Posted on August 8, 2011, Ross Lincoln Why The Epic Freak Out About The Diablo 3 Auction House Is Stupid
One of the more surprising things about last week’s announcement that Blizzard will be hosting an official Diablo 3 auction house on battle.net, and that this action will allow real world money transactions, is the level of outrage expressed by gamers. Just a sampling of the comments we saw in our posts on the topic reveals astonishing anger:
This is the most stupidest thing that Blizzard has done to the Diablo series.
PC gaming is dying rapidly thanks to money-grubbing crap such as this. Its all turned into World of Barbie Freemium Dress-Up Raids. Screw Blizzard and the rest of them for destroying the last vestiges of actual gaming.
I will not be buying and supporting this garbage.
And that’s just the commentary we’ve seen on GameFront. The outrage is internet-wide, and if these up-in-arms fans are to be believed, Blizzard’s decision to cash in with an officially supported auction is an act of criminal malfeasance on par with Goldman Sachs or Enron. It would seem that the Diablo 3 auction house is nothing more than a well-timed con designed to fleece the honest gamer for everything he or she has, and more. Clearly, we should be shocked, SHOCKED that one of the biggest gaming companies in the world has made a decision that will result in them making money.
I don’t mean to sound intemperate, but that is really f**king stupid, and those of you freaking out about this auction are acting like idiots.
Yeah, I said it. Here’s why:
Lost in all the hilarious complaining is the fact that there already are real world currency markets for virtual goods from video games. They were created by people who don’t work for video game companies, and they make a killing. You know what the world’s biggest market in virtual goods is? World of WarCraft items. A cursory google search returns literally thousands of results. Sites like Team4Power, Guild Bank and MMO Item bay, third party business all, are devoted to getting people to fork over real world money for virtual items at a (gasp!) profit!
In a sense, the online trade in virtual goods is similar to the drug trade. People obviously want these items. Badly enough that they’re willing to pay for it. People with those items want to sell them to willing buyers. And both parties are willing to go to tremendous lengths to facilitate the sale. Given that reality, Blizzard faces three choices:
1) They can ignore it. Fans will either get rich, get items, or get fleeced by unscrupulous dealers. Blizzard gains nothing.
2) They can make strong efforts to ban the trade. Blizzard tried this approach with WoW and it wasn’t a success. Maybe this means issuing costly cease and desist orders. That gets expensive fast, and doesn’t do anything to prevent people from actually selling items to one another, it just drives the trade underground. The only real way to stop people from selling items to each other is to end p2p item sharing. Given that this feature is a crucial element of the social aspects of games like WoW and Diablo, they would essentially be ruining those games, and depriving themselves of money. Either approach would be extremely costly and unproductive.
3) Try to render the gray/black market irrelevant by officially sanctioning the trade and creating an authorized space in which to conduct transactions.
Blizzard has, for years, watched as third parties have made tons of money trading virtual items from their games. They have been completely unable to stop people from doing it. Is it any wonder that they’re admitting the reality and seeking to work within it, if not profit off it, from Diablo 3′s onset? If this makes you mad, start by yelling at the people who created the trade in the first place: You.
There’s also the very basic fact that you are not being forced to participate. Seriously. No one, not Blizzard, not the Internet, not your friends, no one will ever be able to make you spend your money on Diablo 3 items. You can use the game-gold auction without ever spending a single real-world cent. You can trade with your friends. You can even stick strictly to earning the items during play.
OK, I hear you say, “but what about people who use the RWC auction to gain an unfair advantage over other players?” How many times do we need to say this: Diablo 3 is not a competitive game like WoW. Tradable items are dropped randomly, and none of them are gate-key items. In other words, lacking certain items will not prevent you from advancing to certain game content. Game content becomes available to you as you play through the plot and level your character up. All the items can do is help you gain slight advantages and to modify your character’s appearance and powers. You’re never going to find yourself unable to pass a certain section or advance because you don’t have the Sword of Sharpness or the Staff of Woodly Magic or whatever.
Will people willing to purchase items with real world money conceivably find themselves having an advantage over other players? Possibly. They might end up kicking more ass sooner. But based just on what I saw during my Diablo 3 hands-on, it’ll have a negligible affect on your personal game. The fact is that at no point will you even have to think about the Diablo 3 auction house at all, unless you want to.
But you know what really makes this freak-out so dumb? Those of you complaining about what looks like a very useful auction are missing a gigantic forest because of a couple of annoying trees. The forest I’m taking about is the indisputably gigantic rip off that is Blizzard’s infuriating requirement that a persistent Internet connection is required to play Diablo 3. That restriction isn’t just an enormous inconvenience – though boy is it ever.
It’s also a rip off. It adds additional hidden costs to the purchase of any copy of Diablo 3, namely the price of your Internet connection. If you can’t afford Internet thanks to the super awesome economy or can’t afford to waste the bandwidth, sucks to be you. You’d think Activision Blizzard owns part of Time Warner. It’s obviously a form of DRM designed to make their job easier. Rather than actually invest in decent anti-piracy detection and enforcement, they’re simply forcing the players to pay for it themselves. That, and not the enactment of a potentially useful Diablo 3 auction, is the actual bit of shameless moneygrubbing stinginess people ought to be pissed off about.
But even that is a minor offense so long as most games don’t have lazy, bullshizz DRM like that. So please, have a sense of proportion, people. Blizzard isn’t your buddy, they’re not your pen pal, Diablo 3 isn’t public domain, and you do not own their company. They are selling you a product. If they choose to sell it in a way that annoys or inconveniences you, you have an option: Don’t buy it. Help turn it into a flop. Or put in simpler terms: they’ll listen to the sound of money flying away from them a lot more than to angry people complaining about trivialities on the Internet.