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…