Friday, September 20, 2013

On the death of the real money auction house

RIP (on March 18th), real money auction house.

I have always felt that the Diablo III real money auction house strategy reeked of corporate market-droid meddling. To be honest, its inclusion was far more likely a function of who the company has chosen to hire/promote to lead projects than actual requirements that came down from on-high; but as a consumer, this type of decision has never felt that way. Sadly, the effects are the same; someone with decision making power ends up pushing for the inclusion of revenue generators that are detrimental to the games themselves.

Kudos to Blizzard for realizing their mistake and making a course correction. Apparently the "new era" of game revenue that many heralded at the launch of Diablo III will have to wait for some other game to carry the torch. The death bell is tolling for now, but this sort of "take a cut of in-game, real money transactions between players" feature is bound to return when some other studio takes a crack at it.

I'm not entirely unsympathetic. Blizzard is faced with a problem endemic to the AAA industry: namely that some customers are willing to pay much more for an extended or enhanced experience, but the ability to capitalize on that is difficult in an industry machine that has been geared towards treating all customers the same. The real money auction house was an interesting stab at solving that problem, but ultimately one that has failed. What remains to be seen is whether that was due to poor execution by Blizzard or that the idea itself is fatally flawed.