Diablo 3′s Auction House Economy Has Screwed New Players

If you’re considering picking up Diablo 3 this Christmas — because you’re a masochist, presumably, and want to see what everyone is complaining about — then you’ll find yourself facing a much more difficult game than what was released back in May.

Any D3 player would object at this point, shouting, “Hey there, mister. That is categorically wrong, and I will proceed to flame you in the comments about how wrong you are.” Here me out. Yes, Blizzard has nerfed the hell out of the game, but I’m referring to the core essence of Diablo 3: the Auction House. In an economic climate where the best high-level items are selling for billions of gold, new players are naught but poor orphans in ragged clothing staring through the window of a high-class toy store where rich kids are buying jewel-encrusted Legos.

Diablo 3′s Auction House, an evil more nefarious than the series’ titular villain, is the reason anyone trying to get into D3 today will face the unfortunate results of having a game’s economy be the driving force behind its gameplay. Why? Because the game’s item drop rates were balanced around the idea that players will periodically use the AH to upgrade their gear, but the current state of the game makes doing so a near-impossibility for a new player.

Now that the game’s player base has matured out of its growth period, most of the currently active players have level 60 characters running end-game content, and the AH reflects this fact: high-level items are more affordable today than they were months ago, because there’s a surplus being put up for sale, and only the top-of-the-line items can sell for high prices.

But what about the lower-level items that a new player would need to reach the end-game? There’s a distinct shortage of such gear, which was abundant during the summer. Since everyone is high-level, few low-level items are being found and put up for sale. The supply is low, and as a consequence, the prices of good low-level gear have skyrocketed, affordable only to players who already have high-level characters and are starting a fresh one.

I put a few pieces of the low-level gear I’d purchased over the summer for sale on the AH this week, and as a lark, I set a 1 million gold price tag. They sold. Items that I’d paid no more than 20,000 gold for back in June are now selling for 1M.

Just how much is 1M gold? I’ve put 134 hours into the game across five characters and picked up a total of 3M gold. A friend of mine has put 369 hours into the game and has picked up 8.7M. The math works out to approximately 23,000 gold per hour for both his results and mine.

A new, casual player would never be able to afford the gear he’d need to progress through the game at a satisfactory pace. Sure, he could beat the game on Normal without using the Auction House — probably even on Nightmare. But eventually, he will hit a wall, and when that happens, he won’t be able to afford the gear he needs to smash through that wall.

Of course, the Hardcore Auction House remains a healthy market, as long as a player is willing to risk perma-death…

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14 Comments on Diablo 3′s Auction House Economy Has Screwed New Players

Axetwin

On December 11, 2012 at 1:03 am

Unfortunately CJ, this problem is far more common than you think. When it comes to online games, after a certain, oh lets call it a grace period, all the majority of the community cares about anymore is the end game/high level content. Which on one hand is perfectly acceptable. If youre high level, why bother caring about the low-mid level content anymore, right? Understandable but it does lead to the heart of the problem. The gaming community as a whole, are a bunch of children. Dont get me wrong, individually, there are many many many smart, responsible , good natured gamers. As a collective, we’re a bunch of children and as such we expect the game to cater to our whims. As a high level player, I expect all future content to cater to high level players only, anything enhancing the player experience for low-mid level players is totally and completely unacceptable. I suffered through the low-mid level content, they can suffer through it too. Its what separates the casuals for the real gamers (btw, that was a generalization comment, not my personal feelings). In NEARLY all online games, theres this mentality of needing to get to high level or endgame as quickly as possible because thats when the game officially starts. This mentality is reflected through this auction house.

As for the auction house itself. There are very few games that can pull off the community run economy and I do mean VERY few. Again, the problem lies with the community, well partially. I already explained the high level mentality. Another problem is players trying to apply a very serious misguided idea of real world economics to a virtual world. The reason I say misguided is because to many players inflation works like this:

Player is selling an item at 10 times the normal price. Someone buys it, therefore everyone else tries to sell that item at the new inflated price. Thus you have inflation. Now here’s the problem, unless there is a system similar to, say, Guild Wars 1, the idea behind inflation in a video game, is simply just greed.

Their idea of supply and demand is simply; if everyone wants it, you look at the highest price and double it. If noone wants you, you look at the highest price and triple it. Ok ok ok, I know this one isnt true…….anymore. Well, mostly.

I think the most horrifying one of all is this idea that Capitalism in its most purist form can be simply defined by “buy low sell high”. This is the one that gets thrown around the most when it comes to people complaining about auction house prices. The retort is usually “you cant complain because thats how Capitalism works, buy low sell high”. Im always like “thats NOT how Capitalism works, not even close”.

So if we were making a mixed drink of Diablo 3′s player driven economic issues, we’d have a shot of high level elitism with a second shot of players ignorant to how economics really work thrown into a pint of a whole lot of Blizzard.

It takes a special kind of company to bring stupidity to these heights. This is worse than Lucas with the prequels, not leaving the originals alone and with the Crystal Skull. Its not exactly what you might think. No, its not the RMAH per se. Diablo 1 had a black market, 2 had a black market. Heck 2′s black market was so lucrative the guy literally made a million dollars. All online games have a black market. So if youre lamenting over the simple idea of a RMAH being added to D3, then get over yourself. ANYWAY, the problem here, what Blizzard did was so monumentally stupid, has two words: Gold Selling.

Yeah, thats right, they sell gold for real money. You never and I mean NNEEVVVVVVER give players the ability to buy ingame currency with real money. The reason why other companies dont allow third party gold sellers in their game (other than the fact more often than not, players get scammed) is because it ruins the economy AAAAANNND HERE’S THE PROOF!!

Players will do what players will always do, because like I said, we’re a bunch of children. All Blizzard has to do is remove the idiotic gold selling mechanic from their game and Im pretty sure the low-mid level economy will stabilize.

quicktooth

On December 11, 2012 at 1:06 am

Ha. Ha. Ha. Another good reason not to play Diablo 3. Good thing I stopped back when we merely were being prevented from playing the game we had payed for for an entire day a week. F*ck ‘em, says I.

CJ Miozzi

On December 11, 2012 at 1:18 am

@Axetwin:

All great points; the point I want to stress, however, is that Blizz balanced the drop rates based on the assumption that players will use the AH. That’s my issue — not the existence of the AH, which I think is great, but rather making it integral to everyone’s play experience.

Kiri

On December 11, 2012 at 9:50 am

I spent time writing on the inflation of the game but never finished it. I’m glad someone in the game media touched on this. When the july patch allowed gold trading on the real money auction house it was selling at about $2.75 USD per million, now here in early december it’s as low as $0.34 USD.

Add in the fact they patch a new level system (paragon) that increases your gold find by 3% per level, plus a difficulty mode that also increases gold find (monster power) by increments of about 20% or more per level, the inflation has reached almost comical levels. The only way gold comes out of the system is through a meager %15 transaction cost, or repairs (laughably low). This doesn’t include any of the off-market trading that happens in trade (which is usually high ticket items anyway). Your 23,000 gold per hour i think is a pretty low-ball estimate, you can easily rake in a considerable amount more even at Paragon level 10 + Nephalem Valor (that’s a 105% increase in gold find on MP0, the base difficulty).

An individual who can farm MP5 and 0 paragon already farms well double of what I would (Monk, Plvl 5, mp1). More to that point, someone who can farm MP5, would more likely be a considerably higher paragon level. Additionally this also includes the junk that they also sell from increased magic find. If they farm 350,000 per hour it requires over 2 million gold’s worth of transactions to remove that session’s net gold to the economy. This may happen, but I still doubt that enough transactions are happening to even it out, especially as players leave and players are hitting diminishing returns on items.

I would kindly assume that they did this in order to combat gold farmers by devaluing gold to a point where it’s hard to profit but I highly doubt they were that perceptive in what the market would do. If they used any sort of economist to advise them on what to do with their economy.

Dan Miller

On December 11, 2012 at 9:57 am

Wait a minute… I quit the game back in, oh, July, with TROVES of low level gear! TROVES!

Maybe this will get me interested again, knowing I have a chance to convert all of that into the millions needed to dominate the parts of the game I found previously to be painful and grindy.

CJ Miozzi

On December 11, 2012 at 10:56 am

@Kiri:

Great points. The 23k/hr figure is representative of what a player would expect to get on their journey from 1-60, pre-end-game farming. People allegedly get upwards of 500k/hr doing Inferno Act 3 Alkaizer runs.

John Williams

On December 11, 2012 at 7:15 pm

I remember when WoW was seen as having the same problem. The answer was fairly simple, though. All those people paying one million for a pair of low level magic pants? Those are the guys with three end-game characters who don’t care about the money. What about the new guy?

Find a couple of items, toss them on the auction house, and you’ve got a bankroll comparable to that 134 hour character mentioned in the article.

Luther

On December 11, 2012 at 8:13 pm

You don’t really need to buy gear on the AH to get to 60 except one thing and that’s a weapon around lv 45, high level players will find really great weapons with a stat that lowers there level requirement so while any weapon you find will have dps stats around 50 to 120 you can go on the AH and buy one that has stats around 800dps which is really the only great upgrade you will ever get before hitting 60. Those weapons are costly but if you have a friend with a 60 or if you get lucky sometimes you’ll join a game with a power leveler which is super nice.

Basically don’t buy gear for leveling, its only a waste anyways.

mike

On December 12, 2012 at 7:21 am

You dont need gear to get to 60. If you do then you are doing something wrong. As long as you can run a couple of battlements then you are good to go. Maybe a decent weapon (and shield if thats your thing) then you shouldnt have an issue. Inferno is when you need decent gear, hell does not.

That being said, its time to troll the lower levels with my character to see if I can pick up some monster power lower level items…

Row

On December 12, 2012 at 6:31 pm

The one good thing is that new players are able to sell their low-level drops on the auction house and accumulate some gold by level 60.

BobTD

On February 7, 2013 at 11:11 am

lol, you clearly have no idea what you are talking about in this article. Everything, absolutly everything is dropping in price in the AH all the time.

Just becasue you buy stuff from yourself on an alternate account at a stupid (and blur out the other transactions lol) does not mean we are fooled.

CJ Miozzi

On February 7, 2013 at 11:13 am

@BobTD:

Wrong.

what

On May 9, 2013 at 1:09 am

“Here me out” <– Hear

pouchy

On May 23, 2013 at 7:41 am

What are you dumb? Or don’t know how to use AH?
I geared my DH up for inferno for 200k gold. Not BiS but good enough to play MP4…