Activision Blizzard announced Monday the upcoming beta release of the highly anticipated third installment of their popular Diablo series and it comes along with two revelations that are highly relevant to the MMO game industry. First, Diablo III is about to become a true MMO game in the case that it will no longer have an offline solo campaign mode; and second, the video game giant will be going a route even free-to-play games have been shy about and implement an auction house that uses real-world money.
People lucky enough to have joined Blizzcon will be receiving the first of 1,000 beta keys for entering into the Diablo III beta test. The length of the beta test is yet indeterminate. Keep in mind that characters played during the beta will be deleted and progress reset when the game goes live so it really is a beta test and not an extended preview for lucky people first in the door.
Diablo III joins the ranks of lobby-based MMORPGs
To players who enjoyed Diablo II for solo gameplay, the introduction of online-only gameplay may feel a little bit of a betrayal—i.e. nobody will be able to play D3 without having a working Internet connexion. Not that big of a deal for everyone who plays a lot of free-to-play MMOs; but it means that we’re seeing the end of an era when it comes to Diablo games.
Diablo II can also be played online via the Blizzard Battle.net service and Diablo III will probably work exactly the same. Diablo II is a pay-to-play MMORPG as it only takes a purchase of the game and the Battle.net service (which ties into other Blizzard games such as World of Warcraft) is not a subscription service. While there’s no news on this for the upcoming sequel, it’s extremely unlikely that Blizzard will be changing this part of their model at all.
Auction House based on real money will open up lots of player opportunities
In what will become a bold move for Blizzard, there will be two auction houses in Diablo III: an AH that runs on in-game gold and an AH that will buy, sell, and trade for real-world currency. These two auction houses will be separated and unable to mix with one another and players will be able to actually make money from the currency AH. The Big Blue has reported that players utilizing the currency auction house will be able to receive money via third-party payment services (likely PayPal will be one.)
“Yes, as an advanced feature, players will have the option of attaching an account with an approved third-party payment service to their Battle.net account,” writes Blizzard in the FAQ about the subject of the real-world money auction house. “Once this has been completed, proceeds from the sale of items in the currency-based auction house can be deposited into their third-party payment service account. ‘Cashing out’ would then be handled through the third-party payment service. Note that this process will be subject to applicable fees charged by Blizzard and the third-party payment service.”
Players can also choose to have the money deposited into their Battle.net account which could be used to pay for Blizzard products—e.g. players could pay subscription fees for World of Warcraft.
Blizzard would assess a fixed fee for every item placed into the AH upon placement and take a fixed fee with each sale. As a result, it won’t net them a lot of money; however, it does mean that players will want to be certain that their item will sell, otherwise they’ll be out the placement fee whether the item sells or not. This should keep the AH from becoming cluttered with useless or foolishly planted items and would encourage players to only place items that they expect would sell and make they money. It also sets a basic minimum price for items in the AH.
As for balance in the era of a real-world currency AH, Blizzard has announced that there will be level caps in play for items so new characters will not be able to buy and equip later-level items. This could just mean that each peerage group for a particular level the rich player capable of using money to outfit themselves will have better equipment but only within their level range.
No news yet about PvP or ladder characters and how they will interact with the real-world money auction house.