Conference Call Comments on the RMAH

In our post about today’s Activision/Blizzard Conference Call, we made brief mention that the Real Money Auction House was discussed. Since this is right up his alley, our D3 Markets guy Azzure did more than briefly mention it; he listened to the call and wrote a post about the RMAH aspects of it. Here’s a quote:

Blizzard’s DiabloWikiMike Morhaime explained that the World of Warcraft Annual Pass was partly designed to bring in more players in to Diablo 3, which they expect will boost revenues generated by the RMAH. Mike and another chap (the CFO Thomas Tippl, sounds like the Terminator) also explained that they expect to generate high margins on the RMAH, and therefore want to expose as many players as possible to take part in that system.

To those who don’t know what that specifically means, it means they expect to generate a good ratio of revenue vs the operating costs associated with maintaining the RMAH (administrative costs, server costs etc). In other words, they expect the profits margins in the RMAH to be very high, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the actual amount of profit will be high. This isn’t surprising at all – micro-transactions have always been high-margin revenue streams due to their low operating costs and popularity.

Azzure goes on to say that more profits from the RMAH is a good thing for the Diablo 3 gamer, since Blizzard will ensure that the game remains popular, the economy active, and that bots and hacks don’t ruin things. So even if you don’t want to buy/sell for real money, the existence of the system works to your benefit.

You may find fault with that arguement, but consider… Blizzard was not going to support, for free, the much more actively-moderated Diablo 3 servers forever (D2 style). They had to get some continuing revenue, and if not the RMAH, what would you have preferred? An item shop? A monthly sub fee? Regular $5 DLC patches with new dungeons? Or do you think something else, or any of those would have been preferable to the economic corruption you feel the RMAH is sure to cause?

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43 thoughts on “Conference Call Comments on the RMAH

  1. I’m glad they chose to do the RMAH instead of DLC, monthly fee, etc.  That way it gives a choice to the community if they want to (basically) pay for D3.  If you want to give money (for items) then you can, if not you can play for free (after the game cost of course).
    I feel it adds a nice level to the game and is a lot safer than giving scammers money.

  2. Microtransactions have just recently hit the Western hemisphere led by companies like Nexon (MapleStory), and now Valve (TF2). Its no surprise that this is a mutually beneficial model since it provides the customer with more content, and the developer with more cash to produce that content, plus a tidy profit.
    Another model that Blizzard will be falling into is one similar to Project Entropia where you can buy ingame currency and then convert it back to real hard cash.
    Blizzard is a bit late to the party, but they know who’s there, who’s got the booze and what kind of music they’re bumping.

  3. That was one of the reasons why I support the RMAH is so that there wouldn’t worries of keeping the servers up. Although I don’t like how long it has taken to get things done I still do support the RMAH. I’ll farm gear and post it on the RMAH every once in a while.

  4. Paid DLC would be fine.

    Also, GuildWars is free to play and has been running 5 years, sustaining 5million players at one point (only a hundred thousand or so currently), through only an online in-game shop selling vanity items like pets and non-game-changing things like extra storage space, etc. It can be done without charging tons of fees.

    But since they insist on doing this, I just hope the fees are nominal, and they don’t hound people from all walks of earth into playing D3 just for the AH.

    • no freaking way. Paid DLC? seriously? that must be a joke. The only thing in diablo you should pay for is the game and the expansion. Not some new fancy dungeon
      RMAH is the best system we can have. They made the right choice to benefit them while benefiting the player (perhaps making money of items)

    • A shop with non-game changing features is an excellent idea and works very well in many other games, and could work just fine in Diablo as well. It has to be non-game changing, though. No dungeons, items, etc. So those who won’t pay don’t feel left out or at a disadvantage.

  5. What was wrong with making money off the game and expansion sales? Always looking for new and different ways to reach in our pockets.

    • Maybe it would be fair to amend that last thought to, “Always looking for new and different ways to reach in [ the pockets of those who have money to spare].”
      As long as it doesn’t fundamentally alter the experience for the rest of us, let the rich and lazy pay out as much money to Blizzard as they feel like.

  6. It’s understandable that Blizzard need more money than before. They have like 5 projects in work that need to be funded but it’s only WoW that give them constant money. D3 will be new way for them to earn some more money. At first I really hate RMAH but now i think it’s the best thing we can have. I don’t like DLC and Diablo’s store.

        • DLC as mini-expansion packs? I guess you could view it that way. But they’d have to be dirt cheap, or add a lot, to compare to an expansion pack.

          • Ill agree on that. I wouldnt want ‘horsearmor’ dlc either.
            I would want new areas, new classes, new game systems.
            Basically mini-expansions, just spread out more over time, to keep the game fresh and interesting all the time, instead of having 2 year droughts between expansions.

          • Yeah, I was thinking of 1/2 the content of a “proper” expansion for 1/2 the price in 1/2 the time…

  7. I don’t get when people say they would be fine with a subscription… for a non mmo game that won’t have frequent content updates! Even if there was a subscription. RMAH seems like the best option but we will never know. And i just can’t see DLC’s working with diablo… they just don’t fit.

    • Just as the RMAH has affected certain aspects of the game, so would the developers have fit the game to suit other payment methods.
      If you add monthly subscriptions you could easily add frequent content updates, because there’s the financial backing to keep people employed to do so. You think they don’t want to keep making Diablo a better and better game? They’d love to if they had the money for it.
      As for DLC, with a bit of creativity you can make anything fit with something. People would pay a lot of money for new dungeons and new bosses to kill. Hire an author to complete it with a story and you’d have very solid additions to the Diablo game.

      • It kinda follows by logic, imo, that if a game has a subscription, then it will also need to have frequent content updates.
        Otherwise its a rip-off.

        • Absolutely. That’s my number one reason for not at all minding subscriptions. More Diablo content? Yes, please!

  8. As a Single player gamer, I see it differently. It is the RMH that killed DIII’s offline option. Saying it needs to maintain the server isn’t going to make me feel better, as if I had it my way I would be plating DIII offline with no servers whatsoever.

  9. I don’t like the thought of a RMAH, mainly because I know I’d feel compelled to use it without really wanting to. Blizzard puts so much emphasis on “fun” decisions, so I’m surprised they don’t see that having to choose whether to sell a super rare item for money, or whether to wear it, is not a fun decision. If the price tag is high enough I know what I’d do, and I don’t want money affecting my Diablo experience in such a way.

    I feel a better solution to the server and game maintenance issues would be a shop with non-game changing features like in Guild Wars (as mentioned above by Such Violent Storms) or League of Legends. This way those who want those extra features can pay for it, while those who feel the original purchase price was enough won’t have to.

    Alternately a monthly subscription would have been fine with me, as I don’t mind paying people to keep my favorite game awesome. But I know a sizable part of the community is against this, so I feel the above solution would be better.

    I’m not a big fan of game-changing DLC, such as new dungeons, etc. I can’t say why I don’t like this when I don’t mind monthly fees, but there it is.

    • There’s nothing stopping you wearing/using your “super rare item” until you get a better one and then selling the old one (there’s no item binding in this game). Or you could just go HC where there is no RMAH at all.
      Remember that unless you pick the cash out option it just gold mark 1.5, in which case your have the same problem with the gold AH.

      • There is indeed nothing stopping me. But digital items hold no real world value to me, and as such being able to sell them for something with even as questionable real world value as money, I’d do it. I’m a student and I have bills to pay, if I find some near perfect rare item worth 50 bucks (just to throw some number out there), I’d sell it instead of wearing it, thus getting no satisfaction nor gratification out of getting that item.
        As for wearing it and selling it when I get something better, I anticipate the value of items to drop exponentially the first 6 months (not to mention the first month alone), as such the value of the item would decrease substantially by the time I get something better.
        It’s just not a situation I want to be put in, having to make a decision between wearing a digital item or cashing it out for cash to pay my bills. It will detract from my gaming experience, even if it might help me out with the month to month bills. I play games to have fun and relax, not to bother with such things as real world money.
        I’m not a hardcore player. Dying in hardcore does not constitute fun, nor relaxing, to me. And yes I am talking about cashing out on the RMAH, not merely selling and keeping it on blizzard’s bank account.

        • “But digital items hold no real world value to me…”
          If this were true you wouldn’t be having a problem with the heartbreaking decision you describe.
          I don’t get people’s obsession with claiming digital objects have no value… the value is the pleasure you gain from owning them, pretty much the same as a lot of physically tangible possessions.
          Digital items hold very little practical value (outside the game itself), which is quite different, and once again applies to probably 90% of the average first-world citizen’s possessions.

          • Well it’s likely true that I over exaggerated and should have said digital items hold little real world value, as opposed to none. This is further evidenced by me claiming I wouldn’t sell an item for 1 dollar, but give me 50 and I’ll consider it – which is precisely what I don’t want to have to do in the first place, consider it, that is.
            It’s hardly a heartbreaking decision, or even a big deal – I’ve long since accepted the inevitability of the RMAH and I’ve always embraced the good that will come with it in the form of server and game maintenance being covered financially for the lifetime of the game, as well as added incentive for Blizzard to keep the game fresh and interesting. The decision is, however, one that detracts from the fun and thrill of finding new items for me. Selling an item for cash just isn’t all that fun.
            Basically the point of my post was that I would have preferred if Blizzard had chosen an alternative method of making Diablo 3 long term financially viable, which is precisely what the OP called for. Sadly this seems to have gone mostly unnoticed in favor of repeated attempts to make light of my reasons for disliking the RMAH, as well as a general assault of semantics.

    • Well, non game changing can apparently mean many things, I personally don’t think that additional storage does not change the game in any way. Blizzard’s way of vanity items really are non game changing and as a result usually generate relatively low revenue. Sure hearing “sparkle pony generated millions of revenue” sounds cool, but I would guess that all the vanity items for WoW together would probably not even compensate for one month of the subscriptions.
      And besides, I doubt the reason for introducing the RMAH was choosing between those options, they have stated their reasons for the RMAH many times and those don’t go away if you choose DLC or subs instead. I have sympathy with arguments like “I may not have to do it, but I feel compelled to do it”, but the whole “I don’t want to sell the item but I feel like I have to and capitalism is staining my game” is really stretching it. Are you really saying that if you found an item that you know would be worth a certain amount of money (because RM trading will be going on no matter what) you would rather not be able to trade it legally instead of having the option to do so?
      I will not make D3 my job, I will play it to have fun and to make my characters better. If I find an item that I can sell for some bucks and decide that it’s not worth that much to me, I’ll sell it and feel good about it.

      • To me non game changing things mean anything that doesn’t give you a competitive edge in game, nor access to areas others don’t have access to. This includes, but is not limited to, items, gold and dungeons.
        Non game changing things could for example include vanity pets, alternative appearance of classes (hair, tattooes, whatever), remodeling of gear (in excess of dyes), different spell/ability appearance or color and of course the unavoidable increased stash size. The more appealing you make it, the more interested people will be. It would take development time, but so did the RMAH.
        As for from a financial standpoint, you can’t really compare it to WoW. WoW has millions of subscribers. Any additional source of income would be puny compared to that. The RMAH likely won’t make money of that sort, either. But it will pull in a healthy profit while covering server and game maintenance expenses. This is precisely what these extra purchasable features would do, without introducing real world finances to a computer game.
        Whatever they say I’ll always believe the RMAH was a way to find a steady income from a game they expect to have a long lifetime. It wasn’t about making millions, but about making diablo 3 long-term financially viable. That’s fair enough and I’m glad they did SOMETHING, since it means there will be money available to spend on server and game maintenance. I just wish they had gone with a different solution to the problem.
        I’ve never considered, nor will ever consider, illegally selling any items or characters in any computer game. But if the game developer is going to throw a legal, easy to use feature in my face that will earn me a few extra bucks for an ultimately useless digital item, I’ll seize that opportunity. I feel I’d be foolish to do anything else. If I had plenty of money to go around, I’d probably feel differently about it, since 50 bucks wouldn’t matter, just as 1 buck won’t matter currently. So it will really depend on item prices.

        “If I find an item that I can sell for some bucks and decide that it’s not worth that much to me, I’ll sell it and feel good about it.”
        That’s precisely the problem for me, I don’t want to have to make that decision when playing a game. It isn’t fun in any way. Nor would I feel good about making it, because either I choose to keep a digital item over selling it for money, which I’d feel foolish for doing, or I’d sell the item and deprive myself of the fun and satisfaction of having that item and using it.

        • You’re not alone Skyff.  I’m going to have to go full head in the sand to avoid looking up item values, but I know I will be too tempted once my first Inferno legendary or super rare drops.

          My hope is that the market gets absolutely flooded with awesome items, making them very cheap.  It will suck knowing someone can just buy 3 months of grinding time for $10, but at least I won’t have to make the use or sell decisions you discussed. 

          • “My hope is that the market gets absolutely flooded with awesome items, making them very cheap.  It will suck knowing someone can just buy 3 months of grinding time for $10, but at least I won’t have to make the use or sell decisions you discussed.”
            Absolutely. I’ve thought this to myself so many times, lol. Well said. I do believe it would be preferable to have low prices, even with that drawback. I’ve never much cared what items other people have, anyway, apart from those I regularly play the game with.

    • What kind of non-game changing features do you think would fit with a Diablo title? TF2 has the silly hats, other games have goofy pets and mounts etc. None of those really work with Diablo. Different colored angel wings like the ones offered in the CE? Personally I don’t even think those fit the mood of Diablo.

      I don’t think that adding new DLC content would work very well either. It would mess with the story line and really split players up. What if some of your friends buy the DLC and are off doing things that you can’t participate in because you didn’t get the DLC? that would suck, and could make you feel forced into buying content that you didn’t really want just because you need it to stick with your friends.

      I think the RMAH is really the best solution for a Diablo title. It’s centered around the in game economy AND gives the players the option of whatever level of participation they choose. I also don’t think that it ruins the “fun” of finding a really rare drop because even if you couldn’t easily sell it for real money, you still have to decide if you want to wear it or trade it for really high end items, or say the D2 currency equivalent such as 40 SoJ’s or 40 High Runes which would then allow you to buy whatever items you want/need. It’s really the same thing as long as you take whatever real money or “blizzard bucks” you make from D3 and reinvest it in buying more/new/different items in the RMAH.

      And on top of all of that, it gives you the option of cashing out whenever you want. So if you do happen to build up some good reserves of “blizzard bucks” and decide it’s time to quit playing to raise a kid or for whatever reason.. you have the option to pocket a little extra cash. And to quote Jimmy Fallon “who wouldn’t want more cash?”

      • That’s a very good point with the DLC content splitting up players, I hadn’t thought of that. Definitely not a desirable situation.
        As for non-game changing features, I can think of some, such as those few I suggested above. Alternative spell particles being my favorite, by a long shot. Particularly since I intend to start out with playing wizard, where I could imagine it would be more appealing than say, on the barbarian. If Blizzard were to actually pay creative people to come up with non-game changing features, I’m sure they could come up with a lot more and a lot better ideas than I ever could have. Naturally not everything will appeal to everyone, but as long as everything appeals to someone, that’s all that matters.
        From a financial point of view the RMAH is a brilliant move, and I don’t blame Blizzard for choosing to go with that solution, I just don’t like it personally. Cashing out when quitting or when excessively “rich” will definitely be nice, but I’d still prefer an alternative solution!

  10. I’d be happy with single player (no server/online hybrid mode) and LAN play with friends.  It is looking more and more like the conspiracy theories were true and Blizzard is forcing server based play (for even single player) just to funnel us toward pay to play schemes.

    • I sort of like the online only mode from a purely selfish point of view (shame on me!). I have no personal issues with having to be online, as I’ll only play Diablo 3 at home on my desktop PC, and my internet is very good, always on, and has no restrictions. How online only can be positive, is that it forces my friends to play it online (rather than offline with pirated versions), so I have more friends to play the game with, yay! 😀

      That said, I wouldn’t mind at all if it had an offline mode, as I can definitely emphasize with those who have lesser (or no) internet connections, or those that have to pay by the hour or the gigabyte.

  11. On the Annual Pass issue – I did it all for the guaranteed WoW MoP beta slot and Tyrael’s Charger. I was going to play both WoW and D3 anyway, probably with a 15/85% time split respectively. 

    My question to others: will you just play D3 over the next year, or will you play some other PC/console games here and there?

    • Hmm let’s see… Skyrim gets me to SWTOR with some AC Revelations mixed in, which takes me into Q1 of 2012 where ME3 and D3 are lurking.  Sadly, I will not be returning to Azeroth to play with Pandas.  (Been playing WoW on and off since launch so I am really sad about it.)

      • Meh I anticipate doing a quick WoW return for a month or two to play with Pandas, then quit again, just like the last expansion (although that wasn’t planned, just sort of happened). The game just isn’t fun to me once the leveling and gearing up is done. Wiping night after night for 5 more str, hit and crit on my boots? Nah. Not worth it. It’s sad because I really like the social aspect of WoW, there’s just nothing worthwhile to do after gearing up (I don’t care for WoW style pvp).

    • I will definitely be playing other games alongside, likely LoL with friends, as well as the odd Civ5 game, though Diablo 3 will dominate for a long time. I don’t anticipate playing other games than that until next summer, though. I always have more time in summer with no uni!

      I’ll also likely keep coming back to D3 for much, much longer than a year due to persistent characters – I can do something else for a month or two and my heroes are still there! Whee! Although starting from scratch several times on D2 was kind of fun…. But it did keep me away from the game for years at a time since I’d have to start all over again.

  12. Enable offline play, enable lan play, turn off the servers, no monthly fee, problem solved. Really, you’ll have much more fun with the game this way. Multiplayer is all just going to be horrible rushing, intentional or not.

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