Diablo III's auction house, which let players trade in-game gold or real money for items, isn't long for this world. In a post on Battle.net today, production director John Hight announced that both the cash- and gold-based auction houses would be shutting down on March 18th, 2014, giving players plenty of lead time to wrap up any transactions. The reasoning, explained by Hight and game director Josh Mosquiera, isn't hard to predict: Blizzard was worried that the game was less engaging when people could just buy loot instead of fighting for it.
"At the core of the Diablo experience is a promise of killing monsters, killing demons," says Mosquiera in the video. "The auction house just made that experience too convenient and really short-circuited our core reward loop." Mosquiera's predecessor Jay Wilson also had little love for the auction house system. At this year's GDC, Wilson said that it was supposed to reduce fraud by not making players resort to outside services to trade goods. It's possible that happened, but Wilson said the houses still ended up cheapening the game's basic elements and "really hurt" it.
Even if you believe the auction house was a good idea, there were concrete practical problems as well. The game suffered a brief but dramatic shutdown earlier this year, after a gold-duplicating bug caused hyperinflation in the game's economy. Now, Blizzard hopes it can improve the game substantially with "Loot 2.0," a change in its upcoming Reaper of Souls expansion that will set items to drop less frequently but make the things players do find more interesting, stronger, and more tailored to the player's character class. And while we still don't know exactly when that expansion will come out, it seems Blizzard is taking the opportunity to take care of one of its long-standing regrets.