Diablo 3‘s 2012 launch was a disaster thanks to its always-online requirements, broken servers, and a real-money auction house that nobody liked or wanted. Today, a decade later, we know that eventually Blizzard got things back on track with Diablo 3 and ended up creating a damn fine ARPG. But why did it take nearly two years for Blizzard to remove that annoying real-money auction house? Well, apparently you can blame the boxes the game was shipped in and their printed promises of a working auction house.
as spotted by gaming pcsome former Blizzard and Blizzard North employees held a panel during last weekend’s Portland Retro Gaming Expo. During that panelthe group of former Blizz devs talked about the history of Diablo and their own connections to the games, and shared stories about making the popular franchise. During the panel, train lead designer on Diablo 3Jay Wilson, talked about the controversial auction house, explaining its origins and more.
“When I was at Blizzard,” said Wilson, “the reason for doing the real-money auction house was security. It wasn’t money. We didn’t think we’d make that much money from it. The biggest problem with Diablo 2 was item duping and duping hacks and all the gold sellers, and all those things.”
So, as Wilson explained, Blizzard’s solution to avoid this problem with Diablo 3 was to take control of the trading market. This apparently was also the reason behind the game’s move to require an always-online internet connection. Wilson says that the moment you offer an offline client, the hackers “got you.” So always online and the auction house were Blizzard’s bad attempts at controlling problems from Diablo 2.
But pretty quickly after its release in 2012, Diablo 3‘s auction house became seen as one of the game’s biggest flaws, being endlessly mocked and criticized by the community. Yet removing it wasn’t easy, and not because of technical headaches. Instead, its delayed 2014 removal was because the auction house was a promised feature of the game printed on all of its retail boxes, and there were some legal concerns about cutting it.
“The reason we did not get rid of it right away when we saw it was a problem was legally we didn’t think we could because it was advertised on the boxes,” said Wilson. “So we actually took a long time to try and work out all the legal issues before we finally said ‘OK, we think it’s worth trying it, if we get a lawsuit, oh well.’”
Funnily enough, when all was said and done, Wilson says the auction house didn’t even make Blizzard all that much money, pointing out that if it made more than 10 or 15 million dollars he’d be “surprised.” And while that might sound like a lot, the former Diablo 3 designer countered that World of Warcraft makes that kind of money every few hours or so. Another dev on the panel joked that, as usual, you “always just blame lawyers.” So yeah, people hated it and it didn’t make much money. A complete waste of time for everyone involved!