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Diablo 3 and the Real Money Auction House (RMAH) - Greed or Need?

Updated on January 6, 2013


This hub is going to talk about Diablo 3's Real Money Auction House. This feature is currently the most controversial subject in the Diablo 3 community, as people are torn as to whether it benefits or hinders gameplay. During the course of this hub, I will explain why I believe this is detrimental to Diablo 3, given my previous experiences with other video games that have a similar system.

Please read on!

An Overview of the Real Money Auction House

To Blizzard Entertainment's credit, I don't believe I've ever seen an auction house done exactly like this before, at least for a video game. Essentially, the real money auction house, or RMAH for short, serves as an alternate way to obtain items in-game through other players using real money. You can still use gold to purchase items if you don't feel like spending your money, but it does provide you with an interesting way of making money on the side for playing a video game.

The Nature of Auction Houses and Real Currency

I have played at least two games that have utilized auction houses that allow for you to spend real cash as well as virtual currency. Runes of Magic allows you to purchase diamonds with cash that can then be used to purchase items in the online shop or in the auction house. Nodiatis allows you to purchase time cards which other people can then buy from you for gold, basically allowing you to turn money into in-game currency.

The inherent problem with allowing you to use real cash to participate in an in-game economy is virtual currency inflation. I most saw this phenomenon in Nodiatis. See, the people who spend cash on the game get to determine the base value of the in-game currency. Seeing as they spend the money, this is more than fair. The problem is that, as the game ages, gold becomes less valuable (more people playing, so more people generating in-game currency). Thus, the base value of in-game currency drops relative to real cash. This, in turn, causes the game to slowly become pay-to-win, rather than pay-to-play, or free-to-play with microtransactions.

To take the Nodiatis example, you could get one time card (that's 5 USD) for around 5000 gold when they were initially created. So 1 USD got you 1000 gold. Nowadays, one time card can cost nearly 300,000 gold. That's 60,000 gold per 1 USD. In the particular case of Nodiatis, this also meant that participating in the auction house for rare items got harder, as most people would mark up their price to try and force purchases with time cards instead of gold.

How does this affect Diablo 3?

In Diablo 3, I predict that any top-tier items are essentially going to be out of reach of people who refuse to pay real cash. With Blizzard taking a cut of all transactions, this may very well turn out to be a win-win for them. They legitimize the once existent black market of top-tier items and runes present in Diablo 2, and they get to tax all transactions as well. They have also deterred direct trading in an indirect manner because of the fact that games are now auto-join. Your mileage may vary as to whether this deterrence is intentional or not.

In any case, it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to quit your day job and make a living off of just playing Diablo 3, but it is incredibly likely that Blizzard may not have to create another video game again, if they're so inclined. The profit potential from this real money auction house on Blizzard's end is huge.

Besides the obvious implications on the gameplay, it has covert implications on the way the game is marketed as well. See, for those of you in the crowd who have played Starcraft II, although you need internet access to play multiplayer, you could play singleplayer offline (without achievements, but that's another case of "your mileage may vary" anyway). Since Diablo 3 has the RMAH, it becomes necessary to police player interactions within the game to prevent hacking and modding. Thus, Diablo 3 is online-only. Congratulations, you now have one of the first MMOARPG video games.

On a final note, even if most people refuse to believe it, I wouldn't put it past Blizzard to set up a variety of auction house bots to imitate player behavior and sell top-tier items. Why settle for a slice of the cake when you can just eat all of it?

Some Final Notes

In Diablo 3, there will come a point where the in-game economy is virtually monopolized by the RMAH. There will always be a small subset of people that play around it by using the gold-based auction house, but they will be just that, a small subset. Whether this makes the game worse or better is up to personal opinion.

It will permeate into all aspects of the game, because that's what it was made to do. Gear is the sole determinant in the power of your skills once you've hit level cap, and guess what the best way of getting said gear is?

Of course, I will not tell you not to play the game, as that decision should be left up to each individual. If you do decide to play it, I wish you the best in your adventures in Sanctuary. :)

Until the next time, take care and have fun! ;)


P.S: I'll personally be waiting for Grim Dawn myself. Now that's a game I can get behind. :D

What effect is the RMAH having on Diablo 3?

See results

P.S: Some Final Final Notes

I have included this extra section since the Diablo 3 RMAH has officially launched. I want to hear the opinions of Diablo 3 players in the coming weeks. Is the real money auction house helping the game? Or is it ruining it? Or, is it just existing? (neutral effect on Diablo 3 and its community)

Here's a poll if you don't want to comment in the comments section, but I'd love it if you could all elaborate. It's interesting to see opposing viewpoints at work.


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    • Winterfate profile image

      Darrin Perez 5 years ago from Puerto Rico

      You make some interesting points William157. While I can't say I completely agree, I suppose there are some benefits to the new system.

      On a somewhat unrelated note, I've been reading about people getting hacked in Diablo 3. Given that accounts now have real money value (if they have good items and/or a lot of gold), the situation could get messy.

      As for that last part of your comment, I did live that as well; I played about 8 months of Diablo 2 online a long while ago. It was obnoxious, but one could always make private games to prevent bots from entering.

      Thank you for the comment William157! :)

    • William157 profile image

      William157 5 years ago from Southern California

      I'm not sure you're completely right. The real-money auction house is simply a way for Blizzard to limit the amount of piracy that takes place in the game. After seeing what happened in World of Warcraft, they knew that on Day One they'd have a million gold farmers advertising gold and gear in chat. They were right; on Day One, they did have advertisers selling gold, but they've basically stopped item transactions.

      The money they save on customer service will outweigh any profits gained from the RMAH. In that way, it's greed. In another way, it's them trying to make their game as safe for the average player as possible.

      Also, the thing about only being able to join random games (unless you're friends with someone) is also an attempt to cut down on spam and under-the-table transactions. Right now in WoW, a random gold farmer can run up to you, open a trade and give you gold if you've bought it. In D3, that same farmer would have to add you as a friend to join your game, leading a digital breadcrumb trail back to the original account, not to mention yourself.

      Play Diablo 2 for one minute online and a random farmer will join your game, spam the chat with ads for their gold service, and leave. It's terrible.

    • Winterfate profile image

      Darrin Perez 5 years ago from Puerto Rico

      @Richo: This generation is all about instant gratification. That's why standard RPGs have been on the decline for such a long time. Why waste time reading story when you could be bashing monsters/players? I totally agree with what you said, all of it. Especially the last sentence.

      Thanks for reading Richo!

    • profile image

      Richo 5 years ago

      I like the idea of the RMAH. I don't think I will use it to buy, maybe sell items and see how I go. I will still use the gold AH if there's something I need. As a long time gamer, I find it almost an obsession with younger generation now, that if they don't have the latest and greatest equipment, or can't kill a boss in the quickest time on record, or have the highest DPS, then you are considered a loser? Man, people need to learn to play the game, enjoy it, get your own gear, something very rewarding and satisfying about building your own character, fighting the hard battles yourself. Why bother even playing the game, if you want everything handed to you on a platter? What's the challenge? whats the point? I went through and finished d3 on normal setting with mostly blue gear, a half empty gold purse.

      I've seen plenty of geared up players with no skill.

    • profile image

      Ugot2BkidNme 5 years ago

      @Joe well you better have good friends willing to trade your drops are specifically designed to favour things not specifically for your class.

      Also all classes require items to improve your power, skills only open options the effectiveness of all are 100% controlled by the strength of items you have so this game is now 100% about your items.

      Blizzard designed this game 100% to get money off Auction house. they think they found the way to Monetize Diablo and I think they might be right. Thankfully Torchlight 2 will be out soon and I can shelf the garbage that is D3.

    • Winterfate profile image

      Darrin Perez 5 years ago from Puerto Rico

      @JohnGreasyGamer: Thanks for reading, as always. Good to see you're still active here. As you probably noticed, I take arbitrarily long hiatus. ;)

      @Joe: Well, you make a fair point there. To be fair, since the emphasis of D3 is PvE, people using the RMAH to twink their characters is less pervasive than in an MMO with PvP elements. So, it doesn't affect a player's personal experience that his teammate has better gear via the RMAH.

      Thanks for reading!

    • profile image

      Joe 5 years ago

      I disagree with some of this. Players can always still farm their own high-end gear, by actually advancing in the game as it is designed. The AH is not a necessity, but a short-cut. The RMAH is just a faster short-cut for those willing to use it.

    • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

      John Roberts 5 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

      Love reading your articles as always Winterfate! I know this will be a flop as the game becomes less and less popular, and many are probably whining about "not getting the money they asked for" (due to Blizzard taking a cut & tax, etc). It's a brilliant concept but as you've already stated, it will utterly crash the market and the one with the credit card will control the AH.

      Great as per usual! Useful, awesome and interesting ^^

    • eric-carter profile image

      eric-carter 5 years ago from Fulham, UK

      Well.. I'll try it out, maybe I can work something out. When there's a will there's a way you know ;)

    • Winterfate profile image

      Darrin Perez 5 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Well, you're welcome eric-carter. But, now that you did purchase the game, you might as well enjoy it. :P

      (If you've already slaved the key to your account, you can't sell it to somebody else. The best you could try to do is ask for a refund if you don't want the game anymore.)

    • eric-carter profile image

      eric-carter 5 years ago from Fulham, UK

      Crap, I didn't know about that! Blizzard = Greedzard, such a disappointment.. Ah DAAAAMN, if I knew that earlier I wouldn't have purchased the stupid game. Thanks for the info Winterfate

    • incomeguru profile image

      Oyewole Folarin 5 years ago from Lagos

      Well researched hub, and well structured. Definitely, it will improve the skills of the player, now that he/she is now well acquainted about all the game takes.