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Blizzard has decided to remove both the gold and real-money auction houses from Diablo 3 early next year. They felt that the feature was disrupting the core experience of the game.
"When we initially designed and implemented the auction houses, the driving goal was to provide a convenient and secure system for trades," Blizzard said in a Battle.net blog post. "But as we've mentioned on different occasions, it became increasingly clear that despite the benefits of the AH system and the fact that many players around the world use it, it ultimately undermines Diablo's core game play: kill monsters to get cool loot."
The loot for Diablo 3 was randomized so players could go a long time without finding a new weapon or armor piece for their character with the right stat bonuses. This became increasingly annoying as they reach the higher difficulty levels when every little point counts. That being said, it did feel a little anticlimactic to kill a demon lord, sell his loot to a vendor and then buy optimized gear through the auction house.
It's very odd that Blizzard would wait this long to finally pull the plug on the expansions. D3 launched on PC and May about 16 months ago. I suppose there's something to be said for letting your experiments play out, though.
"We firmly believe that by shutting down the real money and the gold auction houses, it really paves the way to make sure that killing monsters in game is the most rewarding, the most satisfying, the most compelling way of getting your hands on those items," D3 game director Josh Mosqueira said in the video address above.
Blizzard is hoping that the Loot 2.0 system, arriving alongside expansion pack Reaper of Souls, will make a future without auction houses seem less grim. In Loot 2.0, players can expect fewer normal quality items and more rares and legendaries. The normal quality, or "white" items, won't just be vendor trash anymore; instead, you can use them in crafting recipes. All drops, meanwhile, will have a better chance at having stat bonuses centered around the class you're currently playing.
Additionally, they're trying to make the process of finding loot less of a chore. You won't have to replay segments of the campaign over and over again. Instead, you can play randomized 15-20 minute dungeons called Loot Runs. Alternately, you can test your survival skills in wave-based challenges known as Nephalem Trials.
The auction houses for the game will be shut down by March 18th, 2014. Maybe that's when they expect Loot 2.0 and these other new features will be lived. Blizzard hasn't specified when Reaper of Souls or its accompanying patch will be released, though. Perhaps we'll find out at BlizzCon.