Looking back: It might be hard to remember now, but when Diablo III launched in 2012, fans had two major gripes about it — the always-online requirement and the auction house. Despite the many loudly voiced complaints, Blizzard kept the features for over two years, and the developers recently explained why — it was the box.
First, let’s remember the issues that had people outraged at Blizzard. Nobody wanted or asked for an auction house. Many cried “money grab” at the developer. Even more annoying was the forced online aspect of the game. Having to log in to Blizzard servers to play with friends is one thing, but the single-player campaign also required users to have an internet connection. The reason for this was “security.”
One of the big problems with Diablo 2 was item duplication. Hackers would figure out exploits to create accounts with rare gear or loads of gold, then sell them online. Blizzard decided the best way to combat counterfeiting was to control the reseller market. So it created a marketplace they could monitor for cheats.
At this year’s Portland Retro Gaming Expo, former Lead Designer Jay Wilson said the auction house was never about making money (masthead). They knew it would not generate much income compared to the likes of WoW. Instead, they aimed to control the marketplace, so players didn’t get scammed. Of course, this required the game to be fully online.
“And that’s the other reason we went online only,” Wilson explained. “Because when you … don’t go online only … the hackers got you.”
Wilson said the team was not allowed to say it was for security because that would only provoke the hackers into trying to compromise their efforts.
While the developers wanted to remove both aspects immediately, they couldn’t because the auction house was an advertised feature on Diablo 3’s packaging. Lawyers feared a false advertising claim. So for two years, the dev and legal teams argued about the situation until they finally decided to remove the problems and hope for no lawsuits.
Since nearly the entire community hated these two aspects of the game, the gamble was worth the risk. They removed the marketplace and online requirement in 2014, and everyone lived happily ever after — that is, until Diablo Immortal, but that’s another story.