Botting and the Diablo 3 Economy: Facts and Theories

It seems like fan concern about the spread of bots in Diablo 3 is reaching something of a critical mass, with more and more people complaining about the problem. I read some of a huge thread on the forums earlier today, but it was mostly just a mass of conflicting claims and accusations, without any real agreement on the core issues. So I’m trying to figure those out, and just get a handle on what’s going on with bots, how profitable they are, and what their effect is on the Diablo 3 economy.

This post is an early attempt at that, with a bunch of observations and a few theories about what and why and how. I’m looking for reader feedback and insight, whether you agree or disagree, since more data = more information and better ability to form a valid opinion. I’ll read over the feedback and try to form a consensus on the main issues.

Botting in D2 was about items.

Pindlebots and others did thousands of runs looking for the very valuable uniques and sets, and runes. Those were low probability drops, but eventually they’d come and the items could be sold for RMT by 3rd party sites.

Botting in D3 is about gold.

It’s easy to run a bot with a high level character in GF gear on Nightmare, MP10, with big +gold pickup radius. Doesn’t have to do anything special or even pick up any items; just kill monsters endlessly and vacuum up the gold. I’ve done some experimental runs on Hell, MP10, with about 300% GF and I easily made 200-300k an hour. And I wasn’t optimized for GF, or playing some real gold intensive area, or rushing through just to get gold, etc. So I’d assume several million a day, per account, is not at all hard for a full time gold farming bots. Obviously that’s going to add up pretty rapidly.

Read on for much more, and add your thoughts in the comments.

What does gold sell for?

I just checked via the RMAH, and 10m gold on US Softcore is $4.20. (Checked a couple of 3rd party sites and 10m gold was around $3.60, so it’s cheaper since you’re not giving up 15% to Blizzard’s cut.) Ignoring the math on Blizzard’s cut from GAH sales, a 100m item is worth about $42, a 500m item is worth $210 and a 1b item is worth about $420. The RMAH sales cap is $250, so basically anything on the GAH selling for more than about 600m is priced higher than the RMAH can go. (I’m sure the Bobby surcharge is throwing off my figures a bit, once you figure a transaction fee to turn $ into gold, and then using that gold to buy the item, so someone who actually does the math feel free to correct.)

Why is gold valuable in D3?

Gold is useful in D3 since there’s an RMAH built into the game, and thus the gold can easily be sold for real $$, without needing to do 3rd party sites. Players who want to get the best gear spend $ to buy gold, which they use in the GAH where the best gear is now 500m or more. So unlike D2, you can make money without finding items; you just sell gold. Obviously if the gold botters can sell the items also, they’re just getting their gold right back, so they can sell it again.

The gold botting is thus driving crazy price increases on top end gear, since there’s perpetually gold being generated by the botting, and the $ coming into the economy via the RMAH on gold keeps the cycle going. On the other hand, the prices for mid range and low end gear have fallen through the floor, so players can easily afford gear they couldn’t have bought otherwise. Unclear how much the botting is interacting with the v1.05 increased drop rates, which is driving the prices of everything lower since there’s so much more good gear being found these days.

Does the RMAH create the botting?

Not really. As D2 proved, black market economy would exist, but it would be somewhat more complicated, with all the hacks and viruses and rip offs and such. So players would sell items directly for $, or they’d charge $ for gold which could then be spent in the GAH.

If there was no AH at all, we’d just be back to D2 with the entire $ economy existing through 3rd party sites. That might cut down on gold botting, since it wouldn’t be as easily transferred into $, but it wouldn’t change the underlying issue, which is that people are willing to pay $ for items and will find a way to do so.

Is Blizzard Trying to stop botting?

Hard to say. Botting is illegal, a clear violation of the EULA and ToS, and any account found to be using a bot or any other 3rd party program can be deleted at once.

Is Blizzard doing that? Are they running scans to try to find botters? Most people think not.

Blizzard has announced some player bans, but the recent bunch was for players on the Asian realm using a UI-mod that had nothing to do with botting. Blizzard has announced some botting and cheating bans in D3, but the general feeling of most players is that botting is growing in prevalence, and it’s not clear if Blizzard can’t stop it or just isn’t making an effort.

Is Blizzard hurt or helped by bots?

This is the most debatable point as it relies on conjecture and hypotheticals.

More bots = more gold = higher prices in the GAH = more gold sold in the RMAH. At this point it’s basically impossible to farm enough gold on your own to pay those top prices. You can only raise that much gold by botting, or by getting lucky on a great item find which you sell (for gold that largely came from botting), or by buying it in the RMAH.

On the other hand, the sheer amount of gold is causing prices to go so high that lots of players feel the top gear is impossibly out of their price range, and that leads to frustration and players quitting. And that obviously hurts total item sales.

So botting is raising prices and spurring gold sales on the RMAH, which makes Bobby richer. However the high prices and general vibe of “people are cheating” is making some players quit, which makes Bobby unhappy.

The net result is… ? I dunno; curious to hear other opinions.


No conclusion here. Just looking for input and more theories. Add those, and if you think there are some other crucial botting issues I haven’t mentioned, do bring them up.

(Originally posted in the community forum; reply there or here.)

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32 thoughts on “Botting and the Diablo 3 Economy: Facts and Theories

  1. U said it all.
    Some d3 botter ll continue botting even if they get baned on an account. Because they make money and can get a new acount…

    • This. In any case quitting players only hurt Bliz to the extent of the loss of sales/purchases share/AH cut. They already paid for the game. If you ban botters, it is possible that they buy new accounts to maintain their volume of operations, thus paying again and generating revenues for Bliz.

      If, however, the player base massively dropped (but I have absolutely no idea of the current population), less transactions would occur and botting would possibly be less profitable.

      It is kind of a win-win situation, as in Blizzard wins twice.

      • All of the above- this. And the conclusion is greed makes the world go around and not in a good way. If I ever meet a botter, I will take a pipe to their legs.

        Blizz could be doing more. Seriously, how many accounts can have a trillion gold. Its so obvious.

        What fosters this situation is their lie that the AH was never intended to be a significant income source to the company or whatever BS they said months ago. If they fixed the drops and overhauled crafting this would help the situation.

  2. I don’t disagree, but in Diablo 2 the reason people botted items was because it was the most efficient way to get currency (SoJs, High Runes mainly) by trading large quantities of items for tradable items (Perf Gems, SoJs, forum gold on d2jsp).

    I didn’t know anyone who bought or sold via 3rd party sites in Diablo 2, that trend really kicked off in WoW days; whereas there was a small group of people dedicated to selling items for real money in D2 the game itself presented most players with options enough that they never needed to go to a real money site.

    The only items in Diablo 2 worth actually buying were stupidly amazing rares which were literally a once in a lifetime moment.

    Bots didn’t find these all the time, especially early bots, whereas now they would grab em.

    The fact is this: Since D3 itemization sucks (boring, bad, not balanced and too random for “legendary” items) and gold is used for every single thing in the game from trading to crafting; bots are used to make “sales” whereas before bots were used to make “trades.”

    The difference being, because items didn’t have random properties (only varying values) for runewords/uniques/sets it meant a solid baseline for prices that players could quickly understand. A perfect Skullder’s Ire was worth more than a non-perfect one, a really good unique might be worth X sojs, but the runeword in same slot is worth X+Y SoJs because it is better, and a godly rare is worth untold amounts because it is more difficult to find.

    There are multiple reasons why Diablo 3 itemization failed and has created a giant inflated pile of crap called the Auction House.
    Namely Legendary items are far too random and have no differences between them and the rares.
    They roll with useless stats…and at low values.
    Legendary items are too few and far between.
    Legendary items can be better than even the best rare.

    What they need to do is fix legendary/set itemization, make them worse overall (less power but more unique), more static, and more of them at level 60.

    That way the auction house and players would have a solid baseline to compare their rares against, and create a real economy.

    Currently the AH is just a bunch of random hawkers shouting over one another without having any price guide to go to. So people put their goods up at wild prices hoping it will sell. This isn’t a good way to do an auction system, but because of the terrible itemization there is no helping it.

    • You know people are drunk on nostalgia when they wax on about how much better botting was in D2 than in D3.

      • It is funny, because botting is what made the game great. People had items, MFed, PvPed, made crazy builds that managed to work, did things which would otherwise not be possible.

        D3 is just getting to that stage a little bit…but alas nobody has options unless they bot or get stupid lucky.

        I’d love to build a super fast attack monk, but I don’t have 500 million to spend on the gear.

        In my opinion need about 50000000000x more bots running for the game to become fun.

    • i had a few buddies who made several hundred dollars by selling items on 3rd party sites…. before the huge emergence of d2jsp, there was definitely places to sell your items for real life cash, and many did.

  3. Cap the ah maximum sale limit at 50million gold per item! not these ridiculous billion items we see these days that only the rich with a checkbook/rich daddy can afford by buying the gold straight from the botters!

    Blizzard is actually promoting botting and gold selling .. and why would they ban them? its like banning their most profitable players?!?

    • that would kind of be silly honestly, as players gold stashes increases. if they put a cap of 50 million per item sold, people would still end up saving up hundreds of millions of gold, and then they’d end up going to forums or 3rd party sites in search for people selling items for more money than that… because frankly, 50 million gold is not that hard to get.

  4. I’m not going to go into lots of details in this comment, but I have two side notes for people to think about:

    1) For people who farm a lot, there is a clear way to see how much botting is going on where the bot only collects gold and does not farm high-end items. Namely, the Staying Gold/All That Glitters/Spoils of War/The One Percent set of achievements measures how much gold you have picked up. For me, that is about 30 million gold found right now (maybe add 2 or 3 million from vendoring items). If you compare that to the value of the items you looted, you will find that value to be massively higher. In my case, a Witching Hour belt, two Immortal Kings armors, a Manticore, a well-rolled Skull Grasp and +78 resist all Strongarm Bracers to name a few, which add up to over 500 million gold.
    But the value of the items you looted CAN’T be that much more than the amount of gold you find. After all, the amount of gold that drops in the time it takes to find these items is way less than the amount of gold being spent on these items.
    Or to put it another way. Say a million people all farm until they find one super-awesome item. On average, they will have found about 10 million gold or so before they found the item. If they now all put their items up on the auction house, there are 1 million awesome items for sale and there is a total of 10 million million gold to spend on it. That means the average price of these items cannot be more than 10 million gold, because there simply isn’t any more gold in existence.

    One explanation is that almost nobody sells their items on the AH, so the rare person who does put it up will find the item being scooped up by someone who has already found 10 awesome items for self-use and has picked up 100 million gold along the way. But not only would it be absurd to assume so many people have collected hundreds of millions of gold without selling on the AH, we also know from polls on this very site that most people dó sell stuff on the AH.

    Another explanation would be that most people are stacking gold find and ignoring magic find completely. However, not only does this make no sense and clash with the things people say, paragon leveling will have flattened out more and more of this effect over the past weeks, with every level giving 3% gold find ánd magic find.

    So that leaves us with only one conclusion. Even if we ignore the 15% fee on every transaction and the other gold sinks (like repair costs), this still means that at a price of over 100 million for high-end items, at least 90% of all the gold in the economy is being farmed in places where no high-end items drop. In other words, botting territory.

    2) The fact that ‘ok’ items are pretty much worthless and the fact that gold prices are way higher that the amount of gold you can find with normal play are clearly signs of a broken economy and botting gone crazy. But are they actually bad for the play experience? Because think about what this actually means for loot?

    It means the huge majority of items you find is pretty much worthless and gold is close to worthless. But what you are looking for is that one awesome item, which will make you rich (and thus powerful) beyond your wildest dreams. You can no longer get the best items by simply saving up money run after run and then buying stuff on the AH better than anything you could have found yourself. The only way to get an awesome item is to FIND an awesome item. True, unless it happens to be an item you can use, it will still involve a trade where you sell it and then use the money to buy the item you want. But doesn’t that remind you of something?

    Isn’t this exactly the way it was back in Diablo 2? You were always searching for that one awesome item. That Windforce or Grandfather (or later, that ber or jah rune). Non-rare items that were awesome like wizardspike or guadian angel sold for a pittance, if at all, and even semi-rare awesome items like a Harlequin’s crest could get you just a fraction of the high-end prices. You could save up flawless gems, upgrade them to perfect and sell those in bluk, but that was just marginal stuff. If you did enough of it, it added up, but the one epic item is what you needed. And when you did find it, you knew it meant instant awesomeness. If not because it was what you needed, then because you could trade it for a fixed value (in SoJs or later runes) for the item you really wanted.

    Now, in diablo 3, you no longer collect perfect gems, SoJs or runes, but you collect gold. However, the basic idea is the same. Scrape up lots and lots of tiny bits to buy something good eventually, or hunt for that one 500 million gold item that will give you everything you want. (and is also worth 100 dollars if you prefer that).

    One of the main complaints early in the game’s life was that you never found an upgrade, because you could easily get the best items on the AH at an insanely low price. Now that we have come to a point where you can’t get the most epic items off the AH for a low price, people are complaining that these items are impossible to buy and the only viable way to get them is actually to find them yourself.
    When everything is cheap on the AH, people complain; now that it’s actually expensive enough that finding items is worthwhile again, people complain about that. Make up your minds!

    • “One of the main complaints early in the game’s life was that you never found an upgrade, because you could easily get the best items on the AH at an insanely low price. Now that we have come to a point where you can’t get the most epic items off the AH for a low price, people are complaining that these items are impossible to buy and the only viable way to get them is actually to find them yourself.
      When everything is cheap on the AH, people complain; now that it’s actually expensive enough that finding items is worthwhile again, people complain about that. Make up your minds!”

      Basically, most people want to be able to get awesome gear for themselves easily while everyone else doesn’t, or to be able to find gear that’s worth a lot. They probably thought that the AH would make their life easier (& it has to an extent, it’s fairly easy to search the AH for gear with certain mods or to list gear for sale), but now they’re finding that everybody else also wants to get rich quick & so the best gear is being listed for stupid prices. Supply/demand will also be pushing the prices of the best gear up (limited supply, growing demand & that demand grows faster as people level alts faster with gear bought from the AH).

    • And this brings us to the conclusion: people want to hate D3 and it’s economy because they have to WORK ALOT for the best items.

  5. Playing AH nets me more gold than playing the game – and I’m not even flipping/botting/etc. (Yes, it’s because I don’t play well :p).

    Based on what you said, having GF and playing on high mp nets more gold than playing on inferno. That’s weird… That also means I should be rage-vendor my mules and do Hell GF runs, since anything that don’t sell fast for at least 50k = trash.

    Now I’m thinking in vendoring my garbage and do hell GF runs (or at least have one of my 9 lvl 60 chars geared to do that). Problem is: what’s gonna happen with the mid-level gear? It will vanish from GAH? What’s gonna be the entry level of AH in a month or so?

    Imo, the way the whole thing (nerf/buff + AH + bots) is chain reactioning can actually harm this game.

    Also, I think you forgot mentioning that the price drops of the “ok 70k-ish dps char” gear, making the process of gearing a bot very easy. Anyone that wants to start botting – even unefficiently – can gear up a char to do so for cheap. The not so efficient war against bots + ban waves are starting to create a mentality that bots=free money. I bet people that didn’t botted on D2 are botting/considering the idea on D3, since you don’t need to start a weird looking black market web site to make money.

  6. Bottom line for me: D2 (before rampant botting/duping went unchecked) was fun and addicting. D3 (with GAH, RMAH, and gold-botting) has led to a gold-based inflationary economy where the best items are bought, never found. This equals a reward-less grind of repetitious content.

    This *can* be fixed, and should before it collapses in on itself. Blizzard (the bean-counters mainly) probably love the dollar signs, but this simply isn’t sustainable. Of our four-man crew, no one plays anymore. I was SO hyped during development; I hate what this game has turned out to be.

  7. Gold botters effectively make farming for gold from drops not viable for buying gear. You need to get drops to sell on ah, then use that gold to buy items. My profile says I have picked up 50 million gold, but I know I have spent over 250 million on gear for my character since release. Reselling my old gear has always been at a huge loss. I don’t play the ah, I play the game and am pretty unlucky generally speaking. You don’t even need high end gear to farm effectively, so I don’t see the game collapsing.

    As long as the bots cannot add rares/legendaries to the item pool, players should remain unaffected. Someone out there is buying all that botted gold and spending it. You just need to find an item they want to buy.

  8. I don’t understand why it is so impossible for Blizzard to catch the bots. I’d, like viruses, they keep changing and becoming tougher to stop. But I would think there are still a number of indicators that could be used to at least identify accounts requiring greater scrutiny. There are so many differences between the way a human would play vs a bot I’d think. Humans do not type their password at exactly the same rate every single time. Humans do not usually play the exact same zone, taking the exact same route, every single time. Most humans do not ignore all items on the ground, no matter what they are, and pick up only gold. Humans occasionally look at their inventory, or go to town to vendor stuff/upgrade gems/etc – bots likely do not. Humans occasionally look at their skill tree and check out new skills. Bots likely do not.

    • You might be right that Blizzard could scan for suspicious activities but on the other hand every “normal human behavior” you described can easily be done by bots as well. Having random pauses between keystrokes, varied routes, accasionally pick up items and sell them, check inventory, etc. Its really not a big deal to add these faetures if it became necessary.

      Blizzard has no chance to get rid of bots entirely, it is hundreds of thousands motivated botters versus one profit-oriented organisation. All they can do is struggle a bit and make some good PR about it, just like they did in D2.

  9. Semi-OT, but this is why I stay away from the AH completely: so this kind of crap doesn’t affect me. The ENTIRE point of Diablo 3 is “kill things and find loot.” Why in the world would I circumvent that and just buy equipment? When you take loot finding away, there’s nothing left to the game.

    I’ll keep my own economy in a vacuum, thank you very much. Now if Blizzard would just give us the ability to start new characters with 0 gold and level 1 artisans, I’d be thrilled.

  10. lol ppl what you talking about? they even cant repair report spam feature and you talking about find botters?

  11. How about everyone thinks there are a massive number of botters while … just in … reality … this game is being played by a LOT of people on just … 3 centralised AH’s….

    DO you know that the region wide AH in D3 is MORE than 1.000 times bigger than any WOW single server AH ???

    You DO know that don’t you ?

    It leads to some VERY weird situations. I can buy X Legendary for 100K Gold … and sell it mostly within an hour for … (hold on ) triple that amount….

    How is that possible ?

    Simple: Xfire samples shows that D3 activity in the west is around 60% of WOW players. If you would relate that to WOW it would mean D3 has around 2 million WESTERN players.

    That’s … 1 million possible players per ONE AH/RMAH..

    Get the picture already: those aren’t massive bots, that’s simply the mechanics of having 1 million people playing on ONE AH.

    Do you even have an idea what 1 million is like ???

    And please don’t come up with that ridiculous number of 500 public games open (those are NEWLY formed public groups only, not filled ones, no solo players, no private friends players and no AH players…)

    My guess is that the VAST majority of players leads to such feeling of “there are SOOOOO MANY products offered, it must be by botting.” Nope it is the consequence of ONE GIANT central AH …

  12. Right now I’d be happy if the let me remove gold spam from my inbox. Surely delete message/block user has to be an easy function to fix.

  13. You state that a bunch of Asia players got banned a while ago for using a UI mod. Link to source / explain exact what this was please? Haven’t read anything about it, interested in what they were doing.

  14. I don’t think gold botting affects regular players very much. I think it only affects ultra casual types who don’t play enough to really ever find a good drop. These players think that saving up gold drops should buy them drops in the .000001% range, I mean c’mon, really? Isn’t it enough that collecting gold for a couple hours will let you buy a .001% item?

    The AH essentially allows you to do trading using a middle man medium, playing enough that you find drops you don’t want to convert into gold that you use to buy loot you do want is pretty efficient.

    For example, I found a dead mans legacy with good rolls that I sold for 80m. I turned that 80m into an Weapon, Source, and Boots for my wizard and went from 70k to 100k dmg.

    It almost doesn’t matter if botting made that dead mans worth 80m where if no bots existed it would have only been worth 40m. I essentially got fair trade for the item, because the values for other items were equivalently affected.

  15. Honest question here: What does Blizzard do with the 15% it collects from the GAH? Any conspiracy theories?
    I hate that I have to have hundreds of millions of gold to get the gear that I want. I sold a socketed Skorn (1356 DPS, forgot affixes) for 150 million and I still looked longingly at the Witching Hour I really wanted or the socketed Chantodo’s Will I needed to make my wizard the man I could never be. Alas, this is the game and you know what? I still love it! Until things change I keep hoping against hope that when I see that beautiful beam of light rising amidst the demons and beasts I have slayed in that enchanting plain brown lettering (or green) “two-handed sword” or “Wand”. Blizzard you had me at 1.0.1 🙂

  16. Blizzard sells the gold they collect from the GAH on the RMH is my guess. I don’t know what happens to the HC gold but it probably just gets moved over.

    Here is the thing, botters in D2 made things cheaper over time, so you know, if you found an SoJ, easily done with a few hours of time and good MF gear by farming NM Andariel, then you could get pretty much anything else on trade, almost certainly botted, and maybe even duped, but you could afford to get a Titan’s Revenge, or TGods (two items I loved), heck you could get Witchwild for perfect gems or an Um rune.

    Botters doing gold runs is a whole different story, it means I will never be able to afford a Windforce because the price keeps going up. A decent, not not so close to perfect one is like 70 million gold. Hold on a moment lol, I have played quite a bit granted I am an altaholic so my wealth is spread between HC and SC and I haven’t gone to Inferno yet, but I only have about 2 million. I will be done with this game (it’s not as enduring as D2), long before I can afford one of those.

    They have inflation, that’s what the D3 bots have brought in, gold prices have gone down I understand, if you want to buy it, but item prices have gone up accordingly. I liked the D2 bots, they got me nice stuff to use for all of my characters for a reasonable price, I hate the D3 bots because now I can never have anything nice.

  17. The abundance of items on the AH is not necessarily a sign of botting, as someone has pointed above.

    The ridiculous prices are also not a sign of botting. In fact, there is a pretty simple explanation for outrageous listings: there is NO cost to listing an item multiple times for very high prices. In WoW you pay an AH listing fee regardless of whether the item sells or not. If you list it many times for prices that will never fetch a buyer, you lose gold. In D3 you only pay the fee on successful transactions.

    Want to fix the inflation problem? It’s simple: just have a 2.5% (other percentages may work too) listing fee on all GAH listings, regardless of whether they sell. This will bring the prices to equilibrium in a matter of weeks.

  18. What blizzard needs to do is start putting a tight leash on gold income. Gold/hour etc. Based the limit on what one person can farm by themselves (experiments) and take out gold boosting buffs from the game altogether.

    Prices in the auction house will go down when nobody has that much gold anymore and people who farm legitimately can finally match the bots.

    Something would have to be done to the already existing gold though. Maybe convert it to some new currency. There would be pain in the community but it would be for the best I think. They need to find a way to redesign the economy to make it worthwhile.

  19. On a trading forum once I had a chat with a gold seller about dropping the price on gold. I was saying that eventually gold would be dirt cheap if they kept it up. I guess I was being naive. I thought they were getting the gold legitimately but really, they have an infinite supply. Still, they are killing prices. Would be much better if things were as they should be. Imagine individuals IRL being able to print their own money. Yeesh

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