Blizzard's decision on Tuesday to nuke the Auction House in Diablo III was both a shock and somewhat unsurprising. The news was a shock because the company spent so much time nurturing the baked-in feature; it's a huge part of what goes on inside the action-RPG in regards to selling loot and obtaining rare equipment. The House even serves as an in-game community of sorts.
But as Blizzard has discovered since the game's release in May 2012, the Auction House, both Gold and Real Money versions, have become a distraction from Diablo's core game play: to explore, kill and find loot. Many players supposedly spend more time in the Auction House than they do the actual campaign, or they camp in the Auction House first and then may wander out into the fields and dungeons.
Because of this, Blizzard made an unsurprising decision to kill the Auction House system in Diablo III altogether. "We're working out the details of how the auction house system will be shut down, but we wanted to share the news as soon as we made the decision in order to give everyone as much advance notice as possible," said Reaper of Souls 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," he added.
"From the moment we announced Reaper of Souls and we started talking to you guys about what Loot 2.0 means to us, about how we want to drop less, better and more epic items. We firmly believe that by shutting down the real money and the gold Auction Houses, it really paves the way to make sure that killing monsters in-game is the most rewarding, the most satisfying, the most compelling way of getting your hands on those items," said game director Josh Mosqueira. "We felt that the right decision is to preserve the integrity of the gameplay experience of Diablo."
The Auction House will close its doors on March 18, 2014. One Battle.net user suggests that instead of the Auction House, Blizzard should create lobby channels as seen in Diablo II so that players can create named games for trading only. That would seemingly mean Blizzard needs to change how the underlying multiplayer system works.
With the Auction House now on the way out, does that mean Diablo III will finally have an offline mode just like the new console versions? No. If you want to play offline, get a PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or wait for the next-generation in November.
"We do not have plans to implement an offline mode," a Blizzard rep told Rock Paper Shotgun. "While the always-online requirement made the auction house possible, the auction house was never the driving factor in our decision to make the PC version of Diablo III require an Internet connection. The game was built from the ground up to take full advantage of Battle.net, which provides a number of important benefits, including persistent server-side character saves, a seamless PC multiplayer experience, cheat prevention, and Real ID and BattleTag social features."
Bummer. The playable demos of Diablo III for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are now available. The game definitely feels right at home on the console.