Diablo III’s DRM and RMT Spawn much Gaming Commentary

There’s been a lot of online commentary about Blizzard’s Real Money Trading Auction House system and their online-only requirement with D3. We’ve posted a fair amount of it already, but here are a few more insightful takes on the situation.

One getting a ton of coverage the past couple of days comes from id Software’s Tim Willits, who looked at Blizzard’s system for D3 thought it was wonderful.

“If you have a juggernaut, you can make change. I’m all for that. If we could force people to always be connected when you play the game, and then have that be acceptable, awesome.”

A lot of commenters agree with him, and whether they approve or not a lot of people see D3’s online-only requirement as the tip of a spear aimed at the heart of our old-fashioned notions of actually owning a game. We’ll get to keep buying games, of course, but we’ll essentially be renting them; only able to play online via the game seller’s service. Game devs love the idea, of course, (though few have been as bold as the id guy to admit it) since it’s a great way to fight the rampant piracy that has been killing PC game sales for years.

That concept, that “Blizzard has broken the ice on something big” shown up in a lot of other pieces.

This one on Fast Company talks about the impact legitimate RMT game transactions will have on item farmers around the world. Playing Diablo 3 for twelve hours a day to earn $10 isn’t a viable activity for many of us, but that’s actually a pretty good wage for a day’s work in a lot of the world. Especially in a job that doesn’t require you to carry a huge stack of bricks on your head. And with D3 poised to legitimize/legalize RMT item sales, D3 may become an actual job creator in a number of third world countries.

Click through to read several more takes on these issues. Most of these writers and developers (and many others I’ve read but didn’t link in this post) take the view that D3 is going to be a huge hit despite these features, that lots of forum noise from hardcore fans is meaningless, and that it’s futile to resist the inevitable, inexorable, online-only, RMT-everything, brave new gaming world D3 is ushering in.

A blog post on Forbes does not cover Diablo III, but shares interesting info from a huge survey of consumer spending habits in online games. It turns out that women spend more money on virtual goods, and that such spending is growing across the board.

According to the study, nearly one-third (31 percent) of the general gamer population has used real world money to purchase virtual content. Of those gamers who use real world money, 57 percent said they make purchases of virtual items using real world money at least once every month. Console games with online play account for the majority (51 percent) of virtual purchases using real world money, with social networking games (30 percent) and Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs) coming in at second and third respectively.

…Forty-eight percent of the general gamer population said they have purchased in-game currency over the last 12 months, with maps and levels (aids and extensions of games) coming in at second with 47 percent, and armor and equipment third at 29 percent.

The cynical stereotype of online games is that they (we) complain bitterly about gold farmers, item sellers, leveling services and all that stuff… while buying it on the sly. In discussing this issue with a lot of site readers in recent weeks, a number of them have confessed to me that they’ve bought items or other services with real cash money, and that they’re sure none of their friends know it. In almost every instance the justification offered was real life busyness crashing into the insurmountable mountain of the hours of grinding required to obtain the items or chars they wanted to have fun with.

Our next vote will attempt to address this issue, while giving those of you perhaps weighed down by guilty consciences a chance to anonymously share your deepest gaming secrets.

Lum the Mad offered a post that falls somewhere between disgust and envy.

As a game developer, I can see Blizzard’s logic behind this move. There’s obviously plenty of a market for RMT transactions, and in the long term a clear benefit over and above the strictly financial in channeling them into an outlet controllable by people who at least theoretically have the game’s best interests at heart. And given that it’s similar to a system I had designed for a free-to-play title, that makes it even more difficult to argue against!

But as a player – I have no interest to pay to win. At all. For me the ideal F2P experience is one offered by titles such as Lord of the Rings Online – one where I can play on or off at a whim, and occasionally dig into my wallet for conveniences such as a horse or such, but never feeling as though I was missing a huge chunk of the game play by keeping my wallet in my pocket. Explicitly pegging the in-game currency to a real-world analog (the implication of Diablo III’s announcement) – well, that certainly is a fairly huge chunk of game play to bypass.

Is this a good decision? For Blizzard’s business, yes. For Blizzard’s design, yes. For Blizzard’s players? Probably not, though the actions of people who can’t resist the immediate gratification of RMT make it inevitable.

The most interesting thing about his post was the link on “pay to win” which goes to a great GDC presentation by Ben Cousins, the General Manager of EA’s “Easy” F2P division. As you might guess, their games, such as Battlefield Heroes, are free to play, but not free to win at. As the presentation relates, their initial pay plays, selling more outfits and such, were insufficient to cover costs, and it wasn’t until they were desperate that they started selling better items, which created a huge firestorm of fan outrage, yet proved quite profitable.

It’s an interesting dynamic; the people in the forums raise hell at each new RMT innovation in their games, but 1) the majority of their players never use the forums, and 2) active forum users, despite all of their complaining, actually spend much more $ than the average user. The presentation is embedded below; it’s very informative, and if you’re opposed to the creep towards pay to win, you’ll find it chilling.

Paying To Win

View another webinar from Ben Cousins

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40 thoughts on “Diablo III’s DRM and RMT Spawn much Gaming Commentary

  1. Was out of the loop for the last two weeks so – is there anything planned to kind of ‘mark’ or ‘tag’ bought items via (RM)AH so that it’s easier to tell if someone has paid to win and can instantly be kicked out of the game?

    • The idea that RMAH is less-fair than a client-side 3rd party transaction in the days of D2 is ludicrous.  We have been playing in an era where (as someone recently mentioned) there are thousands of Windforce Bows in-game.  The top elite unique gear is compromised and a change is needed.
      Paid to win – I assume you are talking in the arena.  The pay to win (PTW) player could have just as easily spent gold for an item on the gold AH.  The PTW player in a D2 environment would have just as quickly bought the item off of a 3rd party dupe site.  Let us not forget that by having an online-only environment, the item would have existed in-the-wild and the character could have traded for it.
      Good luck in the arena Zed…

      • The issue is, the D2 single player community was largely that because we had some control on those things. Playing SP is a way to avoid all those who have “paid to win” or traded for duped gear etc.  The tightly knit community avoided that stuff because it was undesirable.  The fact that it is “no worse” than online D2 is an issue because we didn’t like the online D2 community, and are being deprived of the right to have an alternative, and imho it’s certainly no better.  For me, too, it’s not just the arena- I don’t care if I and some guy who have paid for epic gear can get through boss runs faster than me and a guy who came by his stuff legitimately, I’d rather play with the guy who is legit.  Thus, knowing who is and is not is a desirable feature.  And please, don’t pretend that acquiring excellent gear and trading for different excellent gear is the same thing as shelling out $40 for 1/1000000 drops which drastically decrease the difficulty of the game.

        • Please, enlighten me.  How does anything that you just said differ from playing by yourself online?  You will never experience any of the negatives that you just listed if you open the game, hop online, and enter a password protected game by yourself.  

          I’ll tell you how it differs… EVERY one of my friends that was running a toon offline was running a TRAINER, which basically gave them all the items and gold that they could ever wish for.  What you lose by playing online is cheating/modding.  If that is your game, I hear Torchlight 2 is just around the corner…

  2. Ladly this site looks more of a Diablo 3 diss site than a Diablo 3 fansite. Posting all the negative articles en promoting other RPG games.

    • Um… what about any of these articles or my comments in this post are negative?  They’re all positive or neutral. (If perhaps slightly evocative in my weaponized imagery *cough*)

      The id software guy is quite obviously a big fan of the D3 DRM system, and the others are objective evaluations of the likely financial impact of D3’s RMT Auction House. The presentation at the end is by a developer who saved his job by turning his game into a pay to win model, and is an enthusiastic fan of the system.  And most commenters agree that Blizzard’s new DRM and RMT are going to be big successes that will allow lots of other games to follow the same path.

      You’re free to dislike that, (I do) but it doesn’t make reporting on it a “Diablo 3 dis.” Though not reporting on it would be a disservice to our readers.

      • I think its great that we have a site that isnt just fluffing Blizzard before the eventual release but actually providing real content that isnt just a regurgitated press release.
        Well done.

    • If you want only fluffy bunny news then you should stick to a fawn site.  If you want all the news and you get to choose what you do and do not read then stick around.

  3. seems as if they’re running out of real news… my eyes are aching at some kind of rubbish news like this and the last ones… a site doesn’t identify itself out of the most “news” posts per day… I thought.

  4. How are third world country people going to pay for internet and compatible computers to make their 10 dollars a day? Me thinks third world countries would rather eat instead of pay for hi-speed internet.. lol

    • I remember hearing the bandwidth for Diablo 3 is so small it can be handled by a dial-up connection, which third world countries can afford.
      As for the computers, the requirements to play this game won’t drastically change over time, I’m sure the minimum specs for this game will be a 700 dollar computer or less. Not only is that affordable, but any extra money you make while playing this game will pay that off over the 10+ years we all plan to play this game.

    • Sorry, I just assumed that the ubiquity of gold farming from 3rd world countries was so well established in common knowledge that I didn’t need to cite any links. Check out the wikipedia article for dozens of citations to scholarly and journalistic studies of the phenomena. There are hundreds of thousands of full time gold farmers in China alone, and its’ very common across much of Asia.


      Computers and internet connections cost very little in poor countries. Things we pay hundreds for in the West cost dollars elsewhere, and labor costs are virtually nil, compared to our standards Much of the world lives in less than a dollar a day.

  5. Please get your facts straight:
    >> Game devs love the idea, of course, (though few have been as bold as the id guy to admit it) since it’s a great way to fight the rampant piracy that has been killing PC game sales for years. <<
    It’s not about piracy, it’s about drying out the market for resales. Also piracy has never cost any sale. On the opposite it’s been found out that the normal pirate is buying more products than average. Thus there are more sales with piracy than there would be without…

    • That’s horseshit.  “Piracy leads to increased sales”  You actually believe that?  Are you suggesting that decreased piracy of a game is simply a nice side effect of DRM?  That developers have never sat around and pondered over the 4 million downloads of their game and possibly how that might have converted to a bit of cash had it not been readily available and crackable to a decent degree?

      Some people may try before they buy but more will try and not buy because a) they don’t like the game, b) they’ve played through the single player and they’re done or even c) found a private server that lets them play some semblance of MP with their friends and they’re happy enough with that.  Motivated by either saving money or not having the money in the first place or they simply don’t like paying for shit if they can get it for free.

      It’s all about sales.  Sales from stopping people getting it for free and sales by locking people into their new social communities (steam, battle.net).

  6. I don’t understand this idea that items from the RMAH are somehow tainted over others. Let’s say for example that after my evening of strangling imps I find I have an extra 1,000 gold in my pocket to burn so I decide to go look for some Handwraps of Imp Strangling within my price range. I see that on the GAH there is a set being sold for 500 gold, and on the RMAH a comparable set is going for $0.45. Since I keep abreast of the market trends I know that I can easily get that $0.45 at the current gold/$ exchange rate for 450 gold. 450 < 500, so I take the better deal. But wait, now I’m seen as a pay-to-win loser instead of a honest, hardworking imp-strangler who earns his gear through the sweat of his mouse-clicking finger!

    Is the RMAH a vehicle for Blizzard to extract extra revenue from the franchise? Hell yes it is! It is one I fully support because I want Activision Blizzard executives to see Diablo as a franchise worth sinking time and money in. They could have generated this revenue through monthly fees, but they found a way to do it that doesn’t put a finger on my own wallet, but will instead extracts dollars from the subset of the community who is willing to throw money at them by their own free will.

    • first of all your “trading-cleverness” would have been redudant if there was no RMT to begin with.
      2nd. “But wait, now I’m seen as a pay-to-win loser instead of a honest, hardworking imp-strangler who earns his gear through the sweat of his mouse-clicking finger!
      exactly after all its a Game i think its utterly ridiculous to pay for imaginary goods generated out of nothing. and at this point iam no longer open for debate at all. maybe you can find clever analogies or arguments which make it seem not “soo” bad or acceptable as opposed to an imaginery alternative; like 3rd party scamms etc.
      but after all it will always boil down to the fact that  you pay for imaginary goods which are endlessly quantifiable and have no measurable worth in the real world. except what people are irrationally willing to pay for it.
      and honestly i dont want to have to do anything wtith this farce . and since Blizzard denies us non-RMT servers because it would be bad for business i will only play hardcore- and play this GAME – i think all games are meant to be played.
      and no Blizzard could not just have plugged a monthly fee to d3  because it would also cost them players. i for once know that i would not bothered with d3 if it had a monthly fee. and just because some people are dumb enough to willingly shove money into the DIablo RMT(AH) cycle it does not make it legit in my eyes.

  7. I was eagerly looking forward to buying/playing this D3 game, but if D3 *requires* you to be online before you can play D3 on your computer, I’m sorry, I’m not buying this game.
    I’ll stick with Diablo II Expansion instead.
    (This goes for any computer game with this mandatory internet connection requirement.)

  8. Not surprised that id would latch on to crap behavior.
    It would allow them to make Daikatana 2 without having to worry about piracy or sales since nobody would be able to return the game  (until the game was actually released and cracked, that is).

  9. The always-online model is beyond disappointing…surely there is a way they can build this game, without requiring us to be “online slaves” to their system?
    Latency, server outages, unwanted advertising, ISP outages, lack-of-connection…and the other points have been made over and over :: are all reasons that the always-online model is unacceptable.
    I have been a rabid visitor to this site (and the Blizzard D3 forum) every damned day for over two years – including during the ten days that I was in the Caribbean on my honeymoon! (Am I a loser, or what?)
    But I will not be buying this game with the DRM intact.  I deserve better.  We all do.

  10. I have been vocal in the other threads about wanting an offline mode, even though I don’t have a big problem with always online.  However, at this stage, now that they have told us Diablo 3 is client/server based, we need to just come to grips with this and move on.  There is very little chance that Blizzard is going to change this requirement, since they see this as the only way to prevent people from being able to cheat with the RMAH.  Many of us disagree with them on this point, as they could completely remove the AH from the offline game, so no one would be able to figure out how to hack it, but this isn’t going to happen (at least anytime soon).

    Look, Diablo 3 looks amazing and I think most of us agree on that point.  However, I think Blizzard has made some choices that will keep it from having the long-term appeal of Diablo 2.  For one thing, with the game tied to our battle.net accounts, there will be no reason to ever purchase a second copy of the game.  I don’t know about you guys, but I have bought D2 and the D2X four or five times over the years, at least.  This revenue stream is gone, so Blizzard will have to attract new users over the long haul to make up for what has been a fairly good sales volume over the years.  Another short-sighted choice is capping the number of Diablo 3 characters to 10.  If that number sticks, then they have shot themselves in the foot, because that alone will destroy many people’s reason to keep playing this for multiple years.  Expansions might drive us back to level up beyond 60, but with no new slots to play new class types, well, you can easily see how this is going to be frustrating to players.

    At the end of the day, we aren’t going to change their minds, they don’t care what fans think about these things.  Blizzard has made some of the best games around, so maybe they know things we don’t, but only time will tell.  I Just want them to release the game already!!!

  11. “And with D3 poised to legitimize/legalize RMT item sales, D3 may become an actual job creator in a number of third world countries.”

    Although it may sound nice and viable, I doubt this will be the case… At least not in the following 5 years…

    – I shall explain… Using D3 and playing well can earn you money… You have two options, virtual bnet money or real real money… In the case of our “job creator” case, it has to be the real real money… Thing is, some of these “third world” countries don’t have access to PayPal or other net money transaction systems… And for the regular person it’s going to be quite hard and tedious to actually get the money itself, so many will feel discouraged… So unless more sites open their services to more countries, this is likely not going to be true.

    – The second reason is the always online factor, summed with the actual cost of the game… The game itself costs around 60 $us, which is already unafordable for many, and plus, you need a good connection to even play, lest you want to be kicked just before you get that amazing leet gear you were to sell… So that means that it requires both an instant investment (60 $us) and a monthly investment (Internet, which in my case is 45 $us monthly)… Those that actually need the job the most can’t even think of investing such ammounts for attempting to make money out of a game… People will simply not have the guts to invest that much…

    (On a side note: I believe that the last is the reason there will be many piracy attempts for D3… Of course some people pirate stuff because they simply don’t want to waste money and just that… but others, like many people I know, buy pirates because they have no other choice… Its either that or not getting the game at all… And now with the always online thing, people will want to get a pirated version all the way…)

    • Economic models differ greatly across the world. I doubt Blizzard will “sell” d3 in much of Asia. They’ll do much as they did with SC2, and offer some sort of rental system where online play costs money. Basically it will be operated as an MMORPG, WoW-style, in those regions.
      And since there are tens of thousands of full time gold farmers in WoW right now, how can you not expect the same in D3? Ironically, it will be much less profitable to gold farm in D3, since it won’t be illegal, and there will thus be far more people doing it. WoW’s prohibition on gold sales drives up prices considerably, as all such real world prohibitions/black markets do.

  12. Complaints that the always online requirement means we will be “renting” the game instead of “owning” it are misplaced.  Has anybody recently taken the time to actually read that scroll of text, the license agreement, that every piece of software we “own” makes us agree to before installing?  I’ll save you the trouble – you already do not “own” any of your software.  That agreement is a legally binding contract to only use the software in a certain way, defined by the company which made it, and typically changeable by them at a whim.  No customer “owns” software anymore; at least, not the way you can own your chair.  You don’t sign a contract when you pay for a chair which opens you up to being sued if you decide to assemble the chair differently or use it as a hat instead of sitting on it.

    Software code is intellectual property.  In a certain sense, it can’t really be owned at all, since it’s non-rival and incorporeal.  Any “ownership” or “rent” interests can only be created through the law, or in other words, through make-believe.  (Legal laws, unlike say, the laws of physics, are all created by people and can be just as easily be changed or abolished by people).

    I think much of the complaining about paying “real” money for “virtual” goods (which are implied to be inferior because they don’t “really exist”) is similarly misplaced.  The goods in any computer game are also intellectual property, like the game itself.  Anyone who has paid real money for any computer software, or has paid a premium for a shirt with a certain design on it, or has paid to see a movie or listen to music has given money to someone in exchange for something that “isn’t real” because it cannot be touched.  Most of the money in the world economy isn’t “real,” since it exists only in computers.  “Real” is overrated.

    And consider this – humanity has an unquenchable desire to consume new and shinier things, and to display our wealth outwardly in an unwinnable game of showing off and one-upsmanship.  If the economy becomes more and more “virtual” (with more disposable income spent on online items and privileges that are not “real”) this will mean less and less offline, “real” garbage which needs to be made to satisfy us.  If a child is pleased with his $50 virtual toy, then this is one less piece of ridiculous plastic which will still be around in a thousand years, and one less gallon of oil used to make it.  Surely this is a good thing, no?

    • I couldn’t agree more. People really need to remove head from ass when it comes to the value of ‘fake’ or virtual items. Rarely is the value of anything solely contingent upon the material it is made of. Generally, value is partially or wholly defined by usefulness or  pleasure gleaned from ownership. In the case of uber-elite game items, the pleasure of ownership–and thus the value–can be surprisingly high.
      There’s nothing fake about it.

    • The problem with something like D3 is if Blizzard goes out of business, or closes B.net, or changes the terms of service to add a monthly fee… your game is unplayable. Hence it’s renting, not owning.

      Obviously none of us expects Bliz to shut down, but then again, no one thought Flagship Studios would shut down, and they were gone hardly a year after HGL’s release; another game that had no LAN support and required MP play through their online service.At least you could still play SP HGL, though. Not so with D3.

  13. This doesn’t make too much sense to me: \i think its utterly ridiculous to pay for imaginary goods generated out of nothing.\ Isn’t the act of buying software the act of buying digital information?  Does the physical aspect of a disc justify a purchase?  At the end of the day, you are buying digital information.  How is paying 60 dollars for a full game different than paying 1 dollar for an item in that same game?  In both cases, you are paying for data. Nothing is legitimate because none of it exists in the real world.  The only thing that really exists is the time and effort you put in to get items in the game. If I work for an hour and make money, then use the money to buy in game goods… is it not equal to playing for an hour and finding the item myself?  Where is the legitimacy lost?  There is still work, effort, and time required to gain the item.

  14. Botters will run full bot games with one character being a dedicated killer and the others decked out with magic find gear. The cheaters will profit and normal folks who play through the game content will have the sucky gear. Yeah, that’s fair.

  15. Believe it or not, there will be times when there are no internet connections (eg: hotel rooms where you have to pay for internet), and you cannot play!

    Or stuck at an airport with flight delay, got an hour to kill?
    Not every airport around the world has WiFi, and also WiFi is a security risk to your computer (hence I never use WiFi).

    No internet connection under such circumstances means I cannot play while on the road!

    This is a deal breaker for me, I refuse to buy a game that I cannot play in standalone mode (no internet connection).

  16. Until given a reason otherwise, I’m fine with the DRM and RMAH. Had it been a year or two ago I’d be against the DRM as I had connection issues, but all thats been solved and the last time I’ve had no internet was when the power went out in my city awhile back. As for the RMAH, its not 100% “Pay-to-Win” like you’d see in most asian mmos (I’m looking at you Perfect World Entertainment). Its not a system where Blizzard is bluntly trying to sell virtual items and get 100% of the profits of it, its a system where players do all the work selling, and get most of the money from that transaction. Blizzards only influence is the item drop rates, which they’ve said they did not readjust nor plan too since switching to this system.
    Call me a sheep if you will, but I’ve not been given a reason not to buy this game. For everyone else, have fun with Torchlight 2!

  17. Come on now this is a pure pay to win D3 game that Blizzard plans on milking with real money auction fees. To simply put it, Blizzard wants a cut from gold farmers. Forget about integrity of the game when you can make money auction house fees.

    I’ll repeat this gain. When Flagship Studios imposed the monthly fee Hellgate people went ballistic. This is actually even worse than what Flagship Studiios did and yet we see some players and parts of the media support this. I guess it holds true Blizzard has to buy success.

  18. i would just like to WONDER SOMETHING  if any of you the people here or at blizzard staff or any1 own an xbox 360 and modded it then they will know what it means to have secure system cuz even if you modded and you play offline a game that is hacked or pirated (without using abgx or other tools) theywill be caught by microsoft and be banned from the xbox live or anything like that soo why can’t blizzard just limit the online only to its multiplayer with the exception that each charcter should be registered at blizzard and then when in offline all the charcter progress should be monitored or known much like what the xbox almost does instead of giving us that very crappy idea of always online cuz mayb most of us have decent internet BUT THAT DECENT INTERNET IS MOSTLY ONLY AT HOOOOOMMMMMEEEE AND not at other places that may cost you extra cash!!!!!!!!! and also a question please for any1 who may have an answer are the only people who are not always online form 0.1 or 0.01 % of the community (haaa mr. jayy 8) ) cuz i tell you this if we get a blackout and i cannot play my favorite games to pass the time then thats a dissapointment or when i travel to another place or country that have no internet connection (sea and non expensive air travels any1) which will lead to a very very much happier life with the pirates which will have surly OFFLINE mayb Lan and mayb also a Private server !!!!!!!!!  :p Will we need sth else…….. dnt think that battle.net will have even more ………………you know blizzard i used to support ur every move even the color and the no lan but this …… this is really too much srry but you lost one faithfull customer to the PIRATESSS :S =(  ps: sorry for long post and thnx to any reader who put the time to read it

  19. Am I the only one here to think that blizzard will be taking enough of my money with the purchase of their game? I bought d2x years ago, and they have not received a single cent more.

    Why do I have to pay real money to even list items on the rmah? What about cashing out? Free weekend listing don’t mean much when you can only trade X amount of items per weekend.

    A gold auction house would have worked out fine, as long as they could keep botters and dupers away from the scene. Chances are I’ll never be able to find great gear on the GMAH, nobody will be selling their godlies away for in-game currency.

    All I see is blizzard wanting more revenue from the diablo series, regardless of how it makes many fans feel.

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