Looking Forward To Diablo 3’s Real-Money Auction House
I have to say that I’m quite looking forward to Diablo 3’s Real-Money Auction House (RMAH), not because I intend to buy or sell anything through it (although I can’t say that I won’t) but because I think it’s going to be fascinating to see how its introduction affects players and online gaming in general. See, I reckon Diablo 3 is going to sell by the bucket load and make Blizzard a mountain of cash, a mountain that will turn into Everest itself one they start raking in revenue through the RMAH, so much so that I’d bet real money (see what I did there?) that the feature becomes a staple in every online game to come from now on.
Of course, I don’t think we’ll be seeing real-money auctions springing up in every online FPS or MMO or what not overnight but I have little doubt that it will happen slowly and surely. Just like 10 years ago the idea of a cash shop in a MMO or a free-2-play subscription model would’ve sounded inconceivable, I honestly believe in five years time almost every game with online capabilities, and most certainly all MMORPGS, will have some sort of real-money trading system. There’s just too much cash to be made out of it.
In fact, I’d even be willing to bet that Titan, Blizzard’s forthcoming MMO, will feature a Diablo 3 style RMAH when it’s released and I also wouldn’t be surprised if World of Warcraft ended up with one within a couple of years. Not that I have any particular objection to the concept but I suppose it does leave a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth to think that developers have always argued against third party gold-selling companies because they enabled an unfair advantage over everyone else in-game. In truth, it seems like they more object to the idea of someone other than themselves profiting from their material.
Which is fine actually. After all Diablo and Warcraft are Blizzard’s intellectual property and no one but they have the right to profit from their hard work but let’s just not pretend is about morals when RMAHs and purchasable pets and $25 sparkly ponies would say otherwise. Same goes for SOE and Turbine and everyone else out there that sells in-game equipment that gives players an advantage over one another.
But I’m digressing.
How these forms of real-money auctions will affect the gaming genre aside, I’m going to be very curious to see how it impact players and real-life society. Won’t it be interesting to see if the players who are able to generate lots of gold or credits in games like WoW or EVE are able to replicate it in something like Diablo 3? And this time actually cash in for real money rather than just online kudos? And how will it affect grouping and player interaction when everyone’s battling over loot drops not because they need the item but because it’s worth a lot? Whilst I’m sure Blizzard have already thought of a clever way of dealing with it, I have a feeling people might not like players rolling on items they don’t need just to earn a quick $5 or so.
And then there’s the big question about how this form of cash generation will fit in with real life. What if the Diablo 3 RMAH takes off so much that some people are actually able to play enough and farm items enough to create a credible income? Will it be taxable? And how will the government ever be able to track down people who are claiming they don’t have a job when in actuality they are earning a viable living through video games?
So I’m looking forward to Diablo 3’s RMAH. Not because I really want to be tempted into buying virtual swords or armour but because I have this funny feeling it’s going to change the face of online trading for a long, long time to come.