A surprise to many, Blizzard Entertainment announced today that they will be removing the gold and real-money auction house systems from Diablo III on March 18, 2014. Here’s an official video with the news:
Diablo III Auction House Update
I say, “surprise to many”, but I am one of the few. It was no surprise to me. In fact, I feel partially responsible for the removal of the auction house.
You see, three weeks ago on August 28, 2013, I received an email from Blizzard Entertainment Research with the subject line, “Blizzard Entertainment Wants Your Feedback!”. I’ve been a media contact of Blizzard’s for years now and this is the first email I’ve seen of this kind. While I don’t know how many players received this same survey, nor if we were randomly or selectively chosen, I feel my feedback was heard.
As the body of the email (shown in the image below) suggests, the survey was all about Diablo III; reiterating Blizzard Entertainment’s credo, “to make the most epic gaming experiences possible”.
While I don’t recall any specific questions in the survey or my exact responses, the survey was very concentrated on how I felt about my Diablo III play experience. I was extremely honest in my answers. Before I delve into my feelings, allow me take you on a historical journey of my time spent in Diablo III.
- Closed Beta Invite – I was invited to the Diablo III closed beta with the rest of the media. We’re some of the first players outside Blizzard Entertainment to see and play the game. I rolled a Demon Hunter because I’ve always leaned toward ranged, stealthy heroes and prefer a darker, sinister persona. The Demon Hunter fit all those criteria. I leveled my Demon Hunter and the remaining 4 classes all to the beta level cap of 13 in two evenings. I was loving it! I repeated this through 3 character wipes during closed and open betas.
- Diablo III Launch – Diablo III launched and I first rolled a Demon Hunter. I was able to rush pretty quick through Normal difficulty in a few evenings and began Nightmare difficulty. I welcomed the difficulty, but the gear I was finding was well below what was available on the gold auction house, so I resorted to a crossbow that a player likely found in the later acts of Nightmare or even Hell difficulty. The game was easy again. I rushed through a couple more acts and resorted to the gold auction house again.
- Farming for Gold – This time, however, I didn’t have the required gold to afford a reasonable upgrade. I say “reasonable” because I don’t want to paint the picture that I was holding out for some legendary epic bow or anything, just a crossbow with a significant damage and stat boost (specifically stamina) to that of my currently equipped weapon. I took to farming gold. So I bought some cheap +Gold Find gear and went back to the later acts of Normal difficulty to quickly mow down demons for their gold. Sound familiar yet?
- AH-Only Sessions – After several evenings of farming the same areas and mobs for gold, I finally found a new crossbow to help me complete Nightmare difficulty. As I entered Hell difficulty, good damage on my weapon wasn’t enough anymore. I had to begin stacking stamina and resist all gear in order to survive long enough to whittle many champion groups down. It was at this point I found myself logging in and out of Diablo III never killing a single demon. I would log in for 30 minutes to see if my limit of 10 items had sold and determine which items I would part with was simply trying to clean out gear and sell what I could for another upgrade.
- Temporary Hiatus – Hell difficulty is where Blizzard lost me. I found myself too often resorting to farming gold or spending time on the auction house to save enough for upgrades to push past each act. Why was it that I was never able to find an upgrade that I could use for myself? I’d saved many items for other classes that I could use along the way, so I rolled a few alts to try to keep things interesting, but shortly after I decided it was time to put Diablo III away for a while. This was just 2 months after release.
- Defeated by Diablo – A few months later I came back to finish Hell difficulty and started on Inferno. Progress was slow and I was unable to defeat many of the champions. I made the mistake of peeking at gear on the gold auction house and again was back to farming gear and gold for the items I really wanted. I played a little further on my alts, but I had had enough. I was done. Diablo had defeated me.
In summary, Diablo III didn’t reward players directly, but indirectly through a “mini-game” called the auction house. The “mini-game” began to impede on the primary gameplay element – “kill monsters to get cool loot.” Sanctuary had turned into a casino. A once fiery, burning hell full of demons became a task of peddling unwanted gear – 10 items at a time.
This is ultimately the feedback I gave Blizzard in their survey. Of all the loot a player finds in Sanctuary, the chances that they’ll get the satisfaction of actually equipping an item they find is less than 0.43%. I’ve made that number up; but, truth is, I cannot recall finding an item where I immediately equipped it as an upgrade outside the first few acts of Normal difficulty. All current gear on my main hero was purchased on the gold auction house. I’d bet your hero’s gear was acquired in a very similar manner unless you enjoy farming gear and refuse to use the auction house.
Now that you’ve heard my tale and the sentiment I left in my feedback to Blizzard on my experience playing Diablo III, you’ll perhaps understand why they’ve chosen to shut down the gold and real-money auction houses on March 18, 2014. Why March 18, 2014? It’s still so far in the future. Many are speculating this is an anticipated release date for the expansion, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, but I’d not take it quite that literal and say this is the day they launch their final patch in preparation for version 2.0, Reaper of Souls, so their anticipated release date is likely a couple weeks or months later.
What are your thoughts on the closing of the Diablo III auction houses? Feel free to use the comments section below to give your input on Blizzard’s decision. Until we meet again, good luck and have fun!
Edit: No more than 18 hours after this article originally posted, I received the below email from Blizzard Entertainment regarding the closure of the Diablo III auction house.