Reporting by Kara Warner
Ever since "Diablo 2," Blizzard has been warring with companies created to take control of their games' economies. Back then people would trade valuable items for real-world through intermediaries like PayPal. The process got far more sophisticated with "World of WarCraft," as infamous gold farmers sprung up and companies formed which allowing real-world money to be traded for in-game gold. Blizzard has attempted to stem the tide of these companies, with little success. Now it seems they're following the old adage, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Starting with "Diablo 3," players will be able to buy, sell and trade in-game items for real-world cash right through the game's auction house.
Blizzard revealed its plans at a press event for the "Diablo 3" beta, detailing just how this real world currency-based auction house will work.
As Blizzard's Rob Pardo describes it, it functions identically to the "World of WarCraft" auction house:
"As a seller, you can put an item up for minimum bid, or set a buyout price option. So you could just put something up for buyout only, and now it's more of a purchase site, but you have the option as the seller to do that. And on the buyer's side, you can choose to bid and to set a maximum bid, so it will auto-bid up to it. So it works just like eBay basically."
The key difference, obviously, is that instead of in-game gold, players will be bidding and buying with real world money. There is, however, another, separate auction house where players can buy, sell and trade for in-game gold instead. So, if you're not interested in spending real cash on items, you have the option to stick with in-game money.
So what does Blizzard get out of all these real-world sales? A small portion of the profits. Every listing on the real-world currency auction house requires a fee (just like eBay), so a portion of just about every trade will go to Blizzard.
When asked, Pardo said that those precise fees are still to be determined. "I wish I could give you those numbers today," he said, "but I think its more dangerous to give you ranges or speculation than other than just say hey here's what these fees are intended to do and we want them to be reasonable, nominal and ultimately you know we want the players to benefit even more than we benefit from the sales in the auction house and that’s where we want to be."
Pardo continued, saying that even if you don't have cash, you'll still be able to list a limited number of items. "What I want to do is give you a certain amount of free listings per week, so you as the seller can just put a certain number of items. The reason there is a listing fee is to guard the auction house and have a certain level of quality there. We want to make the entry really really low so the moment you want to try it out you don't have to put any cash in there."
GOLD 4 CASH
So how do you get the cash after a transaction has been completed? That's where things get complicated.
By default, any real-world money earned in the real-world currency auction house will be deposited into your Battle.net account. This money can be used to purchase more items in the auction house or pay for your "World of WarCraft" subscription. Basically it's a Battle.net gift card. Once it's in your Battle.net account, it can not be used anywhere else.
But there is another option. You can also set up a third-party payment service (like a bank) and attach it to your account. Once you do this, you can choose to deposit in-game sales directly into your bank account. Blizzard notes that "this process will be subject to applicable fees charged by Blizzard and the third-party payment service."
So what if you want to ignore all of this real-world currency business and play on a server that doesn't allow trading for real money? According to the official FAQ, you're basically out of luck:
"We want to provide a secure, fun environment for our players to purchase and sell in-game items using gold or real money and have no plans to divide the community. Players are free to participate in the gold-based auction house or the currency-based auction house, or to opt out of using any of the auction houses at all, progressing through 'Diablo 3' using only the items they obtain through their own adventures or direct trade with other players."
The introduction of real-world money into "Diablo 3" makes sense from a business perspective for Blizzard. After all, why allow other companies to offer risky money-for-gold transactions when you can do it yourself? That being said, it is worrying that the best items will no longer require time and dedication to achieve. Until the "Diablo 3" beta launches, we won't get a full sense of whether this system will improve the experience, but it's definitely a big step for Blizzard and the "Diablo" franchise.