04 August 2011

Rob Pardo Talks About The Currency-Based AH in Diablo III

Below are a few quotes from Blizzard's Game Design EVP Rob Pardo about the new currency-based auction house in Diablo III. Quotes were taken from the article entitled Blizzard Reveals Real Money-Powered Diablo III Auction House over at Gamasutra. (Emphasis ours.)

Then for the big news. Pardo began by discussing the importance of trading items in Diablo, how it had been done online in Diablo II: via manual exchanges, forum posts, or IRC, and "shady third party sites full of gray market stuff." He said, "We can make it better."  
With the Diablo III Auction House, players will have a fully-integrated marketplace that allows them to buy and sell items, gold, and components with real-world currency (tentatively divided into U.S. dollars and euros, among others) in their respective territories. According to him, it's based on the World of Warcraft Auction House, but with refinements. Diablo III's iteration allows for auto-bidding and instant buyouts, smart searches based on class, a shared stash, and secure item transfers. 
More quotes after the jump.

Pardo was swift to mention that it's not an official "Blizzard Store," but a clearinghouse for players to have an open market to facilitate the trading of in-game items with each other. Players will be anonymous during trades, and there will be restrictions on the buying and selling of goods with real-world currency for those who choose to play in Hardcore mode.  
He then outlined initial details of transactions. There will be a fee for both item listings and sales. Should players accept in-game currency, their payment will go toward their e-balance, which covers auction items, WoW subscriptions, and pets. Should players decide to cash out their items, a currently-unannounced third-party payment provider will handle the transaction and take a percentage of the sale. There won't be any limits on item trading, but there will be a 24-hour cooling period before players can resell a purchased item. 
Pardo intimated that if Blizzard didn't take the steps to bring e-commerce in-house, someone else would step in and profit from it. "Players want this... We could take a harder stance, but with Diablo, we think [the Auction House] will end up being a good thing," he said. The fact that in-game bartering and selling had "become a metagame of its own," in his words, was another motivator for launching the new feature.  
When asked if he had any concerns about Diablo III's auctions turning into widespread item speculation, he hinted that the regional breakup of currency would play a factor. "In WoW auctions, you're looking at a few thousand people cornering the market, whereas Diablo's regionalization makes it tougher to speculate. But we'll monitor it closely." He also compared his idea of user-driven item pricing to the iPhone App Store, in which inflated app prices self-corrected as buyers dictated what they would pay for applications. 
When asked about the regional breakdown of the shop, Pardo said, "The primary reason why we're doing the Auction House per [real world] currency is for usability, and in some cases, with legality -- it's the easiest way to do it... There are going to be so many items in each auction house in every currency that there shouldn't even be need to shopping around in different currency houses." 
He also fielded an inquiry as to how much the implementation of the Diablo III Auction House influenced the design of the game.  
"Did we design the game with auctions in mind? That's an emphatic no. It's all just going in the direction of what we want to do with Diablo. What we set out to do is make awesome items. If you were making Diablo III without the auction house, that's exactly the same goal, it's what you'd want to do as a designer, right? That's what we want to do. This just incentivizes what we already set out to do," Pardo said. 
One of Pardo's final responses involved the question of how Blizzard would gauge the game's success, be it in higher numbers of auctions or in hours logged playing the game. 
"I would find it to be successful if they're having fun doing [either]," he said. "That's always the trick when it comes to the Auction House -- or I could talk about any of the major game systems in WoW.  
"What we want is that people can spend their time having the most fun doing whatever it is that they want in the game. What would be bad is if people wanted to play the game with their friends, but instead felt compelled to spend all of their time competing in the Auction House, and that's something that we want to avoid."

So a few thoughts about what we read here from Pardo. Apparently the auction houses may be linked by currency meaning that all auctions for US Dollars will be lumped together and all auctions for Euros will be lumped together etc. If this is true it will make it really hard to game the system when the entire US player population is selling in one giant auction house.

Another thing I picked up on was that the auctions will be anonymous which we read in the official Blizzard info given earlier. This will make it really hard to identify any sort of competition simply because we will never see who is selling what and therefore will have the price alone to go by. I also wonder if Blizzard (or any 3rd parties) will be building any sort of auction house data export similar to what we have in World of Warcraft with sites like The Undermine Journal and AHSpy. It seems there are some real-money implications for information such as that and it's influence on the markets (speculation etc.)

The last item I thought stood out was that there will be a 24-hour "cooldown" period (a duration previously unspecified in the official Blizzard info) for reselling items. I wonder why this would be. Could is be Blizzards way of allowing themselves a window to investigate potential abuses of the system similar to the one-hour delay of delivery of gold for successful auctions that was implemented in World of Warcraft. I'd be interested to hear what you all thought the reasoning for the 24-hour cooldown was.

I'm fascinated with the possibilities and implications of the currency-based auction house in Diablo III and will continue to bring you the best info I can about it as we continue to learn more.

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