While Diablo III has made Blizzard a lot of money, the game has been criticised for the inclusion of the auction houses – both the regular one and the real money one. According to Polygon, the game’s Director Jay Wilson took to the stage during GDC and talked about the development of Diablo III. He said that auction houses are bad for a game like Diablo. Wilson explained by showing a slide of Batman and Iron Man with text saying “Money. The best superpower.”
The original goal for the auction house was to get people to stop using third-party websites to buy or sell equipment, since doing that made their accounts susceptible to getting hacked. “A lot of people are going to third-party websites, getting their account information and their credit card information stolen,” Wilson explained. “If they don't have a desire or a need to go to a third-party website, that's going to happen less often.”
The original assumption about the auction house was that a very small percentage of players would end up using it. Another assumption was that only high-end items would cost significationa amounts of money and most of the auction house would be flooded with low-value items.
Diablo III's auction house ultimately turned out to be a bad thing
“It does reduce account fraud, at least anecdotally,” Wilson said. “In every region we have it in, account fraud is way, way lower.”
The assumption about the number of players using it would be a small percentage turned out to not work out for the company. “Almost every player at least went into the auction house once and about 50 percent of our player base uses it regularly,” Wilson said. “We were totally wrong about the small percentage of players using it.
“We were also totally wrong on any kind of limits on volume. People put everything on the auction house because there's just no reason not to.”
“It's not good for a game like Diablo,” Wilson said. “It doesn't feel good to get items for money. You get items for killing monsters. The result is both auction houses damage item rewards. I know a lot of people like to pick on the real-money auction house but the truth is the gold one has much higher volume and in the long run we feel actually does more damage than the real money one does.“
“They both really hurt the game,” he said. “And this is unacceptable to us.”
Turning off the auction houses is a difficult proposition, however. “How many people like the auction house versus hate it?” Wilson asked. “We don't know. If we take it away, players don't like having stuff taken away. Are those people just going to be unhappy and leave?”
“It's a real tough question for us. It's not as easy as just turning it off. I think we would turn it off if we could,” he said. “This is something I know the team talks about every week and wants to fix.”