Yesterday the Diablo III Real-Money Auction House opened for business. I'll call it the RMAH and it's interesting that the game company also calls it that. "Real money auction house." The company, Blizzard Entertainment, wants the players to think that the gold coins of the game are not real money while the dollar is real money. We'll see how long that lasts.The terms of service for the game actually put "real money" in quotes at one point.
After the fold, a little of my personal experience and some thoughts on what it means.
No auctions were going below $1, which makes sense - the fee is $1, why would you sell for less? Also it seemed as though lots and lots of items were being offered on both markets, gold and dollar. On the internet, gold goes for about $25 for 3m. The legendary Stolen Ring seemed to go for $10 or $20 on the RMAH and 500,000g - 750,000g on the gold AH. The exchange rate with 3rd party online vendors thus seems better than that offered in the game. There is actually a window for trading gold for dollars in the game AH but I found no offers there.
As far as play experience goes, it was super cool to be able to whip out my wallet, being better off than the average gamer, and buy with impunity the gear needed to make me an ubah badass. Slave away, you pimply nerds! I bury you with VISA! But of course there was no immersion possible and I am sure in a day or two, the hedonic treadmill being what it is, I will wither get bored with my powers and quit the game or step up to the next level of difficulty and - buy my way forward again. The game works only as long as it is fun to mow down the creeps. Which is pretty fun, but I sense it will get boring once I've looked at all the maps.
That's for me. Diablo II showed that there are gazillions of players not like me, who never get bored of mashing their way through monsters sans story, lore, or immersion in pursuit of ever better gear. While the jury is still out, I wouldn't be surprised to see Blizzard make all kinds of money from this mode of gameplay.
It's not good for the industry, though. Blizzard can use the term real money with or without scare quotes, but nobody is being fooled: The RMAH erases any line between the gold piece and the dollar, as far as regulation goes. When I buy with dollars, a popup says "Sales tax may be charged on this purchase." Buy the same thing with gold pieces, no popup. Why not? What's the difference? I agree and indeed am a strong proponent that there is a massive difference between gold pieces and dollars and that we should keep these two things as far apart as possible, for the health of both. The RMAH wipes these differences away. If the state were to extend its regulatory scheme from dollars to gold pieces, what could Blizzard say in opposition?