Friday, August 5, 2011

Diablo III to use U.S. dollars

Everyone is talking about Blizzard's decision to use a dual-currency system in Diablo III. Players will be able to use the normal in-game gold coins in their adventures and an auction house for looted items, and also be able to sell items in a special second auction house for real U.S. dollars.

The normal reaction people have is that this will allow some rich players to "cheat" the system. Here's are the details of that view:

In the past, players entered the world of Sanctuary as true equals from the same starting point, and through skill, planning and long hours their characters grew more powerful. It's how capitalism is supposed to work.

But now with these legal tender auction houses, Brigham Thaddeus Blueblood IV can spare a few bills and instantly turn his character into a powerhouse. He doesn't have to play very often and his character will trump those of hard-working students. The class struggle has moved online.

So here's why I think that view is wrong.

World of Warcraft has already shown us that tons of players are already cheating the system by purchasing from illegal gold farmers using real money. That perfect, unspoiled online world free from real money is already dead, Blizzard just has the sense to be the one's profiting from it.

That's not to say that gold farmers are completely out of the picture. Blizzard is taking a cut of each auction item when it goes up for sale, when it's sold, and when people want to cash out their account. They've got players coming, going and going home. If these fees are too high, a secondary gold-for-cash industry may exist.

In this quest for fairness, people forget that these games with high level caps and tons of items have always allowed players to become very powerful through a Faustian bargain. Players that sacrificed their own humanity by staying inside, logged on to the game to slay the same demon hog over and over again became those mighty purple-clad level 100 warriors that could push everyone around. It just cost them five hours of each day of their lives.

This has been a battlefield where the working man couldn't compete... because he was too busy at work. It benefited people with either the privilege or curse of having lots of free time to click animated goblins to death.

Yes, you will see some rare items skip the gold-house and go straight to the cash-house. I wonder if Gresham's Law will play a role and cause players to horde their greenbacks and burn through their gold quickly. And no doubt, some cheesy rich kid will gank better, more skilled players and type a series of misspelled words into the chat window.

But it was always like this. The price items command has not yet been determined, but it's possible they will be low enough where it's rational for an average Joe to finish his Monkfish Scales and get the full set bonus for once.

This cash auction house may be a fun way for some players to make a small profit, although the margins will be so low they'd be better off keeping the per-hour rate a mystery. We have plenty of other games that use real money to compare to, and none of them drove out the regular players.

I predict this will be like a Facebook update where everyone gets really upset by the change, complains for a long time, then gets used to it and forgets it was ever any other way.

No comments:

Post a Comment