Blizzard to shut down Diablo III auction house

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The auction house in Diablo III has been plagued by various issues basically since the game's release, however, Blizzard's announcement today that they are going to close both the gold and real money auction houses entirely still comes as a bit of shock. In the video embedded above -- and echoed in a Diablo official blog post -- Diablo III's Production Director John Hight and Game Director Josh Mosqueira state that Blizzard has come to the conclusion that the auction house system in Diablo III undermines the game's core gameplay, which is to kill monsters and get loot. This is ostensibly the driving factor behind axing the systems entirely.

A new system, coyly referred to as "Loot 2.0," is in the works for Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, and they hope that the changes will result in a much more rewarding experience for Diablo players. If you're an avid auction house user you don't have to scramble just yet to get all your ducks in a row before the shut down. We've been given six months' notice, so mark your calenders. The Diablo III auction houses will close their doors for good on March 18, 2014. Until then, it's business as usual.

At the announcement, I can't help but be reminded of this old post by Mat McCurley, written over a year ago, about the significance of Diablo III's auction house on the matter of scale and precedent. No other game company has done what Blizzard did in the D3 real money auction house on the same scale that Blizzard did it, and its ultimate failure, now ensured, should provide much editorial fodder for many weeks to come. Blizzard's official line is that they decided the auction house negatively affected gameplay, and knowing what I do about the way Diablo games function, I can absolutely see that.

However, I do wonder, given what McCurley pointed out about the mass groundwork that Diablo III's auction house set for player-driven marketplaces and potential taxable income from those economies, what the repercussions of this move will be in the wider world of online gaming. If Blizzard, inarguably one of the biggest dogs in the video game company ring, has thrown in the towel on this real money auction house, what does that spell for the future of those type of microtransactions, across the board? I wouldn't be surprised if smaller companies that may have been considering emulating the Diablo III model, now think a little harder about whether or not they actually want to.

Personally, I have never much used the Diablo III auction houses, so for me the change will likely come and go completely unnoticed. Nonetheless, I'm sure there are plenty of players who will have to adjust their gameplay style a bit to accommodate the lack. Are you an avid auction house user? Will you miss it? Or does this change come as a big relief? And what, if any, impact do you think this might have on other player-driven marketplaces in the gaming world?
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