Blizzard introduces real currency to Diablo III

Updated: lead designer Jay Wilson explains the decision

MMO Diablo III will offer players the chance to use real world currency to trade game items.

The service will be on an item by item basis via an eBay style auction house system and entirely optional. Gold based auction houses will be available for players who don't wish to spend their money in-game.

"It was definitely a design decision," the game's lead designer Jay Wilson told Eurogamer.

Players can purchase gold, weapons, armour and runestones via their registered accounts. Blizzard will not sell "game play affecting" items, and stated it has no plans to post items directly to the auction house, leaving trading to the players.

"Trading is not very good in Diablo, and yet it's a game about trading," explained Wilson. "Trading is the way you get the best items in Diablo. And yet there was no trading mechanism to speak of... We wanted to focus on filling that hole."

When selling, players can use the money they earn to purchase other other Diablo III items through the auction house, purchase products, such as World Of Warcraft subscriptions, or claim the cash through third party services.

For each item sold for real currency players will be charged an unspecified "nominal fixed transaction fee" by Blizzard, which will vary by region and whether or not the item sold. Players will also be charged a fee for withdrawing sales proceeds from their account. Wilson denied that this was the main motivation behind the decision.

"Certainly there's an economic element to the auction house for us, but it came first and foremost as: what do we want to do for the players? What service can we possibly offer that would make the game experience better?"

"If we make money on it that's great, we're a business, we want to make money. But not at the expense of the customers - but because we've offered them something that was worth their money."

Blizzard further explained its motivations in an official statement, citing player behaviour and security.

"The item-based nature of Diablo game play has always lent itself to an active trade-based ecosystem, and a significant part of this trade has been conducted through unsecure third-party organisations."

"This has led to numerous customer-service and game-experience issues that we've needed to account for. Our primary goal with the Diablo III auction house system is for it to serve as the foundation for a player-driven economy that's safe, fun, and accessible for everyone."

Blizzard has said it will not be introducing the system to its other MMORPG, World Of Warcraft, due to differences in the game play. It also clarified that it has no plans to provide support for the auction house system to mobile devices.

Diablo III still has no official release date, but is currently recruiting players for a beta test. Diablo II was released in 2000, but still has a large online audience.

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Latest comments (29)

Konstantin Hohl6 years ago
"This has led to numerous customer-service and game-experience issues that we've needed to account for. Our primary goal with the Diablo III auction house system is for it to serve as the foundation for a player-driven economy that's safe, fun, and accessible for everyone."

I love PR. What a lovely way to say that Blizzard found a way to get a piece of the "digital-goods-revenue-pie" for themselves.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Konstantin Hohl on 1st August 2011 9:28am

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William Chan European Media Sales Planner, Electronic Arts6 years ago
As a Diablo player I'd much rather engage with a system that is authorized and allows for transactions of legitimate in game items, some of which have significant in game value. Good move Blizzard.
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Mary Hilton Community Manager, Reclaim Your Game6 years ago
Except for the fact that it demands that the player be on-line at all times. There will be NO off-line play for any gamer.
That's a very bad move on Blizzard's part. They're going to pay for it, too. Gamers who do not have a high-speed broadband connection to their server are going to avoid it like the plague.
Blizzard is going to hurt badly from this. Ubisoft tried this scenario and got hit by a whiplash of reaction that caused them to not only rethink their entire strategy, but their DRM as well.
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Show all comments (29)
Terence Gage Freelance writer 6 years ago
Although I agree with your comments in principal Mary, Blizzard aren't like other developers - maybe they're assuming most of their Diablo 3 customers will also be WoW fans, who obviously have no issue being perpetually online.

Did Starcraft 2 have always-online DRM?
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Craig Ting Community Manager 6 years ago
StarCraft 2 has offline for single player / skirmish, but no capacity to earn achievements while in offline.

The ability to use your money earned in game to buy other items/games from the Blizzard Store has also been mentioned in other articles. I actually really like that idea - a lucky Diablo loot could buy you a WOW in-game pet, piece of clothing or somesuch. Won't do any harm in cross-populating between Blizzard games either..
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Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 6 years ago
Finally I can quit my day job and become rich beyond my wildest dreams.
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James Prendergast Research Chemist 6 years ago
I doubt i'll be getting D3... I just can't agree with "Always On" DRM. It'll be interesting to see at what price level these sorts of transactions will take place at. I can't imagine paying more than a £/$/€ or two for a bit of high-level digital/imaginary kit.
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Dean Kortenhoven Gaming and Tech News Writer 6 years ago
This article claims that they are trying to eliminate the problems with third-party services, but then go on to say the player will be charged a fee for withdrawing sales proceeds from their account and will have to use a third-party service to cash in the proceeds anyway.

Am I missing something here?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dean Kortenhoven on 1st August 2011 2:12pm

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Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief6 years ago
The strange thing with everyone complaining about business models affecting game design is that this has always been true.

That perfect game that alway makes you want "just one more go"? A relic of the bygone era of arcade machines where you put a quarter in the slot.

A game that requires to spend months grinding your way up to level 80? A design decision that keeps you paying a monthly subscription.

Microtransactions allow those players who don't like grind to avoid it. They can - legitimately - trade time for money.

It's another way in which the business model and game design are intertwined, representing an attractive route for companies to make money AND for some gamers to progress faster through the game by avoiding grind.

I'm delighted that I now have the choice.
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Timm Schaele-Hintermair Management Assistant, OTHEB GmbH6 years ago
No surprise here whatsoever. WoW's services subtly started introducing money-for-items a long, long time ago.

Blizzard would be downright negligent not to offer a service for which there is a clear and significant demand.
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Guy Costantini Managing Partner 6 years ago
It's a great move since there is a black market currently feeding the demand that exists. Blizzard is essentially making the move so they have more control, which is good for quality, deters hacking/exploiting and satisfies a lot of their gamers. We are all getting older, and we all have more money to spend. Blizzard is just saying to pay it to the developers rather than the farmers. I am supportive of this as one of the few approaches that addresses intelligently the issue of gold farming/hacking/exploits.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 6 years ago
I have it on good authority, that this is the script (working title: 'living the dream') for the upcoming D3 TV ad. Target demographic is 10-18.

Mother [shouting down basement stairs, no music]
Briiiiaaaaan, stop playing now, or else..

Brian [sitting in basement, camera only shows nervous face and fingers clicking the mouse in ultra closeup, dark brooding Diablo music is playing]
Shut up mom, I am earning money here

Mother [turns away from basement stairs in resignation, no music]

Brian [still nervously clicking in ultra closeup, camera pans slowly back, the brooding music is rising to a crescendo of baby cries and tormented screams, finally the entire basement is revealed, which turns out to be square-mile of cubicles filled with illegal immigrant workers grinding the game.

Title Reveal

Fade to release date

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Klaus Preisinger on 1st August 2011 3:55pm

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Bruno Brøsted Incident Manager 6 years ago
Sounds like it is time for the tax man to start collecting.
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Lawrence Makin Audio 6 years ago
"Blizzard introduces real currency to Diablo III"...and opens a massive customer service and legal can of worms.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game6 years ago
I like the fact that if Blizzard arn't posting items then all items must represent items found in game. The people finding them are rewarded by the system rather than penalised. There can't be more of an item due to sales than what are found. And as is pointed out, it's a trade that was going to be made anyway, but more safely managed. It seems like a smarter take than what would have been done with conventional MTs, and with a chance for the losers in that model to benifit here if they choose.
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Thiago Attianesi Creative Director, Fan Studios6 years ago
Sound danger.
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Jeffrey Kesselman CTO, Nphos6 years ago
Soft ICE + Diablo III + some time == Big Money
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Andrzej Wroblewski Localization Generalist, Albion Localisations6 years ago
The next thing we'll hear about will be a fusion of Blizz and Bigpoint or sth.

FYI, I've just been totally discouraged from buying Diablo III. "GJ", Blizz... Bye, bye, Blizz...
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Shea Richardson Technical Animator 6 years ago
I think this takes away the charm of the game, the whole time for money/money for time argument is pretty weak, Games should not be something you sit down to and think "I am now going to get my 25 pounds worth of entertainment over the next few hours" sitting there timing it and measuring it up with the items/dungeons you have been through. It should be about getting lost in another world and an interesting story/gameplay, having fun on your own or with your friends. It is something you enjoy, a hobby. This makes it something else, something a lot more soulless.

This is a bad idea for and I am sad to see Blizzard do this, as a long term fan of theirs I am deeply disappointed and a little bit heart sore, at least in WoW the items you buy for cash are only vanity items.

I will give it a go though and may be proven wrong(Blizzard haven't failed me so far), but I dislike the notion of micro transactions especially where the developer is managing to make 3 different charges for the ability to do it.

Who knows, I may eat my hat yet :)
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Philipp Nassau Student - Business Administration (M. Sc.) 6 years ago
It makes so much sense as a business decision...additional revenue from the deposit for creating and completing auctions, then profits from selling anything in the Battle.Net store and finally additional capital because there'll always be a certain amount of money "inside the system". Add to that the fact that Blizzard takes out the dubious 3rd party trading through half legal websites and scams that could negatively impact player experience for those who choose to use them and you get a controlled and enjoyable environment.

Personally I don't really like it when people can buy game performance related stuff in a game that relies on multiplayer with a certain competition (there's PvP after all) and I thought Blizzard had adressed exactly that with the "bind on pickup" system in WoW. Let's see how this plays out, I don't think it changes much compared to the situation in Diablo 2 right now except that Blizzard takes control and can be held responsible. Which is why I anticipate a much better support and general conduct than with 3rd parties.
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Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief6 years ago
@shea I agree entirely that no one thinks of games' entertainment value in terms of $/hour.

That's not the point. It's that sometimes - often - MMOs force you into repetitive quests in order to stretch out the levelling-up process and keep you subscribing. I'd rather pay money to skip that bit.

I'd also like to pay money to buy a farmhouse to decorate my farmstead in order to give it a more personality. Anyone who has ever bought an item for an Xbox 360 or PlayStation Home avatar has done the same thing.

I don't think those decisions are soulless.
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Boon Cotter Artist 6 years ago
Ha! Such wonderfully altruistic spin. I love when a company claims that making profits are not a motivating factor in a new strategy.
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Dennis Wan Game Designer, Nanyang Polytechnic6 years ago
I find this a really intruiging development. I love games like Diablo and World of Warcraft, mainly because I like collecting stuff. Now I get to collect stuff, and then sell them for a small return? That definitely tickles the picker in me. I am wondering what kind of effect this will have on the regional game economies. Since gold is able to be bartered, that would quite directly affect the price of gear placed by both gold and dollars. Once some auction house mogul figures out the balance, it should definitely plateau, lest interference from greater powers. The question is how long will that take, and how stable can the economies be? Time to embrace the farmer in me...
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Chris Kemp Writer/Teacher 6 years ago
For those who have no plans on using this - who cares?

I mean, why does it matter to you at all? I understand two points of view on this:

1. This is sweet! I'll totally use this!

2. Not interested. Still keen to play Diablo 3 though!

It doesn't really have much effect on the game. I don't plan on running some kind of item moneymarket, but I'm still looking forward to playing it, same as always. And hey, wouldn't it be cool if you got lucky and found some random item worth 100 bucks? I think it adds an element of fun that your items are worth even more than "in-game" value.
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Jakub Poznański Jr Marketing Specialist, GOG.com6 years ago
Sad part is that this "battle.ebay" will be controlled by random Chinese bots and it will all be for sale on the normal, real-world ebay ;,(
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Karna V Krishnan Producer, Reliance Games6 years ago
As a former experienced MMO player, who IMHO saw a very successful NC Soft MMO crumble to dust due to RMT (in the west), I embrace this move by Blizzard. Now they'll just have to keep an eye out for the Bot infestation that follows.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 6 years ago
We should not fool ourselves into thinking, that anybody here will find anything of value in D3. Blizzard once revealed that 50% of WoW playing time is done by 10% of the players. For this D3-RMT scheme to work, the lootdrop system has to account for this and drop valuable items very scarcely. Once the bottom 90% of players get items even at a ratio of 1in4, the market for this item will be ruined by those grinding without end, as they flood the market with ten times as many items. Meaning there will be two of those drops for everybody, but distributed in such an unfair fashion that a part of the game requiring this item has become a part where normal players reach a paygate. If you are just a regular player, your chances of finding something worth more than a Dollar are practically zero. Even if you play ten times as much as a regular player and call the 10$ upper grinding class your home, you will still not earn money. How is a single person of the bottom 90% feel good about his gear drops, knowing he can just buy better gear for money. Worse, due to the stats-driven nature of the game you not just buy gear, you effectively buy a temporary invincibility cheat. What does that say about the game? How will you react hitting a wall? Because you surely cannot learn a Fireball or Dragonpunch combo and get better, you will have to klick or pay.

There is also a second problem, hyperinflation. Economies work on the principle of limited supply. If something is limitless, e.g. air for breathing, then there is no market; except you live under water and suddenly air is not infinite. Gold in D3 might not be limitless in the beginning, but there is no institution limiting its amount. Each player has his own money printing press in the cellar. Just click on a few monsters and the amount of gold rises. Infinite repetition results in infinite gold. Infinite repetition in reality does not mean you earn infinite money. Playerdriven hyperinflation destroys every game. It is not the bots, not the Chinese, it is the hyperinflation.

Blizzard could avoid this by including Gold-drains, i.e. items bought with ingame gold which are so expensive, only few players can afford them. But if you have to pay gold for the 'sword of awesome' and either grind for a year or pay some Chinese grinders to get it, then Blizzard might as well have sold it at an itemshop to begin with.

For Blizzard it is perfect. First they get real Dollars in exchange for a fake trading house currency. Those real Dollars create interest from day one. Then Blizzard installs an economy which encourages trading and drain the economy dry with transaction fees. Meanwhile the game is setup such, that the lootdrop system will cause hyperinflation. Hyperinflation will accelerate the rate at which transactions are done, because you have to move fast in a hyperinflated economy to retain even the smallest value. This increases the speed at which transaction fees pump virtual currency towards Blizzard. This means players have to convert more real Dollars to virtual currency to retain their wealth. Log out for a month and inflation will have destroyed you. The amounts of Dollars in the economy rises. Blizzard gets a growing pool of money generating interest rates and in time transaction fees will make sure the pool belongs to Blizzard altogether. Players are no equals, because the only way players can react to their getting poorer is by throwing money at Blizzard, which is exactly what Blizzard wants. The trading among players is just a charade, that is not where the magic happens.

Morally, this system is highly objectionable. Even if you are a fan of capitalism, you have to realize that this economy has very nasty similarities with the fake economies you see in communist states. Blizzard is not a player in the free economy as western states are in the western economy. Blizzard owns the economy 100% the same way North Korea owns its economy. The result this will have fo the D3 Gold to U.S. Dollar conversion rate is the same it had for the North Korean Won to Dollar conversion rate. There is none, because it is worthless.

To make it work, Blizzard would need to take a financial stake in the economy, take the risk of getting hurt by the player financially. CCP did this in Eve, this is why it works there. No traces of the CCP model in Blizzard's way to implement RMT into a game.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 6 years ago

lowest 10% argument:
ask yourself what is for sale here? Is it the journey through the storyline, or is it the journey from minimum to maximum level? In WoW those things are one and the same, in D2 they are not. You have to play the game multiple times from beginning to end to reach the end of the level curve. We do not know how D3 does it, but I doubt they will include 1000h of content for a 1000h leveling curve, there will be repetition. True, the lower 10% will do the story and leave, never taking an interest in anything online. On Steam you can see how many players actually complete games, so your bottom 10% is more like the bottom 60%, because if half the players finish a game even as short as a CoD, then that is already a lot.

smoother experience:
Here I was thinking good gamedesign makes for a smooth experience, not payments to other players or cheat-hotlines. If D3 is actively compelling the player to spend money to overcome hurdles, it reduces itself to being a free to play game with an initial pricetag. No matter if you pay Blizzard or organized third parties.

Only taking a cut argument:
Imagine an economy with three people. Me, you and Blizzard. We both pay Blizzard $10. Blizzard then verifies our $10 credit line to each other. We both keep sending money back and forth. There is no value added, just constantly redistributed, since random drops even themselves out and we both need each other's help equally often. Still there is the problem of us bleeding money to Blizzard. The act of helping each other in this way causes the value to fizzle and go over to Blizzard. Every time we help each other, Blizzard takes a cut. This is still the case, if the economy is scaled up to ten million players. Sure, people can help each other outside the system and still trade in Gold, but the system is there to incentive greed. Players are told they can make money, even the people here believe it, so why would they sell items of worth for anything but real Dollars? Once you believe something has real value, then why sell it for worthless ingame gold? Blizzard smiles and bills every transaction saying thank you. When your $10 have been sucked up by transaction fees, you have to spend another $10 just for the "luxury" of players helping players.

WoW economy argument:
As I said earlier, the Gold currency in an MMO is not a currency at all. At best it is a commodity just like anything else you can craft or find. Because you can craft gold by slaying enemies as if you were chopping wood. The reason why it is the currency in WoW is the fact that you can use it to trade it into many desirable other commodities. Gold retains its unique position, because most other commodities can not be used to trade for anything else and those items you could trade for anything else are removed from the economy via soulbind. Most other MMOs do have a range of "commodity currencies". In Guild Wars the big four are Gold, Ectoplasm, Zaishen Key, and Braceletts. The manufacturer never intended for them to become a defact currency, but the fact of them being tradeable at all times until consumed (in contrast to souldbound items) made each of them a currency. Every patch which comes along affects the exchange rate between these four, just as every patch affects the exchange rate in WoW. In WoW it is merely not as obvious, but ask somebody who had a fully equipped Lvl60 character before the first expansion came out and he will tell you his 40k are gone. Of course he does not mind since he now has 400k, but that is hyperinflation and that will be the problem of Diablo. Even if you have to spend 90% of your gold to re-sharpen your sword.
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Players can purchase gold, weapons, armour and runestones via their registered accounts. Blizzard will not sell "game play affecting" items, and stated it has no plans to post items directly to the auction house, leaving trading to the players.

I don't believe this move will solve the hack/gold farmer issues, but it at least gets them a cut of what is already taking place.

A decent first step, but there is still a long ways to go in order to be able to control trades and currency in an MMO.
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