In much more important news, Blizzard is removing the online auction house from Diablo III. Although I played endless hours of Diablo and Diablo II, I only played about the first half of the first act of Diablo III primarily because it was online only. Therefore this isn’t much of a personal issue with me, although based on my game design experience I think the critics have it mostly right.
What I find interesting, though is this quote —
Many players supposedly spend more time in the Auction House than they do the actual campaign
I could have told them that before they started. I used to play a multiplayer online dungeon games1 back in the late 1970s In fact, I knew the guy who first sold virtual gaming gear for real money. Although that was unusual, I knew a number of gamers who, having mostly mastered the game, still spent hours and hours playing but just trading items, not actually playing the game as intended. They did it mainly because they enjoyed the social interaction and trading, but if you have a game where particular types of gear are a status marker, you will have players who spend all their time trading to get it. Those will soon be followed by gamer sweatshops of people grinding the game to generate in game resources.
Successful multiplayer games also tend to have the same (if much simpler) economic problems as real world economies. In this case due to early mover advantage and grinder bots, the system was hit with massive inflation, stifling the ability of new players to succeed. While I think Blizzard handled this poorly without, apparently, thinking it through, it is not in fact an easy problem. I think it would do wonders for economists to have to manage such things before being allowed to experiment in the real world.
1 One of them, “avatar”, was clearly the inspiration for the successful Wizardry series.