Blizzard Kills Diablo III Auction Houses

Diablo III‘s most despised feature will soon be no more. Blizzard has just announced that they’re stripping the game’s controversial auction houses, effective on March 18, 2014.

This is a surprising move for the folks behind the third Diablo, which has dealt with heavy criticism since it first launched last year. The real-money auction house, which allowed players to buy and sell in-game items for actual cash, had been criticised for encouraging a pay-to-win atmosphere, in which people could max out their credit cards to max out their characters. The point of Diablo, many fans have argued, is to earn virtual loot, not cheat for it.

Now it seems the company regrets that decision, and they’re taking a big step to fix things. Here’s Blizzard:

When we initially designed and implemented the auction houses, the driving goal was to provide a convenient and secure system for trades. But as we’ve mentioned on different occasions, it became increasingly clear that despite the benefits of the AH system and the fact that many players around the world use it, it ultimately undermines Diablo’s core game play: kill monsters to get cool loot. With that in mind, we want to let everyone know that we’ve decided to remove the gold and real-money auction house system from Diablo III.

We feel that this move along with the Loot 2.0 system being developed concurrently with Reaper of Souls™ will result in a much more rewarding game experience for our players.

We’re working out the details of how the auction house system will be shut down, but we wanted to share the news as soon as we made the decision in order to give everyone as much advance notice as possible. Please note that the shutdown will occur on March 18, 2014. We will keep everyone informed as we work through this process.


  • wow impressive move Blizzard I wonder if they will try and tag micro transactions elsewhere or if they will rely on people purchasing the game + expansion when its out.

  • I wonder if they held off announcing this until after the initial console launch? The skeptic in me says they re-worked the codebase for that to not need the RMAH a long time ago, but at least it’s nice to have this sort of notice period (6 months, almost to the day depending on timezone).
    For now, watch this space I guess. These sorts of decisions with the new expansion could be driving the series back to what made Diablo 2 so great – if I recall correctly, I didn’t actually get D2 until after the expansion either.

    • Or we recognised we screwed up and would like to fix our mistakes and listen to our fan-base instead of being another power hungry, money grabbing game company…

      There’s nothing wrong with getting rid of a feature that costs you money but doesn’t generate any. It’s pretty normal business practice, not sure why you’re attacking it.

        • Except that just because you don’t agree with a decision doesn’t mean it’s the wrong one.
          Don’t like the game? Don’t play it. Problem solved, you’re welcome.

          • Lol. Thanks for the tip.

            This is obviously just a financial decision. They decided that doing it will make them more money in the future than not doing it. Just like designing the game around the AH, RMAH, “online only” and being able to port the game to consoles. It’s as simple as that. Those are some awful gaming precedents and I can assure you that I won’t be ever giving Blizzard a cent of my money or time again because of them.

            Keep drinking the kool-aid though. They are DEFINITELY making these changes because they care about the gameplay experience they’re offering and their integrity as a company.

          • And you DEFINITELY know that it’s just a financial decision? You are no more qualified to back up your opinion as I am to back up mine.

            Your comments still don’t explain why making improvements to a product is bad just because it will improve profits. News Flash! That’s what companies do, they make profit. If they make a game better and profit from it at the same time then what’s the problem?

            You seem to be living in a world where no other game company has made a console (or PC) port or has never changed their business model or fees. And somehow you still think I’m the one drinking Kool-Aid (Do we even have that in Australia?).

            All I’m trying to say is it’s good they’ve addressed one of the biggest problem the public had with D3. In the end (for the customer) it makes no difference what the motivation was. If it makes the game better for the players and makes more money for the business then it’s a win/win.

            At the end of the day making changes to improve the gameplay experience and integrity of the company is exactly what will make them more profitable… your argument is circular, and backwards.

          • I simply don’t understand how anyone could trust a company who pulled that shit in the first place enough to give them any of your time or money. It’s like battered wife syndrome.

          • I got bored of the game. With the removal of the AH and making it more “Diablo 2”-like, I’ll give it another shot. I’ll probably even get the expansion.

            I didn’t like the focus on the AH, and I felt the game was lacking because of it. I don’t feel betrayed or that I’ve been abused, so I don’t really get your analogy.

      • “It’s pretty normal business practice, not sure why you’re attacking it.”

        Looking at the issue from more than one, single perspective will enlighten you.

    • They don’t listen to their fans, they get pilloried. They listen to their fans, they get pilloried. Can’t win with people like you.

      • Both perspectives can be true at the same time… humans are mercurial enough like that, a company made of humans more so.

        I have no problem with scathing hyperbole and rhetoric that calls out the undesirable perceived motivations and tries to crudely beat Blizzard with the gamer-stick til they wander back to their ‘we like making cool games that are fun’ phase. Carrot’s always better than stick, but the corporate lizard-brains controlling things at the moment are more motivated by stick.

        You remember the end of their Blackthorne/Lost Vikings semi-contracting to pay the bills phase through to the Warcraft 2/Starcraft/Diablo golden era? When making money was a happy and fortunate side-effect of creating a rewarding piece of gaming/art and an enabler for spending more time on beautiful games/art, as opposed to being the driving motivator behind creating trying-to-fit-some-art-in-our-latest-cash-cows. See: Always Online requirement as opposed to option.

        Their change in their primary motivation has become quite transparent in recent years, and to those who enjoyed the obvious spirit of creation in their 3x IP’s debut works, it’s an ugly, ugly thing to see. Like watching a fondly-regarded cousin ending up in rehab.

        • You write that as if the gaming culture/scene hasn’t changed in the last 10 years.

          If people (read: the majority who pay for shit) wanted warcraft 2 then companies would make it. Unfortunately “the people” want COD and MADDEN every year so that’s what we get.

          On one hand people bash a company for doing more of the same and charging for it, then on the other hand they bash a company for trying something new. How about we step back and simply enjoy a game someone has put time and effort into instead of bitching and moaning about it.

          Don’t like something? Don’t buy/play it. Like something? Support the developer.
          I’ll be the first to admit D3 has flaws and I only very rarely use the AH but I still have over 100 hrs on one character. Not bad for a game I received practically for free (with WoW subscription).

          This entitlement that gamers feel needs to stop. I’m annoyed that GTA5 isn’t out on PC, but I don’t go round slandering a good games company for their decisions. I’ll play something else and if it every does come out on PC, I’ll give it a look.

          Heaven forbid a company would try to make money, or make modifications to existing products to improve their profitability. Something has to pay the bills. It shits me that people think a company like blizzard can’t make mistakes.
          Screw something up, get crucified for it. Try fixing it, get stoned. Make up your mind people.

          • You’re getting lots of downvotes, but I find myself agreeing with you.

            I don’t mind if something isn’t right straight away. In the case of D3, it’s taken a long time for them to fix some of the biggest complaints – though on the other side, they were spending some good time fixing other game mechanics.

            I think it’s good that a company can say, “this thing that is disliked by many people isn’t working out, let’s take action.” Considering it’s a major part of the game, its removal will affect things a fair bit.
            I know we’ve seen the really quick backflip MS had with the XBone, but those sorts of “hey forget about what we said/did earlier, we listened to you all straight away!” doesn’t often happen because they’re big decisions with lots of ramifications.

            Still, better late than never.

    • Good thing they announced it was shutting down, so people can dust off some new credit cards and start hoarding sets. That’ll solve the money problem at least.

      • Nah, I think that’s a still viable feature. I really prefer this always on – stops people from cheating & giving themselves Uber-items like a rusty dagger of bad breath, with 5 mil DPS and 50 billion to every stat…. and when you happen to group with a person like that, it just kills your fun in the game too.
        Yeah, I know, you can always leave etc – still. If you join an open game and have fun, and a cheater like that joins, why do you have to move, if it’s the other person ruins your fun?

  • Wow… they’re going to fix their broken game.
    The lack of good loot was why I stopped bothering with Diablo 3… but it their going to fix things, I’ll buy the expansion and give them another chance.

  • To be honest the AH wasn’t really the biggest failure – it was the loot system itself where all stats are random (Staff with only +STR? cmooon). Also the fact that uniques were randomised in the same way. In D2 when I see a Ghostflame pop up, I know what it’s basic stats would be with a few different % variance for a couple of stats and that’s it. If I get a set item I know precisely what that item entails with few diversity.

    I think in some ways we still need the AH because the D2 trading was shithouse. I really hope that at least this would fix the loot system.

    • The loot system being the way it was was a result of the auction house. They didn’t want to flood the market with too many powerful things too easily.

      Of course this in turn meant when playing the game by yourself the odds of finding anything good had to be tiny.

      • Yeah it’s a bit of a feedback loop there, they randomise shit so people can find the correct stats in the AH, but then it was too easy to find stuff in the AH which in turns make it redundant to find good things in your game, and so on and so forth.

        This game was just broken by design. Let’s hope that the removal of one aspect of it can fix the other one. If the randomiser is still there even without the AH… Well, I got nothing to say 🙁

    • I think people have mislaid blame at the AH’s feet and romanticized D2 (and its drop rates). I remember doing hundreds of Meph runs on D2 with a good 200 – 300 MF and only finding maybe, a legendary every few hours.

      The problem with D3 is the core itemization iscentred around stats (i.e. str, dex and int). Not around skills and +% damage like D2 was.

      The AH provided a transparent means for people to see how much they sucked. Which never existed in D2, where people were more oblivious as to how they sat relative to others.

      The benefit of the AH was that it cut down on scammers and the grey Diablo market.
      I would have left the AH myself, i think it didn’t do any harm other than made people frustrated that they didn’t feel good enough. The core problem with D3 is that the core damage of a character is tied to one individual stat. This can’t be fixed without a major overhaul of the entire core mechanism of the game.

      • D2 isn’t romanticized compared to D3 in terms of drop rates. Forget the end-game… in Diablo 2, I was able to experience the joy of upgrades while levelling. In D3, I counted it: I went twenty levels without a single upgrade before I hit a gear wall beyond which my outdated crappy gear would not suffice. I hit the AH for the first time in frustration, and for a few measly thousand gold was able to kit myself out in gear that I did not find any upgrades for until hitting the next gear-check, and hitting the AH again to get past it.

        I never experienced that with D2. Some other people haven’t experienced this with D3 either, and woohoo, lucky them. The problem with giving the RNG such a wide range to work with means that a lot of people DO experience this.

        The reason to lay the blame at the feet of the AH, is because it was clearly designed to be your go-to resource. “No, but they just wanted you to grind!” some people say, and those people are flat-out wrong, because Blizzard very early on implemented anti-grinding measures, using lock-outs to prevent you from creating new instances of maps to farm rare/champion mobs until you got something useful. It’s pretty difficult to interpret that as anything but a push to the AH.

        • Yeah, totally understand the issue re: progression. Early on with D3 that was definitely the case. They have since updated the drop rates to largely address that issue, and it’s quite easy to progress and solo through without hitting too many walls.

          What I mean is the number of hours to get legendaries at end game in D2 was just as long as it currently is in D2, and people forget how many hours it took to even farm what was considered a relatively common legendary drop (such as a SOJ, Shako, or Oculus).

          However, the advantage of D2 was its faster pace (which I think this is also part of the problem with D3’s itemisation and loot). D2 , it was load up, tele to mephisto, kill. Took around 1 minute. Rinse Repeat.

          That made farming feel far more dynamic and active than D3. Rather in D3, you may kill an Elite mob every 3 – 4 minutes if you’re on a good run, and whether an item is worthwhile is totally dependent on a handful of key stats being on the drop (primary stat, attack speed, crit %, crit damage, all resist) rather than what you would find in D3, where legendary items and runewords were good because of some of the odd +skills on them, and the %dmg enhance (or the ability to teleport like the Enigma runeword).

          The issue is itemisation, not AH. The AH provides a better means of trading then spamming TRADE 1 SOJ for 1 SHAKO on chat.

          • Yeah, different problems and different audiences. I can imagine that having an official marketplace for the endgame crowd is still a decent thing, but for the audience I’m a part of, the AH was a problem.

            My audience is: the ones who played Normal, then got started on Nightmare and threw up their hands saying, “Yeah, fuck this I don’t even know why I’m doing this,” and quit because the AH was making the experience less fun. The audience who then tells potential buyers, “Yeah, it’s fucked, this is the horrible levelling experience I had.” And by the looks of the abandoning the AH, it seems that audience’s gripes with the AH were considered more important to address than the hardcore endgamer audience who are better served by the AH than /trade.

  • Holy shit! I never thought they would do this.
    Wow, here’s hoping they make the PC version as good as the console version is alleged to be.
    (I can’t BELIEVE I just wrote that sentence, and about a DIABLO GAME of all things!)

    • At the start, but after that it became clear most of the design flaws (including the online-only experience) were a result of catering to the auction house’s needs.

      • Yeah, they’re equally awful. They’re both signs of the overall ‘design’ goal, which was most likely a corporate mandate directing them to implement more publisher-benefiting features. Social pressure through multiplayer (turning on general chat by default on every login, buffs when grouping, linked friend list) to increase peer-pressure sales and increase the product’s tail through multiplayer retention. Also, pretty transparently anti-piracy measures. It was candidly admitted to be DRM on a few occasions.

        DRM in and of itself isn’t bad, but there are ways to go about implementing it and ideally, the measure which has the lowest impact on paying customers is the best. Example in doing it wrong: unskippable anti-piracy messages on DVDs which only piss off people who bought it, and give pirates the advantage of a cheaper and higher-quality product. Sim City: Where forced online multiplayer offered nothing of benefit to people who intended to play it solo, and offered serious disadvantages in return – the ONLY benefit was to the publisher. Benefits to players could have been conferred with an optional multiplayer mode, giving people incentive to make use of online features, and not punishing those who never had any interest in those features.

        It’s all pretty disgustingly transparent, and directly insulting to gamers. No-one likes being told, “We’re going to give you a shittier experience than we always have, because it’s better for us,” and that’s what always-online has done in every non-multiplayer-centric (eg: MMOs, MOBAs, lobby-shooters) game.

  • Diablo style games are better suited for console gaming imo. I take my hat off to blizzard for their 180 on the auction house, good to see some companies listen.

  • if this loot2.0 update is a free patch independent of the paid expansion, I might give it another go.
    if they expect me to pay to make the game as it should’ve been from launch, they can piss right off.

    • The quote says it’s being developed concurrently to the expansion, which implies it will be added whether you buy the expansion or not.

        • It means it’s not a part of the expansion but being developed in parallel. If it was part of the expansion, ‘concurrently’ wouldn’t make sense in his sentence. Blizzard does this a lot with expansions, where core systems get overhauled for everyone, not just those that buy the expansion.

          • sure it makes sense. Bliz Team A is working on the expansion, Bliz Team B, responsible for maintaining the base game, is working on Loot 2.0. thats a concurrent development.

            I agree that it would be stupid & money-grubbing to have the Loot 2.0 update only included as part of the expansion, but I am such a jaded cynic that it wouldnt surprise me.

          • Concurrency is a bit more nuanced than just simultaneity. If he’d compared two features of the expansion, eg. ‘Loot 2.0 is being developed concurrently with the new map areas’ it could be taken as them both being under the banner of the expansion, but he said Loot 2.0 is concurrent WITH the expansion, which means it’s separate and alongside, not part of.

            Aside from that, it would be technically difficult to have multiplayer games consisting of players who have the expansion (and new loot system) alongside players who don’t. It would likely require expansion players to be only able to play with other expansion players, and that would be pointless.

            Based on his wording, it will be available to everyone, not just people who buy the expansion. My bet is it will be released in the expansion patch that everyone gets either on expansion day or a few days prior, as it’s been done in World of Warcraft since day one.

  • Whil I’m fairly certain the driving force behind the RMAH was to make Blizzard money, anyone who’s played Diablo 2 can tell you just how messed up the online environment got in that game. Mostly because of hacking and buying items from third party websites.

    The RMAH and logins were supposed to bring a halt to that – strangely enough for loot-driven games (see WoW as well) people are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to get gear, etc even if it means just flat out paying for it. Many people will throw money at someone just to get the loot they need, instead of grinding/working for it.

    Although I still maintain the RMAH was a poorly implemented idea, and the game will be far better without it – just don’t forget there was a genuinely good reason hidden way there to try it out.

    • But in WoW you can’t officially use real money to pay your way to victory. In WoW drop rates werent lowered to force you to use the Auction house.

      Imagine in WoW if the Tier 25 pieces had a 0.00000000000001% drop rate because Blizzard implemented a real money Auction house and you could farm with your guild forever to get it or just pay money and buy it.

      • Can’t use real money to pay your way to victory? Tell that to all the websites selling gold and things like PvP gladiator gear/titles, Tier gear, raid content, etc. Which doesn’t make you a good player, nor the act itself legal by Blizz’s T&Cs, but means you have a distinct advantage over people who don’t have that stuff.

    • Pretty confident that capitalizing on the insane D2 trading trends was simply icing on the multiplayer social-retention/anti-piracy DRM cake that the Acti-Blizzion corporate lizard brain understands more intuitively.

      • I think that’s a bit too cynical, even for me 😉 The absolute number one criticism of Diablo 2 for much of its life was the rampant illegal (and often dodgy) trading going on. I’m comfortable giving Blizzard the benefit of the doubt that their main motivation with the auction houses was to put a stop to that and create a safe and controlled environment for players to do what they were going to do anyway. I imagine the rest came about as ‘well if we’re doing that, why not do this too?’. The seed for the idea would have come from Blizzard as a design decision, rather than the Activision-ported executives.

        • From reading interviews with Jay Wilson, I’m not so sure. Maybe the trading thing was something they brought up then immediately regretted once they saw what the corporate monsters wanted to run with, inspired by it. But everything I’ve read seems like the design team struggling to make the best game they could, within the restrictions forced upon them. Always-online, AH, and calculating drop-rates to force players to make use of it are probably ideas they weren’t especially happy with and had to work around.

          It certainly explains the, “Fuck that loser,” comment from a defensive Wilson. Few things suck as hard as being criticized for work you know full well is shitty but not your fault, and you can’t lay the blame anywhere if you want to keep your job.

          [Edit: Snapping, “Look we did the best we fucking could with what we were told we had to do,” would’ve been much more telling, and after reading interviews, it’s the vibe I get.]

          • Man, you are nailing this comment section.

            Speaking of Wilson, I read somewhere that he got moved somewhere else in Blizzard’s hierachy, (implied to be somewhere where he can’t hurt Diablo anymore). What’s the deal with that?

          • Thanks. Me, I’d put my money on asking to do something different. Game dev’s a career, and he’s high up enough he can get some movement – Blizz seems big enough to accommodate that.

            Hell, if I can get the seven-year-itch in my job with the various roles I’ve undertaken, I can’t imagine what it’d be like seeing a project that length through to completion and having it critically shat on. Not to mention by your former role-model. I’d be pretty disillusioned and looking for a sea-change without risking my career entirely.

    • I usually sit at a flat 270-300, which is pretty standard for anything in the US that isn’t Los Angeles. I haven’t had a lag spike since launch week either. You can reduce your ping with VPN services though, I think Lowerping and Smoothping both support Diablo 3, and there are others out there.

    • While I didn’t like the always connected part, I have to disagree with you about the lag. I felt that after about the sixth beta patch (ie – way before release) that they nailed it. Most of my time spent with Diablo 3 I had no discernable lag and I was very impressed by that technical feat.

  • Considering the amount of real money changing hands in WoW and all the stuff on ebay and other places. I reckon they just wanted to make it more secure for everyone involved, not prop up businesses in china and make a bit of money themselves. It WAS a great idea. Unfortunately, the idea of actually buying stuff like a level 80 character on Wow, was absolutely stupid and the legit user base who knew this rose up in anger.

  • Decided to fire up D3 after reading this article. Haven’t played in about 9 months and found that my character is now ridiculously overpowered.
    Also found that I’m unable to upgrade my artisan’s crafting abilities as the required items aren’t available for at least one more play-through of the game but I can buy them in the AH, so I uninstalled it.

  • Sounds like they’re just trying to get back into the good books of those gamers they alienated who were opposed to the RMAH from the beginning. I sense an expansion pack on the horizon!

  • Now all they need to do is make it so disconnecting during hardcore mode doesn’t mean your character is GUARENTEED to die, and I might play it again and buy the x-pack.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!