Why the auction house might "break" the balance in Diablo 3

Posted on May 30, 2012 - 7:21pm by Elrood

TLDR;

Items don't disappear, because none of them bind to your character. By that notion they  just change their owner, but stay in the game. Which results in the market being swamped with items.

As I've mentioned in my previous Diablo 3 Review, I have some doubts concerning the auction house.

At first I didn’t think much about it, well at least not about the auction house itself. Everyone (me included) seemed to focus on the real-money aspect, instead of thinking what an auction house might do to the old Diablo formula.

It changes how we can get our gear and could change our grinding behavior altogether. You may use the auction house quite frequently; since it’s much easier to buy the item you need rather than waiting for it to drop. Getting a legendary item in a dungeon becomes a secondary option. The main objective is to get gold in order to spend it.

That in it wouldn’t be necessarily bad, but different, everyone has their own opinion on the matter of course, but it’s at least something that works in its own way, right? Well, not exactly.

Gear and especially gems are cheap, so cheap in fact that it has the potential to “break” the balance in Diablo 3. The problem is that these already cheap items will get even cheaper because of the flawed item system. Let me explain:

When I first thought of an auction house in Diablo 3, World of Warcraft obviously came to my mind. And there it works. So what’s the big problem with Diablo 3 having one? Pretty simple actually. This.

In WoW, good equipment usually binds to your character, whenever you pick it up or equip it. That’s exactly what Diablo 3 needs, gear that binds to your character when he or she equips it. Why? Because all these legendary items in Diablo 3, rarely get sold to an in-game merchant but get traded in the auction house. These items stay in the game and just switch their owner. Thus they will only increase in quantity. It’s basic economics. The more items there are the less they cost. Sure there is a high demand for certain items, but these will eventually fall in price if they don’t decrease in quantity.

It’s much worse with gems. In fact, it costs more gold, time, and recipes to make a good gem rather than just buying it for cheap. These gems can also be un-socketed, so again, they don’t disappear they simply change their owner.

Also, in comparison to the auction house of WoW, Diablo 3 has split their bidders into fewer regions. Thus the increase in items is much stronger.

Diablo 3 has an unsteady difficulty, at first it’s rather easy and later on, starting nightmare, thinks can get quite hard when you meet a powerful unique or elite. But if these prices in the auction house keep on falling so much, everything will become a cake-walk!

A few things you could argue against my theory,

1. “Items increase but so are the players!”

True, for every legendary, 20 new people might start to play the game. However, this increase in players will most likely dwindle over time and the quantity of the items, is not. But yes, the new players will surely lessen the “impact” at first.

2. “The new real-money auction house will split the buyers!”

Again, true. Some people are probably just waiting until they can relief their wallet from all the money they are carrying. But still, it’s the same as with the second argument. It buys time, nothing more.

3. “You talk about economics, but fail to see that these prices will balance themselves out, since nobody will sell a legendary for 1000 gold!”

Yes, that is also a valid argument and my hope concerning this topic. At some point people won’t care for selling a good item anymore, because it’s not even worth the effort. Thus the growing numbers of players will outnumber the cheap items. The only problem I have with this is that at that point, a lot of people will already have their gaming experience ruined because they bought their items already for cheap.

The best solution would probably be not to use the auction house at all, but that is easier said than done, when every one of your friends is already doing it. Peer pressure is a bitch.

I don’t want to try to cause panic or be all pretentious with this... What I want is to hear your thoughts on the matter, since it has been on my mind for the past few days now. Maybe there are some things I failed to see or there is something essentially wrong with my theory? But for now, thanks for reading my short rant on the auction house of Diablo 3.

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