Despite much of the excitement over Diablo 3′s real money auction house (that has been delayed several time since launch), developer Blizzard Entertainment is overlooking just how detrimental the idea can be to the title’s lifespan for players willing to invest their hard-earned cash into the game after the initial $60 price tag. While I, too, was initially very excited about the prospect of additional cash showing up in my bank account simply by playing Diablo 3, I began to think about the impact such a feature could have on the longevity of the title. I’ve never been a big fan of people being able to buy their way to the top, and with the real money auction house, that’s exactly what will happen.
People typically play games to have fun and complete the breadth of their content, but when developers implement paid shortcuts that undermine the satisfaction of the familiar RPG grind (depending on your mentality, “gratification” and “grind” should never be in the same sentence) those who invest significant time into the game and remain faithful to the franchise feel slighted as others simply spend their way to glory. I understand the basic mentality and motivation behind the real money auction house, but if players can simply buy the best gear mere weeks after the game has been released, where does all the fun of exploring and discovering go?
It’s probably arguable that 90% of the enjoyment of the Diablo series stems from the lavish loot drops that occur after every battle. The satisfaction of sifting through gear and selling it back to the local merchant is a feedback loop that most gamers easily get wrapped up in, and if Blizzard offers a way to skip through the grinding and the mass monster slaying to nab the best weaponry or apparel, why should players even bother? Sure, it could be argued that it is entirely elective for the player to make purchases in the auction house or choose to slay thousands of baddies to accomplish the same goal, but ultimately, it cheapens the experience. It dampens the excitement of working your ass off to take down some random boss monster and being rewarded with a legendary weapon at the end of the whole ordeal.
Again, it could be argued that since every fight could result in real cash being exchanged for the loot you grab, it’s likely that a handful of power-players will find the best gear in the game before anyone else, and monopolize the market. The idea of a financial microcosm existing within the frameworks of a game is something truly exciting, but when it comes at the expense of entertainment for players who opt-out, much of that fun is reduced or hindered. Other games do this as well, sure, but unlocking guns or vehicles early as centric to the essence of the title as it is with Diablo 3. It’s one thing to unlock Battlefield 3 weapons with paid booster packs, and another thing entirely to buy the best axe or gear in the game Day 1 in Diablo 3 simply because you’re willing to drop the cash.
What do you think? Is the real money auction house a source for increased playtimes and greater investment for Diablo 3 players? Or could it damage the lifespan of what is an otherwise very long-term title? Leave your thoughts below!