Last week Blizzard's CEO, Mike Morhaime, went on and on in this long textual damage control post to calm the angry masses. There was no holding back in what was said in the article, especially regarding Mike defending the RMAH and always-on DRM. Another added reason of why I said what was said is because of this news we're reporting on today: a third-party, unofficial, unauthorized company is opening their own real-money auction house to undercut Blizzard's real-money auction house.
Now here's one of the reasons why I called Mike a liar: Read what he stated in the post last week...
Regarding the real-money auction house, our primary goal for including this in the game was to provide convenience and peace of mind for those players who might otherwise turn to third-party services to buy items. Black market trading sites can put accounts at risk and create many customer service challenges. We felt that the players themselves also deserved the opportunity to benefit from the extra loot they found, as opposed to having all of the benefit go to the black market/illegal trading organizations.
Supposedly, the real-money auction house would stomp out the need of black and grey market auction houses. But guess what? They're still around and thriving just as much as ever. Blizzard is just now competing with and fueling these guys without actually solving anything other than reaping benefits from an RMAH.
A new site has made their presence official as an RMAH grey market alternative, as reported by Business Wire. The Hong Kong-based site gives users the ability to buy, trade and sell without all the restrictive fees of Blizzard's Real-Money Auction House. As stated in the press release...
Among the numerous outstanding players in Diablo 3, casual gamers find it hard to keep up. Thanks to the wide range of items available at [removed], every player is now able to stand the pace.
The site is calling its service "The Prime Auction House Alternative", which would give players the impression that the grey market alternative could get them the items they need while paying less real-life money then what would be required for Blizzard's real-money auction house. Effectively, it means that Blizzard hasn't stomped out the black market item trade, they're simply competing with it for revenue.
Realistically, an "official" RMAH doesn't do anything to the black market. Players will go to the black market regardless. The best way to compete with the black market is to keep the gold auction house and make it as convenient as possible. It would also be in Blizzard's best interest to make in-game trading more secure, especially player-to-player trades and have the option to buy non-transferable virtual gold from Blizzard's own cash shop. Those two options alone provide a safe, convenient, easy method for players to gather items, trade items and even purchase the funds necessary to acquire high-valued items. But right now, Blizzard's player-to-player trading is riddled with scammers and exploiters, so the auction house and grey market item providers come across as looking more enticing for players.
Adding a Real-Money Auction House created a lot of problems, including grey areas of Blizzard's own region policies that has resulted in many players losing money and items and not having their real-life money reimbursed nor having their items restored, as indicated in recent cases we've posted on the site here and here.
The RMAH just provides Blizzard with a revenue incentive that would usually go to the grey and black market sites and it has little to do with actually protecting consumers, considering that there will always be a black market. Wanting to profit from those trades just makes Blizzard look greedy, especially considering that a cheaper, more consumer friendly alternative was just outlined two paragraphs above.
I won't be listing the actual website links for this new grey-market auction house. This news piece was just further proof that Blizzard's RMAH was never meant to stop unauthorized player trading, it was just designed so that the company could profit from it. The sad part about is that in the end, only legitimate consumers are the ones who had to suffer from it, especially regarding the forced always-on and all the compromised accounts that followed thereafter, as well as players who have been unduly banned with little or no explanations.
On the upside of all this corporate and black market greed-mongering, there are at least a group of honest players trying to use the official RMAH for good and have decided to donate money to various charities from earnings gathered from the Real-Money Auction House. So far they've raised $1073.25 for a wide variety of charities. You can check out their listing and what's been donated by visiting their forum thread here.