Diablo III was a game that severely disappointed many fans of the series. When it first launched last year, the always-unpopular always-online DRM coupled with server overloads left the game in an unplayable state for many (in an almost poetic prelude to the SimCity launch issues we saw just a few weeks ago). Once people actually got into the game, though, there was even more to complain about, not the least of which was the introduction of the Auction House.
In both varieties – real money and in-game gold – the Auction House was a huge mistake on the part of Blizzard. Making it possible to simply buy an item that, due to the random nature of loot in the game, you’d likely never have stumbled upon naturally, much of the allure of the previous iterations was lost, not to mention the fact that the game’s difficulty was severely crippled by it. It was a game-changing decision on Blizzard‘s part, and one that many players weren’t particularly happy with.
As it turns out, the end result of that decision is one Jay Wilson, former Game Director of the title, isn’t particularly pleased with, either. In a talk at GDC, Wilson admitted that the presence of the Auction Houses “really hurt the game,” turning money into a much greater motivator than the quest to kill Diablo. Though much early ire was focused on the real-money Auction House, Wilson claims that it was the in-game gold House that actually caused more damage, because it is the one players used more.
“I think we would turn it off, if we could,” Wilson said. It’s not an option Blizzard really has, according to him, because they’re aren’t sure, with the current playerbase, who likes and dislikes the presence of the Auction Houses, and they wouldn’t want to strip it out on the off-chance that most of the people still playing the game (which, apparently, numbers at about one million a day) would be upset to see it go.
At this point, I would highly doubt that any Diablo III players would be surprised to hear this. The fact the console port of the game will not feature the Auction Houses suggests that Blizzard is trying to distance itself from the idea at this point. Whether or not Wilson’s admission will assuage any angry fans of the series remains to be seen, but it is always nice when developers admit mistakes. Whether the excuse for not simply stripping the House out of the game now is a valid one or not is unclear, but this was, at least, a small, tentative step in the right direction.