Why Blizzard put the Auction House in Diablo 3

Diablo 3The controversial design choices of weren’t entirely driven by profit, as players suspected when the game was released. In reality, it was actually for security reasons.


Diablo 3 had a turbulent launch period with many players unable to play the game, receiving the infamous “Error 37” instead. However, once they actually got to play the game, players were unhappy with certain aspects of Diablo 3.

These included the auction house and the requirement that Diablo 3 be “always online” for it to be playable. These are less controversial features these days, but that wasn’t the case back in 2012. For those unfamiliar, the auction house was an attempt to integrate player trading into the in-game economy. There was an auction house that used in-game gold and an auction house that used real currency through Battle.Net and external sites like PayPal.

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Players suspected the auction house was being pushed as a money-making ploy, but according to lead designer Jay Wilson, that was not the case. In an interview with Gamer on PCWilson explained Snow storm’s rationale for Diablo 3 design choices.

“When I was at Blizzard, the reason I was doing real money auctions was for safety. It wasn’t money, we didn’t expect to make that much money out of it, [but] the biggest problem with Diablo 2 was the item duplication and duplication hacks and all the gold vendors and all that stuff,” Wilson explained. “There is almost no way to solve this problem without somehow controlling the commercial market. There are many good ways to do it, but that was our idea at the time. The trading market is in the game: we control it, so hackers don’t,” he continued.

As for the pursuit of profit, Wilson said they don’t expect the auction house to generate a significant amount of revenue. “It made some money, nothing compared to WoW, we didn’t expect it to be…we really thought of it as a courtesy to make the game safer. If it made more than 10 or 15 million [dollars] I would be surprised. Sounds like a lot of money, but WoW probably made some every 10 seconds. It wasn’t very popular,” Wilson said.

Very interestingly, once Blizzard made the decision to remove the auction house, it was actually harder than they thought. This is because the auction house was advertised on the Diablo 3 physical box, meaning the company potentially faced legal action if it were to remove it. Eventually, Blizzard bit the bullet and did it anyway.

As for Diablo 3 still being online, that was also for security reasons. Wilson explained, “As soon as you log out you have to give the client server away and once you do the hackers have you. But I couldn’t say those things because you don’t push hackers. You say “oh, we’re doing this for security reasons” and the hackers say [puts hands on hips] “Oh really?””

Jay Wilson no longer works at Blizzard and is currently pursuing other projects.

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