In Depth With The Diablo 3 Auction House
Yesterday, we gave you the break down of the just-announced Diablo 3 Auction House. At last week’s on-site visit to Blizzard HQ in Irvine, we participated in a relaxed press conference with Rob Pardo, Blizzard’s Executive VP of Game Design. The conference was focused on the just-announced Diablo 3 auction house, and attendees bombarded Pardo with questions ranging from regional segregation to accepted currencies.
While we came away from the interview excited, particularly after having spent so many hours actually playing Diablo 3, we weren’t able to experience the Auction up close. We’re intrigued by the possibilities, but we left with as many questions as the answers we were provided attempted to address. Having had a few days to assess what we learned, here’s everything you need to know about the Diablo 3 Auction House.
First and foremost, the Auction House will be available on Battle.net. Players will be able to visit it once they’re logged into their account. As we mentioned yesterday, The Diablo 3 Auction House will be split into two sections. The first section will allow sellers and buyers to conduct their transactions using gold earned during game play. No real money will change hands. This is, essentially, an expanded version of World of Warcraft Auction. However, the biggest news is that a second area will be available for sellers and buyer wishing to use real world currency. A comprehensive list of allowed currencies has not been released, but it’s almost certainly safe to assume the Yen, Yuan, Dollar, Euro, Pound, etc will be supported.
Players won’t be locked into a single type of auction. They’ll be able to sell magical items, weapons, armor and so forth using both auctions, with the chance to decide for each individual transaction. However, a real world currency auction cannot be retconned into a game-gold auction, and the reverse is true for game-gold only actions.
At launch, only items like magical artifacts, weapons or armor and clothing, ‘nearly everything that drops on the ground’ will be eligible to be auctioned in both auctions. The Real World Currency auction has the additional perk of allowing trade in in-game gold. However, Blizzard has confirmed that they are exploring other options for future versions of the auction post-launch. Those options may in fact include the ability to sell characters or even individual games, though i stress that they did not confirm those possibilities, only that they were ‘considering them’.
There are restrictions on auctions designed to prevent players form buying their way to greatness. Items will be level-restricted. If your character hasn’t attained the level necessary to use an item, you won’t be able to purcahse that item for them on the auction. This, along with an additional restriction – limiting hardcore mode players to buying and selling only with other hardcore players, and allowing hardcore players to permanently lose their items should their character die – is designed to keep the game somewhat balanced despite the ability to purchase a wide variety of useful items. Fortunately, both auctions will also have a so-called “smart search” feature allowing players to tailor their searches for those items best suited to the Class of character they’re playing, and the level they’ve attained. That should prevent players from wasting their time on irrelevant auctions.
Functionally, the auction will apparently work like an expanded version of the World of WarCraft auction, which is to say, much like eBay. Bidders may have the chance to simply buy at a seller’s reserve level, or sellers may choose to force all bidders to wait until bidding ends before selling. All transactions will be secure, and a degree of anonymity and privacy will be allowed to ensure that players are protected as much as possible while participating. This doesn’t create an entirely risk-free environment, but it’s certainly safer than unauthorized off-site vendors.
So now you know the basics. But what does this mean for the average Diablo 3 player?
So, About That Currency Thing
As with StarCraft 2, Diablo 3, players will be segregated into regional servers. North Americans won’t be able to play against, say, Europeans. (Though Australians and New Zealanders will be able to access North American servers if they wish). That segregation is going to apply to the Auction Houses as well, and will potentially go even further than gameplay segregation. Firstly because financial transactions involving the exchange of real world currency will not be handled by Blizzard. This mainly because Blizzard doesn’t want to make any decisions that would place them under the regulatory framework associated with banking, a point Pardo repeatedly made during the press conference. To avoid such entanglements, all real world financial transactions that involve the exchange of actual money will be handled by a third party vendor (more on that momentarily).
The exception to Blizzard’s hands-off approach to handling currency is that RWC currency buyers and sellers will have the option to have the money gained from such transactions credited to their Blizzard account, rather than transferred to their bank account. That decision will be made at the time money is exchanged, and is irrevocable. If you opt to receive Blizzard credit rather than money, you won’t be able to cash that amount out later. This could be advantageous for many people, however. If you choose to keep the money you earn in the blizzard shop instead of cashing it out via the third party vendor, you’ll most likely be able to use those accumulated funds all over battle.net. “Anything we sell in the blizzard store,” Pardo stated, “whether physical or digital product, you should be able to purchase using those funds.”
This makes a kind of sense, since it would be a gigantic logistical nightmare to figure out currency exchange rates for players attempting to purchase items across different currency zones. Even so, considering that the only thing separating online shoppers from merchants is a bit of code designating them as belong to one zone or another, it’s something of a disappointment. Luckily, I was able to ask Pardo directly about that segregation, why they chose to do it and if they have plans to consider the option of cross-regional trading at some point in the future. The answer I received hinted at some potentially big plans.
“This is where it gets murkey,” he quipped, “so I can’t even tell you exactly what we’re going to do. It’s getting to what is allowed region by region, laws in different countries. We really want people to easily use the currency already associated with their credit cards without having to figure out exchange rates. Where I think we’re going to end up is there will probably be a way [for players] to look at the other auction houses with some limits – though we can’t say exactly how at this time.”
If I had to make a prediction, I’d say the likely outcome will be to allow cross-regional trading for members who choose the game-gold only auction, while the real world currency auction house remains segregated. That’s just a guess of course, but it would make sense to see Blizzard restrict Canadian dollar transactions to Canadians, Yen transactions to Japanese gamers and so on. On the other hand, allowing people from different regions to buy and sell using in-game gold currency would almost certainly be in compliance with the vast majority of international laws governing such transactions.
As always, we shall see.
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