Prior to Diablo III's launch in May 2012, you could hear the gaming community's collective shudder when it was announced that the game would be always-online and have a real-money auction house. The outrage was strong, and the detractors of the always-online connection were proven right when the game had server-related launch issues. In the end, the game still sold more than 12 million copies in 2012. Two months after release, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime defended Diablo III's online requirement and auction house.
"The online requirement is critical for the long-term integrity of the game experience. I fully understand the desire to play Diablo III offline; however, Diablo III was designed from the beginning to be an online game that can be enjoyed with friends, and the always-online requirement is the best way for us to support that design," said Morhaime in a post of the official Battle.net forums.
"Regarding the real-money auction house, our primary goal for including this in the game was to provide convenience and peace of mind for those players who might otherwise turn to third-party services to buy items. We know the auction house isn't perfect, but with your help and feedback, we'll be able to continue making it a better experience for those who choose to use it."
So, it was a bit surprising when Diablo III's console release didn't have the real-money auction house or require an internet connection. The game includes online and offline four-play co-op, in any combination. Our very own Jaz Rignall called the console release of DIII "the definitive version," and it doesn't include that pesky online requirement. PC Diablo III fans were left out in the cold without knowing why.
But things are finally making a change for the better, PC players! Blizzard Entertainment has announced that Diablo III's real-money auction house will be shutting down on March 18, 2014.
"It became increasingly clear that despite the benefits of the AH system and the fact that many players around the world use it, it ultimately undermines Diablo's core game play: kill monsters to get cool loot. With that in mind, we want to let everyone know that we've decided to remove the gold and real-money auction house system from Diablo III," wrote DIII production director John Hight. "We feel that this move along with the Loot 2.0 system being developed concurrently with Reaper of Souls will result in a much more rewarding game experience for our players."
This is a great change for Diablo III, but Blizzard was singing a completely different tune during Gamescom 2013 at the end of August. Game director Josh Mosqueira told Eurogamer that the game's auction house and always-online system were here to stay.
"In the territories where we do not have an Auction House the number of account compromises is completely out of whack with the rest of the world," Mosqueira said. "So the Auction House is serving that intended purpose of providing a safe environment for players in which to trade. Ultimately the Auction House will still be out there, but we don't want players to feel they need to go to the Auction House. If they want to, that's their own choice. But we don't want them to feel they need to go to the Auction House."
"On PC, we really want players to feel they're part of the bigger Blizzard and Diablo community," Mosquiera added. "It's a choice of platform and opportunity for our players to benefit from. There's a more secure item trading environment, but also a more social environment. We have a lot of plans to make online matter. For us it's about that connected experience."
Did something change to make Blizzard do an about-face in two weeks? We reached out to Blizzard, but we were pointed in the direction of the video above. Sales of the console versions are still up in the air on the US side, but Diablo III only charted third for its launch week on the UK charts. And while the auction house is going away, Diablo III for PC still requires an always-online internet connection. Will players ever be able to convince Blizzard to relent there as well?