Blizzard has announced it is withdrawing from its real-money Auction House service, and will be closing down Diablo III's most controversial feature in March next year.
The Auction House has been controversial since its announcement back in August 2011: while the service, like those available for rival games including World of Warcraft, can be used to trade items for in-game currency and vice-versa, Blizzard launched a secondary service which would allow players to trade in-game items for cold, hard, real-world cash.
Its critics claimed it was another instance of the 'pay to win' mentality which plagues free-to-play (FTP) titles: players who couldn't be bothered putting in the hours to find the best loot could simply pony up some cash and kit their character out in total finery. Some countries even rejected the system outright: Blizzard was forced to remove the real-money Auction House from the South Korean version of Diablo III due to the country's strict anti-gambling legislations.
The attraction to Blizzard was obvious: for each real-money sale that took place on the Auction House, the company skimmed 15 per cent off the top - and, considering that the items themselves were simply zeroes and ones the company had constructed anyway, that was pretty much pure profit.
Following the game's launch, however, the real-money Auction House continued to attract criticism with Jay Wilson, who had worked as the director of Diablo III at Blizzard, even stating that it 'really hurt
' the game and that Blizzard would 'turn it off if we could.
Well, it seems that Blizzard can
turn it off - and intends to do just that. In a video released to fans, Blizzard's Josh Mosqueira admitted that the real-money Auction House was a mistake. 'At the core of the Diablo experience is a promise of killing monsters, killing demons, for the promise of finding those epic items,
' he explained. 'The Auction Houses made that experience way too convenient and really short-circuited our core reward loop.
As a result, the Auction House is being shut down - but those who use their talents in the game to supplement their income with a little rare item trading have until March 2014 to sell off their inventories, after which the system will be closed down for good.
The announcement video, with Josh Mosqueira and production director John Hight, is reproduced below.