Diablo 3's Real Money Auction House (RMAH) is, let's face it, a big controversy bomb that hit the interwebs hard, and some people still haven't recovered from it. After my own initial shock and confusion I ended up accepting this strange new concept with a strong conviction and loads of optimism.
Is the RMAH going to make millionaires of all of us? Of course... not! I've heard it mentioned by other bloggers that this new feature is "gaming history in the making". I tend to agree. It signals a paradigm shift in the way gaming is evolving. Instead of opposing it, I intend to embrace it.
If other gaming companies start seeing the opportunity, they will follow up with real money in-game trading of their own. This, of course, is only viable for online games and it's part of the reason why Blizzard denied us an offline single-player mode (I'm still pissed at this Blizzard!). My feeling is that Blizzard's RMAH system will be successful. There are plenty of people who have no qualms about paying real money for virtual items, especially when those items can enhance their characters greatly. Just look at World of Warcraft where players won't hesitate to pony up serious cash for that virtual... um... pony.
Personally I'm not the type who buys virtual items. I haven't spent a single cent in WoW outside of the monthly subscription. My mission, however, lies in taking advantage of those who want to buy items, by catering to their needs. Plenty of other virtual entrepreneurs have also made it their mission. There will be competition between sellers but there will also be a large market since each global region will have its own massive auction house.
While competition can be bad for sellers because it drives down prices, in the long run it might turn out to be beneficial. The cheaper the items on the auction house are, the more people will be tempted to buy then, even those who were firmly against spending real money for those items. Not only that, but as time goes by, it will become more "socially" acceptable to purchase virtual items.
What Blizzard is doing is not entirely unprecedented. Other online games have sold virtual items (including items that give the player an advantage) for years. But this is the first time in gaming history that such a player driven economy becomes available and a massive auction house is built in-game to support it.
We live in some very interesting times and my excitement for what the future brings is growing, the closer we get to the release date.
And now, you will have to excuse me because I'm off to do some finger-crossing in the off chance that I will get a beta invite. Apparently beta invites have started going out for select members of the press.