at all about it this time around.

      • dartwick says:

         I wasnt really addressing spam bots and the site selling items directly for cash – although that obviously motivated Blizz.

        Most high quality trades in D2 that go from person to person are now done at a particular 3rd party site with uses a private currency(which can pe purchesed for real money.) Many people who never spend their own real money use the site because its by far the best way to trade the rarest items for fair value.

  6. It’s Diablo, presumably still played in private passworded 8 player games should you wish. If you don’t want to play with people who make you feel like you should fork out for a Windforce just join a casual Diablo guild that keeps those guys out. I played Diablo II for years with people who only used what they found themselves or what guildies found as dropped in times when everyone in the pubbie channels was using duped high end runes.

    Regarding devs taking control of the RMT market I’m in favour. It’s worked well in Eve, adds strategic depth to the gameplay and a large section of the player base who buy isk has been persuaded to buy the cash from CCP not black market credit card stealing account hacking gold sellers.

    • John Smith says:

       This is your own damn fault for letting companies like blizzard charge for account services, and then for “cosmetic items”, and so on. You should have never bought into the complete and utter public relations bullshit that “all” gold sellers are “account hacking cheaters”. Now, you will happily hand over that same personal information you have been told for years to protect to a different group of strangers that you can’t possibly trust.

  7. red dot mist says:

    Cutting out the 3rd party sites can really only be a good thing.  Having a player driven economy is a good thing.  This stuff was going to happen with or without Blizzard’s involvement.  Now Blizzard profits from it instead of having to police it.  It’s the EXACT same argument as the one for the legalization of marijuana.  How it can be seen as a bad thing?  As long as Blizzard can work out the security, legal and technical details, the only losers are the criminals.

    • John Smith says:

      This is what I’m talking about. Companies like blizzard created the problem in the first place! They intentionally designed the level/gold/gear grinds. Then they created the black market by making it illegal for players to voluntarily trade money and services between themselves. This was directly responsible for the creation of chinese farmers. And after punishing these farmers for breaking their imaginary rules, they forced the professional farmers to adopt more extreme tactics. Funny how a little pr spin can make it seem like they never had any responsibility to begin with. Now they are “graciously” setting up their own third party site so you can be “safe” while taking a cut under the table. I like it but I hate it, because I understand where this came from and where it’s going.

      • gamelore says:

        What are you smoking?  Chinese farmers were created by the game developers by making trades against the rules?  That makes no sense.

        They’ve been farming like it’s 1999 since 1999 when the concept was still new and there “were no rules”.  They will continue farming even if it’s legitimized in the game-rules because of the economic advantage.

        The only thing changing here is a region-lockdown, making entry harder for China.  Too bad they didn’t combine region-locking with a hardline stance on this crap.  Smart duplicate-account detection and flagging for accounts prone to buying/selling.  Ban the living bejesus out of them.

        That would have adequately solved the problem without saying “We give up.  Have fun calling our social software a ‘game’.”

        • John Smith says:

           Mafia run distilleries were created by the congress creating prohibition which made booz against the rules? That makes no sense! This is how you sound.

          The industry created the black market. First they made the games. These games were fun. But to squeeze more money out of people, they had to develop time wasters. Ideally grind = more months paid. In reality, grind = pay someone else to do it for you. Some people don’t like to or don’t have the time to grind, so they either cheated via macros, which turned into bots, or they paid someone else to do it for them. The developers didn’t like people making money off “their” hard work, so they made that illegal. When players could no longer interact in that fashion legally, the so called “gold farmers” started popping up. Now we have come full circle. Players can now sell their time/items to players, like they originally could, but this time the developer makes sure they get their cut. Instead of ebay or paypal or whatever third party people used in the past. There will still be farmers and gold farmers, but they won’t have the monopoly that they use to and will no longer be that big of a deal.

          • John Smith says:

            it’s also important to point out that 1999 isn’t when this all started. Maybe you were just trying to be witty, but it confuses the issue. The original English speaking Mmorpgs did not launch with any kind of chinese population. Chinese gold sellers originated in asia, they picked up wind of the whole operation from actual korean criminals who were strong arming people in real life in korean mmorpgs and then moved over seas where the competition had been almost entirely eliminated by the gung-ho american developers and publishers. 

          • JuJutsu says:

            “Mafia run distilleries were created by the congress creating prohibition which made booz against the rules? That makes no sense! This is how you sound.”

            Makes perfect sense to me. 

      • dartwick says:

        If you dont like “gear grinds” to start with why are you concerned?
        Its an aspect of gaming that many people enjoy. You should probably worry about genres that you enjoy.

  8. Informis says:

    When LOTRO went F2P I heard a lot of the pay-to-win complaints, too, but my question then, and is now, “Pay to win what, exactly?” I will probably complete the game multiple times on various difficulties. I will probably not be awesome at PVP because I can’t dedicate my life to D3 like some people can, not because my items stink. I will not have the best gear in the game, but my genitalia will not diminish in size. Someone wants to “win” by out buying me on the AH? Knock yourself out.

    Now, if Blizzard does some stupid thing where you’ve got to buy Nightmare Mode dungeon keys from players who’ve farmed them up so you can progress in difficulty…that would make me unhappy. For now, it sounds like it will be a convenience and an opportunity.

  9. Jeff Rawlings says:

    Blizz: “That new Bioware game is going to kick our ass…we need solutions now.”

    Bobby Kotick: “They may have Star Wars, but I know the dark side better than any of those Sith bitches. Let’s talk about RMT, let’s talk about you and me…” 

  10. Ritchian says:

    Oh, Blizzard.  I’m not surprised at this point.  Or even all that angry, truth be told. 

    I’m just disappointed.

  11. Elcapitanseb says:

    I guess you could view any “pay to win” gameplay as a game design failure. You buy gold in WoW or you buy an item in D3 because the option of spending $X is better in your view than spending X hours playing the game to acheive the same result. Which means what you really want the item, not the gameplay (or at least part of the gameplay).

    I wish developers could focus more on good gameplay instead of shiny items as a reward for going through bad gameplay. Instead, the trend is to go the safe way : no creative gameplay (alsways a risk) and an tried and tested way to make profit (leveraging basic human needs – growth/progression in this case).

  12. nwithers says:

    You know, Extra-Credits talked about micro-transactions three weeks ago.  and one of the big points that they put out was to Never Never NEVER sell power.  On a side note, if you care at all about game design (and it’s probably a fairly safe assumption here) I strongly recommend watching  the extra credits show on Thursdays. Link to the episode dealing with micro-transactions below.

  13. Shinino says:

    Okay, so they have RMT, of a sort.  However, it’s all player-2-player.  Y’know, that thing which already existed in Diablo 2.  And has for over ten years.  No one is forcing you to buy or sell on the AH.  People doing so don’t negatively impact you personally unless you PVP versus people or something.  If all you want to do is play the game, y’know, you can do that without ever touching the AH.

    To be honest, this is really a minor issue compared to the ‘must be always online to play’, ‘no offline mode’ and ‘ABSOLUTELY no mods’.  

    The last is more the reason that I will be waiting quite a while on Diablo 3.  I bought at least four copies of Diablo 2. I can’t say yet if I’ll buy Diablo 3.  Good job, Blizzard.

  14. gx1080 says:

    Yeah, don’t think tat theGoverment is going to do anything, You see, is not real RMT if the only ones that can take out the real money is Blizz.

  15. Avecrien says:

    The money thing disturbs me. I don’t want that in a game. Thats why I have reality. Its the online-only model that sealed the deal for my no longer wanting D3 though. I spent less than 0.01% of my time playing Diablo 1 and 2 online. I love a good single player romp. I also like unquestionable ownership of my the games I buy. A decade’s worth of building anticipating obliterated. At least I’ve got Torchlight 2!

  16. Krilin says:

    Torchlight 2 is coming out before the end of the year. It will be cheaper, and probably just as good as Diablo 3.

  17. gamelore says:

    The derivative of Blizzard earning money on trades bothers me as much as their endorsement of an economy whereby trades aren’t in-game fair (using some imaginary “dollars” thing).  To say it won’t affect development decisions is false — there’s no way to un-know something, no matter how hard they try.  This is even more true as MBA density increases higher up.

    Secondly, there’s the whole online-only DRM for what is normally LAN/single-player.

    Both of those are reasons I normally blacklist a game.  In my book, Diablo III is double-blacklisted.

  18. Brask says:

    Gah…  Online mandatory?  What are they smoking in Blizzard HQ?

    I didn’t know/care about Starcraft II doing that, cause, really, it is a multiplayer game.  But Diablo has at its heart a single player dungeon crawl.  There are no positives to making this online only.  Synchronizing my save games is irrelevant – just don’t let my single player chars mix with the official server-stored chars.

    Auction Hall?  I actually think that is a good system.  Its the online-mandatory which sticks with me.  One of the few times I actually have time to play games is while on an airplane!

    I’ve been eagerly awaiting D3, but now need to seriously consider if I buy or not.

  19. Nothanks says:

    I don’t see why so many of you are upset. Diablo 2 has had an RMT economy for over a decade, I can remember third-party sites selling items for RL cash as far back as I can remember playing the game. So now Blizzard gets a cut, who cares?

    At least this way they’ll have a constant revenue stream and motivation to preserve a positive play experience. Perhaps some GM support rather than the “too bad so sad” functionality of the old D2 support system.

  20. wowpanda says:

    I didn’t see anything wrong with this. People sale items for Diablo II from third party for a long time now, the in game one will just make it safer.  If you don’t like it, don’t play the game, no one is forcing you to (unlike taxes).  If the company find too many people dislike this, they will stop, however I think most people will think this is better.

    Also I believe it is a much better wealth distribution system, where people who are poor can trade time with money.

  21. Sinij says:

    Wait for the other shoe to drop – gambling & minors lawsuits, IRS and money laundering… I will personally declare my gaming habbit a business activity and write off all relevant expenses.

    The end result of this will be Blizzard getting regulators on everybody’s ass, to the point that it will end up classified  online gambling and made illegal in majority of US states.

  22. Cymbaline says:

    The whole RMT thing irks me – and I like the way Tycho put it:

    ” I have to say, though, that I love the idea that the reason
    you need to stay connected is to keep people from cheating, while at the
    same time creating an infrastructure to purchase equipment straight out
    with cold, hard cash. Blizzard has no plans to sell items themselves –
    oh no! – but the sellers are anonymized, so… hm. Apparently you’re
    supposed to report things like these with a straight face.”

    But I don’t care too much, as I simply won’t (wouldn’t) use it.

    But the always-online thing to me?  Kiss of death.  I think Blizzard is dead to me, now, too.  I avoided SC2 because of the lack of LAN, but it was never of as much interest to me as D3.  I may crumble yet, to be honest, but I have a feeling that I might just never purchase D3.  Shame, too.

  23. Informis says:

    Something makes me think people will quickly forget their once fiery hatred of cash auction houses and required internet connections.

    That something is called launch day.

  24. Brask says:

    What saddens me is that even if I do not forget my fiery hatred, and choose not to buy, my action will completely fail to be registered by the powers that be.  There’s no A/B test for them to see the lost sales.  They’ll just blame the quality of the game.

    • Cymbaline says:

      And if you try to send them an email to inform them why you’re not buying, it’ll never get read by a human being.

      Indie studios really are the way to go.  Forget the megacorps.

  25. Many of the concerns raised via taxes (or similar issues) aren’t very new, and have been battled by online retailers for a long while now.  I doubt that’s even an after thought to Blizzard.

    The real issues I see that will come up later:
    1) they are providing the arguement that their virtual items have legal real world value.  This will open up issues the moment they ban folks, allow duping to occur, or try to argue that items can’t be sold on ebay even though they are sold in their own version of ebay.
    2) Some player not using the AH will claim he had an item stolen.  That player will get a lawyer, point out the going rate of the item, and go after Blizzard for server logs and personal information.  Blizzard will laugh at them, and some lawyer will eventually solicit multitudes of players for a class action. 
    3) Someone on a hardcore server will lose their character due to a server hiccup and summarily demand the worth of their character in real dollars due to the loss being no fault of their own.

    Just the fact that the above two will get argued will set up all the other online players for precedent whether or not they allow sales of their items.

    Right or wrong, agree or disagree, the suits will happen because they always do when you are talking about real world money.  That isn’t what kills it for me though…

    if you think people could be mean spirited or greedy in a game over virtual (and meaningless) items before… wait till you see anonymous internet folks who are dealing over items that might be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars.  I can’t imagine playing this game with random people I don’t know.

  26. Tethyss says:

    I don’t know at this point.  Maybe they gave up on combating gold farmers and the like, allowing us round-eyes to compete with the gold farmers on an even playing field.  I just don’t know.

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