Just about every other news article here at Gaming Blend leading up to the opening of Diablo III's Real-Money Auction House had a prompt warning at end, something along the lines of: Remember, this is real money on the line and you could lose everything. Well, that dire foreshadowing finally rang true for one gamer.
The idiotic part about this is that the only reason this became news was because it happened to a journalist working at CNET. He recounts his story and how he had to repair his PayPal account, similar to how the compromised accounts in Diablo III largely went ignored until Eurogamer, Ars Technica and Examiner writers found themselves on the bad end of a hacked account. Of course, at that point, then things got serious.
In this case, the RMAH is a very dangerous institution for a video game. It not only attracted botters and grey market gold farmers, but it attracted the worse of the worst, the hackers and the thieves...anyone willing to pilfer accounts for virtual currency. In the case of writer Joseph Hanlon, he managed to talk with the group who tried to steal all his Paypal money to buy billions worth of gold, which they would soon turn around and sell to undercut Blizzard's RMAH. Turns out that they were pissed when Hanlon contacted PayPal and the transactions charged back, ultimately ruining the plan of the thieves.
Now, here's my biggest problem in this whole thing: There have been grey areas of the region policies for the RMAH where people have been losing money and Blizzard insists on keeping this thing open. Buying items from the Gold Auction House to sell on the Real-Money Auction House (also known as flipping) has created another problem where some gamers have become addicted to using the RMAH as an investment vehicle. What's more is that other companies have started publicly advertising their own version of an illicit Real-Money Auction House to compete with Blizzard. In other words, none of Diablo III's top features have to do with Diablo III, it's turned into a money laundering, gambling machine.
Just earlier today a kid boasted about earning $10,000 from his RMAH flipping, something usually reserved for professional gamers competing at large scale events. The sad reality is that a guy boasting about his $10k will probably trump any further investigations from media into any other player's accounts or PayPals being infiltrated for Diablo III purposes.
The thing that frustrates me most about this is Hanlon's defense of Blizzard, where the author states...
Blizzard is a victim here, too. Not only is this a PR nightmare, but the game developer stands to lose revenue from a Diablo III economy that has been crushed by these gold farmers, where the huge influx of gold from these players has buried the price of the virtual currency.
No, Blizzard is not a victim here. An RMAH was made to compete with a black market for money Blizzard never deserved to get their hands on anyway. No one has yet to say WHY Blizzard deserves to profit from transactions usually relegated to the black market, other than greed? They already made hundreds of millions from first-month sales of Diablo III and in their quarterly, according to the Social Barrel, the company moved more than 10 million copies of the highly anticipated title, so how is Blizzard a victim here when they only stand to gain from greed tactics? An RMAH never should have been in the game from the start.
I believe Hanlon is a casual player, and for some odd reason believes an addictive video game needs a real-money market. Only someone not very knowledgeable of the ARPG loot-grind would defend Blizzard losing money to black market scams. This is not to say that I'm defending the black market profiteers, but instead I'm saying that Blizzard competing with these guys for additional profit is shallow and encouraging more nefarious groups to do what they can to undercut Blizzard in these shady markets. It's kind of turned into: who can screw players over the most. It reminds me of Ubisoft constantly trying to implement harsher DRM methods while hackers constantly try to break it as fast as possible, the only people losing are legitimate consumers.
And let's be completely clear, Blizzard isn't losing anything. A tanking virtual game economy is pointless and the only reason it's over-inflated is because real money is on the line and Blizzard is trying to protect their 15%. A game is supposed to be about having fun, and if that was really Blizzard's goal for players then they would have scrapped the RMAH, sold virtual currency themselves at a fixed rate (i.e., the same as Nexon, gPotato and every other MMO publisher out there) and they would have increased secure player-to-player trading. In that regard, Blizzard would have done their part to protect consumers and offered in-game methods for item trading. As it stands, Blizzard has officially become an unsanctioned gambling house competing with black market traders. Reputation equals zero.