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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