Imagine a world where gaming is run by all of the greediest publishers. It's a world where money equals power; the more you spend, the more fun you have. High-level items come with a high-end price tag. You not only pay to play, but you also pay for that Epic Knife of Dragon Slaying and your Codpiece of Might.
This is where my mind goes whenever a company mentions micro-transactions and markets that use real money. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never actually seen this dystopia in real life…just watered-down versions of it. Companies seem a bit reluctant to go all the way, but I’m terrified that they will eventually do it.
So, when Blizzard announced their plans for a cash-based Diablo III marketplace, I was concerned. The idea is that players will have a World of Warcraft-esque auction house where they can buy and sell in-game goods to each other with their actual bank accounts. Would it just be another way to rob customers of their money?
Well, not quite.
As more information was released, the more I realized that I had little to worry about. In the end, this market’s saving grace will be that not all of the money goes straight to Blizzard. Most of it will go back to the players who are offering up their items to be sold. In theory, a person will only sell something they can’t use or is weaker than what they already have. It’s going to work more like a bazaar than a Wal-Mart, with the individual sellers out to make money for themselves.
Recently, Blizzard announced more specific plans: For every weapon, piece of armor, or equipment sold, they will take one dollar as transaction fee. For things like crafting materials, they will take a 15 percent cut. The money made from selling 25 demon-monkey scales (or whatever) will be dumped into the player’s Battle.net Balance and can then be used to buy things from Blizzard’s store (including a WOW subscription). If you want to turn your 15 stacks of demonic bath salt into cold hard cash, which can be done via PayPal, you’ll have to give Blizzard another 15 percent. Thirty percent is honestly not a bad loss. It sounds like a lot, but you should ask how much money it costs to make a 3DS and then look at its price tag.
While the Diablo III marketplace will let you buy epic gear and possibly turn you into an over-powered munchkin, its primary goal is to eliminate the seedy gold-farming market that has plagued MMOs since their inception. Sure, Blizzard will make money off of the auction house, but for the first time, so can the average player. When the game finally comes out, we won’t see a greedy dystopia. Money will not not equal in-game power…at least not in the near future.