Joystiq passes along some interesting info emerging from GDC 2013, the game developers conference currently transpiring in San Francisco: Diablo 3‘s former director Jay Wilson apparently admitted the game’s auction houses — both the real-money and traditional in-game mechanisms — “really hurt the game.”
That’s a bold mea culpa from one of the most successful game companies in video game history. I had no idea things were rough enough to warrant that sort of language. I fiddled with the in-game gold auction house for a bit myself before the game lost its allure, but never spent a dime — never would spend a dime — on the real money auction house, which is basically Blizzard’s way of controlling the secondary item market and taking a cut in transaction fees. I heard plenty of grousing about it, most of that anticipatory, well before it launched. In fact I argued for delaying it indefinitely after Blizzard intimated it was having some trouble working out the kinks.
It sounds like Blizzard not only failed to purge those flaws, but may have broken the game by launching it at all. “Really hurt” is certainly a long walk from something more anodyne like “could have been handled better.”
According to Joystiq, Wilson said the company assumed players wanted a real-money auction house, that it would reduce fraud, that only a fractional number of people would use it and that item pricing would help control sales volume. Instead, nearly everyone’s using it, said Wilson, with over half doing so routinely, making money far more important than Blizzard ever intended. Lest you think it’s all the real-money side, Wilson added that “gold does much more damage than [real money] does,” explaining this is simply because more players use gold than actual cash.
What to do? Wilson said Blizzard would turn the auction house off if it could, but that the company “has no idea” how many players that’d tick off. Thus they’re working on an alternative solution, though you have to wonder how “hurt” the game really is if millions are still playing — Blizzard’s claim — and routinely using the services.