Tobold's Blog
Sunday, January 22, 2012
A social disaster in the making

I am getting a lot of mail lately from people who would like to "guest post" on my blog about Diablo 3, for example about the recent beta changes, or why the RMAH is good for the game. Nice to see so much blogging enthusiasm for Diablo 3? Not quite! Because if you look a bit closer, all these blogging sites have the words "gold guide" in their address. There isn't so much enthusiasm about Diablo 3, but rather for the idea of making money with Diablo 3. Either via the RMAH, or by selling gold guides to people.

Real money changes games. If you think in today's MMORPGs the relations between hardcore and casual players aren't good, you should see the relations between sharks and marks in the games of tomorrow. Game-related crime is going to become a lot more frequent. And there is going to be a lot more angry shouting and accusations.

As Wikipedia defines games, "A game is structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological elements.", it becomes clear that if games are NOT done for enjoyment, but rather for remuneration, they become a kind of work for some people. And that leads to a fundamental misalignment of interests between people who are in the game to play, and those who are in the game to work for a living.

Diablo 3 is a negative sum game. No real value is ever created in that game. The only thing that is happening is a transfer of real money from some players to others, with Blizzard taking their cut. And it is blindingly obvious that what the buyers want and what the sellers want is diametrically opposed. Any patch, any nerf, any change of drop rate is going to be hailed by one side, and opposed by the other. And there is going to be a lot of fighting and unpleasantness about it, to a degree which will make the official WoW forums look like a pleasant place to hang out in comparison.
I agree with you completely. Having real money be an issue in the game is a surefire way to break immersion and create lots of drama.
Stupid question: but won't this be identical to what is already happening with online betting/poker/.... websites?
Sorry but I disagree. No one is forcing anyone to use the RMAH, either for buying or selling. You can go through the whole game without using the RMAH (or even the GAH) one bit.

Personally I am excited about the possibility of making some real money from D3 because not only does it NOT interfere with my enjoyment of the game but it also combines parts of WoW which I enjoyed (the AH). Besides, why not make a little money on the side while you're "wasting time" playing the game anyway?

I don't plan on using my own money to buy gear which helps me to advance. But if opportunity arises, I will definitely buy stuff so I can resell it for a profit. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just another, entirely optional, aspect of the game.
I'd also expect the AH to be totally unusable from a casual-seller perspective. Those who actually are trying to make a pile of money there have a huge interest to keep the "amateurs" out.

Ah well..I spend years in Diablo2 without ever buying, selling or otherwise trading anything. Its the only real way to make sure its not duped. I guess I'll do it like that again and be neither buyer nor seller.
RMAH is not gonna affect gameplay... Don't like it? don't use it, nobody is forcing players to do it. D3 is NOT competitive game, there is no rewards for PvP, no rankings.

The only thing that pisses people off is that players who got $ can get best gear without any effort, while others should farm for it. On the other hand I'm pretty sure every D3 player will find epics that they won't need and earn some $ from RMAH and thats a good thing.

There are planty of things in D3 that people can show off and they will need to achieve them: titels, achivements, banner costumizations, etc. It's not all about gear.
Main reason why I started a non-gold-focused D3 blog, back in August. There were ONLY "goldmaking" blogs.

Warning, I'll spam my blog now. Feel free to nuke it, but I felt it was a good way to show that not every d3 gamer is a goldmaker nerd.

I can see the potential for both positive and negative, which is why I'm eagerly interested in how it's going to work out.

See what happens there?

I'm not as sophisticated a gamer as you, Tobold, but it seems like a subtle but huge paradigm shift.

I met a guy 10 years ago who "made" dog companions in Second Life. He sold about 10/week for $25 each, and spent a few hours a week doing customer support and helping teach people how to train them to do tricks.

That seriously blew my mind.

I'm older and to me the RMT AH represents a much needed shift in an adult direction for MMOs. Or the feature could crash and burn, create a social firestorm and gimp or destroy a solid brand like Diablo.

Either way, Blizzard got my attention and is already spending my investment. And at the worst, I get to follow a very interesting experiment.
RMAH is not gonna affect gameplay... Don't like it? don't use it, nobody is forcing players to do it.

You could say exactly the same about the Dungeon Finder. Don't like it? Don't use it!

But of course that isn't true. The RMAH will affect any multiplayer situation, including the regular gold auction house. It will affect all game communities and forums. It isn't all that simple to opt out.
Btw, you know how we used to always blame Activision for screwing Blizzard up?

Go check "ACTI" filings and you'll see that Mike Morhaime got $16M in 2010 and arch-villain Bobby Kotick only got $5M.

So yes, RMAH is all about Blizzard being Blizzard. Fanboys need to wake up.
Interesting...I remember your post that games are Hobby and that it is right to spent real money to games cause they are your hobby...

You also have chosen the example with the Golf player and that a wise Golf player would spent a lot of money to buy a good Golf Stick...

I was in the opposite side of you but I am glad you are in our side now :P
People are not going to want to lose money learning the rmah. I beleive that they will want valuable guides to show them the way. The game is not competitive so most likely pvp/pve guides will not sell like they do in wow.

I can understand why you don't like the rmah, but look at what is happening to mmo's these days. They are all experimenting with different business models. Very few are able to charge a straight fee.

This could be the evolution of mmo's or a total fluke. I'm betting on the former.
The RMAH will affect any multiplayer situation [...]

Err... like how? You mean the multiplayer situations in which you invite random strangers into your own instance of the game? Or you join random strangers' games? There isn't actually a community by default here; there is no hanging out AFK by the mailbox where people can check you out.

And of course it is zero-sum. Just like World of Tanks is zero-sum, LotRO is zero-sum, any game with RMT is "zero-sum." This is assuming, of course, you consider capitalism a zero-sum exchange rather than trading equivalent value for value (if someone didn't think Sword of Uberness was worth $30, why did they buy it?).
The argument that people won't spend money is made invalid by the existence of LOTRO, DDO, Glitch, DCUO, STO and dozens of other games that do not require you to spend a dime in order to play - yet still make large sums of money. Did people need a Sparkle Pony in WoW? Did Blizzard make less than 20 million off it?

People are stupid and stupid people do stupid things. People bought gold in D2 and traded that gold for items in-game. The RMAH is no different.
As I understand it, to sell an item for money in the Blizzard economy, you have to pay TWO fees per transaction. One to put it up, one to sell it. They take .15 to even put the item up (non-refundable) and .65 to SELL the item. And then they take a fee per sale to withdraw the money from the blizzard economy.

So to put it one way, if you sell an item for $1.00, Blizzard eats 80% of your price before you even pay the fee to extract your money. And keep in mind there will be a competing AH loaded with items you can get for in game gold.

Basically Blizzard is setting the system up to work so that it's virtually impossible for a seller to extract money from the system. The vast majority of the items you get will not be worth fees required to sell it. You will be working against tends of thousands of normal players who will underbid the market price to get a quick profit (and it costs you real money to list the item). Presumably the really valuable epics won't be worth that much money (even $50 or $100 per really rare epic wouldn't cover the minimum wage required to grind the thing), and items you can count on getting on a regular basis will mostly be worthless and/or very low margin.

So basically I'm seeing the RMT system as a nice way for Blizzard to get the richer players to subsidize the poorer player's subscription fees. The system is designed to put the vast majority of the cash in Blizzard's wallet.
Put it this way: If it takes you 100 hours on average to get an item that sells for $500, you just made $5/hour.

If you get an item that on average drops once every 10 hours you want to sell for 50 bucks, if 50000 people play one hour during the time you were grinding that, that means that 5000 copies of that item dropped during your shift.

How long do you think that $50 price is going to last when every day 10000 or 15000 copies of an item drop? These items are apparently unperishable. So eventually people will be floating up to their eyeballs in any item you can reasonably hope to grind, and the items that remain rare will take so much labor as to be wildly impractical as a genuine way to make money.

In short, you don't make much money as a gold miner. You make money owning the mine. Blizz owns the mine.
The real money thing will never happen. If Blizzard releases it they will shut it down real fast. Its bad for the industry as its exploit and misuse will harm our profile - seriously.

The first who cashes out D3 money in USA to buy a bomb and explode it might shut down the whole game industry
I don't see how RMAH is more a "social disaster" than the gold ammo and gold tanks in World of Tanks.

People all the time whine after being killed that "damn l00ser gold ammo user" and "fkin Löwe".

Winners are going to adapt and losers are going to cry no matter the paying system.
I fully agree that pay to win is problematic in other cases as well. But in games like World of Tanks the money only goes one way, from the players to the company. It is a huge step change when money goes out again to players, and people start looking at their fellow players as "marks" or "victims" to be scammed.
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