Diablo 3 Launch Held Up In Korea

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Diablo 3 Launch Held Up In Korea

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Diablo 3 is facing problems from South Korea's Game Rating Board and that's bad news for everyone.

Compared to some of the videogames that make it to market these days, Diablo 3 appears to be relatively tame. It's violent and bloody, yes, but mitigated by a top-down perspective and cartoonish visuals, and you certainly won't see anybody killing hookers for a DIY refund or dropping epic streams of F-bombs in the name of gritty, dramatic intensity. Not that either of those are at issue at this particular moment anyway; the problem for South Korea's Game Rating Board is the presence of the auction house.

Gus Mastrapa had a few things to say about the auction house last year but the short, relevant version is that it allows players to buy and sell in-game items and even "cash out" by converting in-game currency to real money. This is a problem for members of the rating committee, who see the option to sell items won in the game as a little too close to gambling.

"Committee members are conflicted about what to do with Diablo 3 because of Blizzard's information on the game's 'auction house' feature," a rating board rep told the Korea Times.

The game has already been rejected twice and although it was submitted for a third time on December 22 with the cash-out option disabled, the rep said it still looks dicey. "As it is described in the (re)submission, committee members are still reluctant," he added.

It's not just bad news for Korean gamers. Diablo 3 is intended to be a region-free, simultaneous global launch, with every country in the world getting exactly the same game and because of that, the delay in South Korea means a delay for everyone. That could change depending on how this plays out, but a Blizzard rep stated that the studio remains committed to a global release "in principle."

Concerns that Diablo 3 would violate South Korea's gambling laws first popped up in October 2011, although Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime insisted at the time that it wouldn't be an issue. "You're not risking anything," he said. "You're just investing your time. It's an important distinction." The previous month, however, Morhaime traveled to South Korea for a meeting with Game Rating Board members, the day after which Blizzard announced that Diablo 3 would be delayed into 2012.

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I've been uneasy about the implications of the real money auction house system since it was announced - not so much for D3 which I'm not really interested in, but if it works for that game how long before it makes its way to WoW, and by extension, to other MMOs?

So I'm kind of hoping the ratings board sticks to its guns on this. Let's see how far Blizzard are willing to go to keep this new concept.

They Thought a top down view was going to be enough?
Silly Blizzard, you of all peoples should know that Koreans only like to see gore...

If they are lucky then they wont have to deal with the damn marketing hype that is going to accompany that damn game, ultimately I would like to play it but even if I didn't hate blizzard enough to stop me from ever giving them money, the back end of the game would stop me from buying it since fuck having to be connected online all the time for something that isn't technically an mmo, I don't give a shit about your real money auction house or not.

Blizzard: Bringing gold farming to the next level!

I think the auction house will bring about far more negatives than positives. It will cut down on people resorting to external sources to sell digital goods but on the flip side Blizzard is showing companies that they can squeeze even more money out of their games by having players interact in a real world economy chained down to their company (I'm referring to the auction house "fees" that Blizzard collects).

You know as strange as this sounds the only thing that surprises me about this is that its only South Korea that is complaining about it.

Seeing how long it took for the Korean war to be negotiated this might take a while.

Seriously though I hope this gets settled soon so we can all start giving them our money.

I was enormously excited about D3 from the time it was announced, right up until the mention of the real money auction house.

My desire for the game almost instantly evaporated. It just seems toxic to me.

DVS BSTrD:
They Thought a top down view was going to be enough?
Silly Blizzard, you of all peoples should know that Koreans only like to see gore...

Bahaha, this gave me a pretty good laugh.

I'm still stoked for this game, but I'm nervous about all of the flak the auction house is getting. Are people seriously boycotting this game because of the optional use of real money within it?

I guess I understand it from a PvP aspect, but, maybe I really just am not seeing the whole picture here.

oh god yes please stop the auction house. The moment publishers figure out that they can make more money via ingame economy than they lose for people unable/unwilling to connect to the internet 24/7 forced online connections will be on every game.

This, combined with the demise of Kim Jong Il, now makes South Korea the new bogeyman.

Chased:
Blizzard is showing companies that they can squeeze even more money out of their games by having players interact in a real world economy

You make AH-interaction sound compulsory. I don't feel remotely squeezed. I didn't in Diablo 2 when others were feasting on 3rd party items, and I won't here.

Hopefully 3rd time lucky.
It wasn't gambling in the first instance, as nothing was risked. Now that the pay-out option is disabled, nothing can be gained either.
Are South Korea looking to ban all games with random loot? :/

This isn't bad news for me, hell it's actually good news. The less asians playing D3, the bigger my chances of making a couple $$ off the game. If players in China, India, etc. have the chance to play, the prices at the Auction House would be beyond pitiful.

I think their real problem with the Auction house is it will undercut the black market digital goods trade, it's not in their best interest to sell digital goods at rates defined by supply.

Edit* I'm pro auction house, real money or not doesn't matter, it will kill the third party trade and hopefully streamline my character profiting from the shit he won't be able to use; before I just held onto good shit for when I got around to making a character that would be able to use it. So long as blizzard never makes me pay a monthly fee to play the game I'm all for it.

Andy Chalk:
The game has already been rejected twice and although it was submitted for a third time on December 22 with the cash-out option disabled, the rep said it still looks dicey. "As it is described in the (re)submission, committee members are still reluctant," he added.

I'm a little confused what they're reluctant about. Chance based drops that can be sold for real money - pretty much textbook definition of gambling and really quite reasonable of them to ban (edit: assuming gambling is against the law to start with of course). Chance based drops that can only be traded in-game and not have their value transferred to the real world - exactly what every MMO and even some non-M MOs do. I was under the impression that MMOs were quite popular in Korea, so what exactly are they complaining about in this case?

Gambling would insist you bet something that can be lost. You can't lose what you can't find.

When you sell something you will get that money with a 100% ratio. You will not randomly lose the money you sold an item for.

So this isn't gambling. You're not betting money on items that you'll never see again.

Kahani:
I'm a little confused what they're reluctant about. Chance based drops that can be sold for real money - pretty much textbook definition of gambling and really quite reasonable of them to ban

Spending time to randomly gain money is one thing, but isn't spending money to randomly gain money what defines gambling?

First off, I'm not a Diablo fan (because I haven't played any Diablo games, and yes, I have no soul), so this delay doesn't bother me that much.

And, from what I've heard, this Auction House thing bugs me. It just seems like a way that Gold Farmers and whatnot can be manipulated to give Blizzard a profit, which is good for them, since they make a profit out of it, but bad for the in-game economy and for the fact that now Gold Farmers have incentive to keep doing their job and aren't being actively hunted down anymore (since now they're giving Blizzard money).

I'm sure that it could be tweaked to better mesh in-game and irl economies together, but given how the exploitation of any player-run economy in any MMO is not a foreign concept, the auction house seems destined for failure.

Good, let it get held up. The Real-money Auction House is adding nothing to the game, same as the required Online-only service, just like BattleNet 2.0 added nothing to SC2.
You want to argue they are doing it for us to stop those mean old "3rd party" sites? I say bull, they are doing it so they can get a cut of the cash, because $25 sparkle-ponies and $10 reskins of ingame models aren't filling up their swimming pools fast enough.

Obligatory Blizzard-hate aside now.

Zefar:
Gambling would insist you bet something that can be lost. You can't lose what you can't find.

When you sell something you will get that money with a 100% ratio. You will not randomly lose the money you sold an item for.

So this isn't gambling. You're not betting money on items that you'll never see again.

You pay a price to post an item up onto the auction house, then when the sale goes through you get charged again for it (essentially losing some of the money made from it). They have yet to tell us just how much each charge will be, and have only mentioned that players get an initial amount of free postings.

And you can lose a virtual item. If the items you just bought were duped (which will happen), they will be removed from your account and you'll probably end up with a suspension on the account (unaware or not it doesn't matter). I also doubt they will compensate you financially for that.

cursedseishi:
Good, let it get held up. The Real-money Auction House is adding nothing to the game, same as the required Online-only service, just like BattleNet 2.0 added nothing to SC2.
You want to argue they are doing it for us to stop those mean old "3rd party" sites? I say bull, they are doing it so they can get a cut of the cash, because $25 sparkle-ponies and $10 reskins of ingame models aren't filling up their swimming pools fast enough.

How is "The market for ingame items will exist either way, we may as well make it legit." not a valid argument? You call it bull, but why? Sure, it might net blizzard more revenue as well but are you claiming it won't impact 3rd party sites? Where's the logic in that?

And also:

cursedseishi:

You pay a price to post an item up onto the auction house, then when the sale goes through you get charged again for it (essentially losing some of the money made from it). They have yet to tell us just how much each charge will be, and have only mentioned that players get an initial amount of free postings.

And you can lose a virtual item. If the items you just bought were duped (which will happen), they will be removed from your account and you'll probably end up with a suspension on the account (unaware or not it doesn't matter). I also doubt they will compensate you financially for that.

Last I heard, you would pay nothing to post an item up for auction. And Blizzard would charge you nothing for an item you sold. 100% of it is for your pocket... at least for the first 5 transactions per month or so (I don't recall the exact number). After that, they'll take a fixed price out of each transaction. Meaning: They're not touching a regular or 'normal' players, they're specifically taxing the farmers.

Re: itemloss. Blizzard has more experience with this kind of stuff than anyone else. I'm fairly confident that they'll have prevented item duping and that they'll have plans in place in case something does go awry. In short: you may not trust Blizzard to do a good job, but by and large their track record is pretty good.

Andy Chalk:
Compared to some of the videogames that make it to market these days, Diablo 3 appears to be relatively tame. It's violent and bloody, yes, but mitigated by a top-down perspective and cartoonish visuals-

Tell that to John Funk.

Man, this story is super fishy. Not only is Diablo 3 possibly done, but they're delaying it for a completely bullshit reason. "Principles", what a load of crap. They want a global launch for a game that's region locked for no good reason.

That's....not...gambling. It's just not, there's no real element of gambling there at all.

A gamble is when you bet money on an event (or game) and then either lose it or gain money depending on the outcome which is always highly reliant on and normally purely decided by chance. This has no invested money and no luck as far as I can tell, ignoring the drops which aren't an inherent gamble, otherwise D2 would be a gambling game too...

I mean...you could maybe argue if someone bought the game with the intention of turning a profit on in game items dropped then it's a gamble, maybe? But beyond that, no. Not at all. To claim it is a gambling game is just nonsensical and ridiculous.

As for the in game auction house I still don't get the problem, did you PLAY Diablo 2? There was an entire unofficial auction going in pretty much 3/4 of the games in hell (90% of the remaining 1/4 were Baal runs of course, mostly botted for those very auctions). Trading was a HUGE part of that game, absolutely massive part and entirely unofficial (though sanctioned). An auction house removes the risk of scamming to at least some degree (though I'm sure it'll still be there) and allows everyone to profit, yes everyone. Trade your useless junk for credit, buy good stuff for you with said credit, run amok and find more stuff to trade. Do it enough and you get 'taxed' a small (I don't remember the number but remember considering it reasonable) fee off each SALE (NOT posting) so even Blizz wins.

I just don't see why it's supposedly going to wreck anything or even change anything, I get the feeling most people griefing about it never actually played the previous games, that part of Diablo is endemic to the game, removing the auction house just makes it riskier and more difficult for the trading partners and removes any benefit for Blizzard on top. Nonsensical.

Oh well, you'll just have to scrap the auction house :)

...like that will ever happen

Kahani:

Andy Chalk:
The game has already been rejected twice and although it was submitted for a third time on December 22 with the cash-out option disabled, the rep said it still looks dicey. "As it is described in the (re)submission, committee members are still reluctant," he added.

I'm a little confused what they're reluctant about. Chance based drops that can be sold for real money - pretty much textbook definition of gambling and really quite reasonable of them to ban (edit: assuming gambling is against the law to start with of course). Chance based drops that can only be traded in-game and not have their value transferred to the real world - exactly what every MMO and even some non-M MOs do. I was under the impression that MMOs were quite popular in Korea, so what exactly are they complaining about in this case?

I agree with the latter part. The first part, however, is textbook wrong. You're only gambling if you have something to lose. Time is not a currency.

World wide simultaneous release? Ah fuck you Korea. Dont be so selfish :(

One would only hope more countries would be as forward-thinking as this...

Unfortunately the reality is a little more bleak and the largest amount of them hasn't the faintest of what to do with this "new" (well...relatively... it's been, what... 15+ years now?) digitally interconnected world with all those opportunities, and there's uncertainty at best when it comes to digital goods, EULAs and ToS's and their enforceability and all that around the world when it comes to legal matters...

Be that as it may, I hope that if they go forward with this they will get into legal troubles later, here's a post I found discussing a lot of the implications and intricacies of the whole thing: http://daeity.blogspot.com/2011/09/diablo-3-and-illegal-online-gambling.html

In 2006, a guild on Lightbringer held a virtual raffle for the AQ War Effort with prizes consisting of virtual items like Guild Gold or Gear. Blizzard promptly shut it down and they called it "ILLEGAL GAMBLING."

In 2007, the FBI launched a probe into online gambling taking place within Second Life. As a precautionary measure, Linden Labs shutdown all gambling activity within Second Life and prohibited all forms of gambling. It was left as a grey area, and never deemed illegal, but Linden Labs didn't want to take the risk of potential prosecution. Most lawyers agreed however, that it was illegal gambling; you buy the game, play a game of chance within the virtual world, receive Linden dollars, cash out the Linden dollars into real money. In this situation, however, it was a player run economy and not gambling games created by Linden Labs. (However, they provided the means of facilitating the gambling.)

In 2007, the UK Gambling Act 2005 was revised to include MMOs. They redefined the definition of "gambling" as any and all games which involves the use of both chance and skill to win a prize (the definition of a "game of chance"). Prizes can be cash prizes, products, or virtual objects that can be exchanged for money. A similar change was made in US law in 2006.

Online Gambling

Online gambling is illegal in most countries, but I'm going to focus specifically on the USA. Every country (or region) has different regulations of course, and they go about different ways of trying to control online gambling. It's very convoluted from what I understand and a very unclear legal area, which is why they created the UIGEA.

It's not just for gambling sites, but also anyone or anything related to the gambling service (installation, maintenance, facilitation, etc.) The reason why online gambling was made illegal in the US is because it's difficult to license, regulate, and internet gamblers don't know who is operating the gambling site, if the games are honest, if winnings will be paid, or if the money wagered is used for criminal purposes. Players also have no recourse if they are not paid or cheated, they're put at risk to identity fraud, and internet gambling is an uncontrolled environment for problem gamblers and minors.

As you read through each of those examples, you could see how this already relates to Blizzard in the case of the supported gold and item selling; accounts can be banned with no recourse, money or gold can be seized and not returned, minors can play the game, there's no regulation, it's an addictive environment that is uncontrolled, there's no oversight, it's impossible to tell if the games are honest, and RMAH users don't know if any of the money is used for criminal activities. Blizzard has made posts (but no strong regulations and monitoring) regarding identity theft, so we also know for sure that it happens.

Blizzard has also stated that the Diablo 3 Real Money Auction House will be completely anonymous. So, players will never know who're they're playing against, who they are buying and selling from, if the sales are honest, if sales are being used in criminal situations, or if Blizzard or Blizzard employees are selling items. It's impossible to know and there's no third party oversight.

The generally accepted definition of gambling has 3 components:

* consideration (you have to pay to play the game)
* chance (a random game of chance in which skill can play a minor part)
* compensation (cash, something of value, or a reward)

Consideration and Compensation

Both of these can come in many forms, and it doesn't necessarily have to be in the form of cash. Basically, it's "value in" and "value out".

For example, you could cash in to play a game, but win a car. Or, gamble your car for another car. Value in and value out can be representative of chips, tokens, or virtual gold. Technically, you could apply value to almost anything, but online gambling laws are only interested in something that is cash or can be converted into cash (e.g. "it's liquid").

Gold in Diablo 3 is just a token representing cash value, in the exact same manner as casino chips. Your gold "chips" can be cashed out into real money, or used to play other games inside the virtual "casino" game world. Blizzard owns the virtual property and when you pay for items or sell items, you collect money, but the items ("tokens") are still owned by Blizzard. It's much like a casino owning their own proprietary chips.

Real world value of gold can also change, depending on the virtual economy. Some days it might be worth more than others. Just like in the real world, there are dynamic economies and variables that can adjust the value of money.

So, how does Diablo 3 exhibit these 3 components?

1. The most obvious one that everyone immediately thinks of is loot drops.

Blizzard has repeatedly stated that Diablo 3 is an "item centric game" but they have also stressed a major difference between WOW and D3. Whereas WOW had fixed loot tables and drops in an "Achiever Economy", Diablo 3 random wins are "indeterministic" and everything has a random chance of dropping varying levels of value. There is no skill required in WHAT drops.. you can't control it, it's like a roulette wheel. So, the "loot generation" is purely a game of chance with no skill. However, there is another game of chance (and skill required) to get TO the loot generation components.. and that's by killing a virtual monster. The gambling part is what the monster might drop when you roll that dice.

In regards to loot drops, there's consideration ($60 to play the game and/or gold "chips" to equip armor and play the game), there's a game of chance (loot drops are randomized and have real world value), and there's compensation (items have real value and can be sold.)

But this is where it gets interesting. You see, even though World of Warcraft already falls under this same example, Blizzard is free from legal prosecution because the compensation component is not maintained by Blizzard nor is it supported in any way. Blizzard has called gold sales illegal, and compensation can only occur in the black market. Most MMORPGs are free from prosecution, because gold selling (cashing out) is a violation of their rules, not supported, and there are preventative measures in place to prevent it. Without the "cashing out" component, it's not considered gambling.. even though a form of virtual gambling does take place.

In Diablo 3, it seems as though they're getting around this loophole by calling it a "Player Run Economy". The current beta client also has old references to actual "gambling" systems within the game, but I strongly suspect that the word "gambling" will be removed from all Blizzard announcements and communications and probably stricken even from the game itself. :)

In a "Player Run Economy", Blizzard is implying that any activities or gambling within the system will take place between the users and which they won't directly profit from. But, they still get a cut of all the action, they create the games and prizes, they collect consideration, they control the odds, and they can influence or change the economy. It's not really a "Player Run Economy" either if they can control and change the economy on a whim directly or indirectly. This is what Linden Labs tried with Second Life, and it didn't work out for them.

2. Player Gambling and Betting

The impression that Blizzard is trying to give is that the "Player Run Economy" will all take place between the players and they're completely hands off. We know that's not exactly true though. But, let's say for arguments sake that it truly was a player-run economy and that they profited in no way from gold or item sales.

What if players started gambling in game? What if they create virtual casinos like they did in World of Warcraft? (Which Blizzard had already banned and called "illegal.")

What if players engaged in gambling and placing wages in Arena PVP matches?

There are already some great communication systems in place to facilitate and support these exact activities.

The players might be doing something illegal, but Blizzard is supporting the activity, facilitating it, and maintaining it. And, as stated by Blizzard previously, since they don't view it as "gambling" in the first place, then that would mean it's not regulated, there's no oversight, minors can participate, and they're not stopping or preventing the activity from taking place.

Arena PVP would be an awesome betting and gambling system with very high stakes and risks. (And undetectable cheating.)

It might also encourage the development of virtual bookies, escrow services, and loan sharks. Don't have enough money? Just put your high level players up for collateral, if you lose, they're sold off. Gaming is becoming a professional sport, and it wouldn't be a professional sport without gambling and cheating.

3. "Gheed" Gambling and Artisans

As mentioned previously, there are references to gambling and a Gambling Vendor in the Diablo 3 beta files. They're right along side the General, Weapon and Armor vendors.

It appears that there was, at one point, a "Gheed" gambling vendor available in the game. I'm uncertain if it will be in retail or not, but I suspect that all references to "gambling" will be removed.

"Gheed" gambling is a gambling system within the game where you can wage gold, and there's a small chance to win a highly valuable item. That item can be, in turn, converted into real money.

Artisans also have a gambling feature. When you craft certain items, by inputting gold and materials, the item crafted has random statistics.. this means that you can gamble your money (gold) for a chance at winning an item of less, equal, or higher value. Salvaging of items is also gained through a randomized gambling system.. so you can gamble an item, to create random materials, which can be used for more gambling to increase overall value and win more cash.

You shake the dice when getting loot, you shake the dice when converting the loot into mats, you shake the dice when turning the mats into a random item, and you shake the dice when selling the item.

As you can see, there are layers upon layers of gambling systems within this virtual world.. and everything can be cashed out into the real world.

4. The Auction House Metagame

This is one of the activities that Blizzard lawyers might not have considered to be gambling. Blizzard has already boasted at great lengths about the new Auction House metagame within Diablo 3. They're completely right about the AH being a metagame.. it's a game of chance within a game of chance.

However, when you see how the system works, it's evident that "playing the Auction House" is actually a type of gambling.

Whenever you put an item up for sale on the Auction House, you must pay a mandatory Listing Fee. So, every time you post an item, you're taking a risk or a gamble that your item may or may not sell. If you don't win the AH gamble, you lose money. If you do win the AH gamble, Blizzard takes their cut and you get a cash prize.

There are inherent risks involved in every listing. And don't be fooled, there are a significant number of random variables that can alter your odds of winning or losing the AH gambling game; number of players buying or selling, when farmers are banned or allowed to play, when new patches are implemented, hotfixes, hacks and cheats, Blizzard changes listing fees or AH cuts, when certain regions have network access or others can't access the AH, Blizzard changes random loot, changes loot value, decreases loot drop chances, increases treasure drop amounts, changes skills or items that affect MF%, creates new items or loot, creates new bosses, changes number of monsters per zone, etc. All of these examples can drastically alter the economy and your chances of winning with just the simple flip of a number.

The RMAH metagame is like taking all of your winnings from various casino games, and then gambling with the casino to see if you can exit the building with your prizes. You also gamble to see how much they cut into your profits and how much you get to keep.

Bidding and Posting

Keep in mind that the RMAH "metagame" does involve chance and risk due to the non-refundable Listing Fee. But, there's very minimal case law when it comes to gambling and auction systems. There are a lot of websites or online games right now that are operating in murky legal waters because gambling commissions have not pushed the issue.. yet.

When you're posting items, you're playing a game against other players where very little skill is involved and it's mostly random chance. Bidding for items, on the other hand, is something different and more strategic.

So, forget auction listings.. what about just bidding in an auction?

When you examine the Unique Bid Auction system for example, it's considered gambling but not always enforced in most countries. The reason it's considered gambling is because BIDS are NON-REFUNDABLE.

(a) Paying a non-refundable fee
If no fee of any kind is required to bid, as with traditional auction models like EBay, the scheme is not a lottery because participants are not losing money or kind.
In Diablo 3, bids are refundable.. but posting items is not.

Last year, the Italian government shut down a number of online auction sites because they were charging non-refundable fees for bids. So, in Italy, unique bid auction sites are considered games of chance and they are illegal to operate without a gaming license.

And this was just for BIDDING on an auction, not even the POSTING aspect that I've been writing about.

There is also the Bidding Fee auction system (aka Penny Auctions) where players must pay a non-refundable fee to place on a small incremental bid. Some lawyers claim it's illegal and others say it is legal because bidding on the items is strategic. But, once again, it's very ambiguous because government regulators haven't pushed the issue.

In South Africa, however, this type of auction/gambling system is considered illegal. And, here's the interesting bit as to why:

(7) No fee may be charged for participation in an auction, but this does not apply to refundable deposits.
In other countries, though, they don't have any clear legislation about this type of auctioning system. Because of the advances in technology, gaming regulators just can't keep up and there are a lot of legal loopholes being exploited.

Swoopo is a good example in the US. They've gone bankrupt now, but it was under heavy criticism because of its gambling nature. This NY Times article was a funny read, the gambling industry consultant basically said: 'Well.. it's not really permitted in some states and most of Europe, but it's also not explicitly prohibited either." Brilliant. :)

I liked this part too from the sources in the Wikipedia entry: "the non-determinism comes directly from the actions of other users." That sounds very similar to the D3 RMAH, however Blizzard also has the ability to alter the non-determinism of LISTINGS by changing loot flow and random chance within the game.

If Blizzard and PayPal want to avoid any possible legal complications, they should remove the Listing (Non-Refundable) Fee to remove the definition of gambling from its auction system.

It goes on after that...

newwiseman:
I think their real problem with the Auction house is it will undercut the black market digital goods trade, it's not in their best interest to sell digital goods at rates defined by supply.

Edit* I'm pro auction house, real money or not doesn't matter, it will kill the third party trade and hopefully streamline my character profiting from the shit he won't be able to use; before I just held onto good shit for when I got around to making a character that would be able to use it. So long as blizzard never makes me pay a monthly fee to play the game I'm all for it.

But won't it essentially make the game , pay2win? Thats what i'm most afraid of with this thing.

In order for a game launch to be held up, there would have to be a launch date. There, problem solved. No determined release date, no worry of it being pushed back. And all is right in the world.

I am not for the auction house. But, if I do decide to play it, then I will simply not use it or play online with anyone.

The debate over this is stupid. Will it be pay to win? Of course it will. So, the easy answer is to not play any PVP (if it in fact exists in the game), and if I play with other people, it will only be with friends who won't waste their time with this moneygrab.

I'm actually looking forward to this auction house thing. That means if I find a rare item that's useless for me, or my friends, I can sell it and make a quick buck for lunch or buy another game or something. (Teacher slaps my wrist for the runon sentence) [edit] Read some of the newer stuff about the RMT AH. I'm confused about how it works, but that's not going to stop me from buying the game.

Neither do I care if it's "pay to win" - which implies that there's a competitive aspect to it that I'll be doing. The players who are really into competition will go through their hoops (farming, shelling out cash) to get what they need for the edge.

ThunderCavalier:
First off, I'm not a Diablo fan (because I haven't played any Diablo games, and yes, I have no soul), so this delay doesn't bother me that much.

And, from what I've heard, this Auction House thing bugs me. It just seems like a way that Gold Farmers and whatnot can be manipulated to give Blizzard a profit, which is good for them, since they make a profit out of it, but bad for the in-game economy and for the fact that now Gold Farmers have incentive to keep doing their job and aren't being actively hunted down anymore (since now they're giving Blizzard money).

And here I was thinking it's good to know about something before talking about it.

How is it bad for the in-game economy? In the previous instalment (D2, the one which you didn't play) item selling and trading was a normal thing. There's absolutely no change regarding this aspect of the game.
The only difference now is that Blizzard is making some money out of that, as before only the trading parties were involved.

So, aside not liking Blizzard for coming up with an idea to increase their profits, what's bugging you?

cursedseishi:

And you can lose a virtual item. If the items you just bought were duped (which will happen), they will be removed from your account and you'll probably end up with a suspension on the account (unaware or not it doesn't matter). I also doubt they will compensate you financially for that.

IF the items you just bought ... you'll PROBABLY end up ... I ALSO DOUBT ...

Quite a lot of assumptions in there :)
Why don't we let the game come out, see how it goes, and then comment on it?
I haven't seen item duping in WoW so far, and duping certainly is a much more serious issue in a real-money environment, so they'll address the matter even with more security than before.

Judging from their previous work, there's no need to worry.

And .. losing a virtual item ... lol!
If any casino would rewards people for every hour spent inside with virtual money, that they can in turn use to bet and get real money out of that, I don't think you'd ever find an empty spot inside :)

Losing a virtual item equals losing a bit of time, not money.

Two more things:
1.
I don't know how many of you are familiar with EvE Online; it's another subscription based MMO, in which you can buy game time with in-game currency. And guess what, the in-game economy is one of its strongest aspects. "Gold" farming was never an issue.
There are ways to make the auction house work, it's up to Blizzard to succeed.

2.
Say I buy the game. And I find "valuable items". NOBODY forces me to put them up for auction. I can just as well never sell or buy anything, I'm not forced by the game to do it. I can totally ignore the AH.
It's just an option I have.

You all act like you're afraid of being scammed and Blizzard is preparing to pull a quick one on you.
It's fairly easy, it's your decision alone and if you want to do it then you should prepare in advance and think about how you're going to approach the thing.
If you don't want to do it, just don't.

So many children commenting and saying on and on that "nobody forces us to use AH".
Wow, really?
Gambling is *strictly* regulated in EVERY country in the world that has a stable government (and a great many that don't) and there are many subtle details that build up the big picture. Nobody cares if AH is optional, gambling always is - I decide whether I go to the track or not, but the law says how it works and if it is permitted to work at all.
D3's economy is doing a good bit of blade running and my guess is there are going to be problems piling up for the AH all the time. Blizzard is dabbling in a sticky matter and ultimately greed can be their undoing. They know perfectly well what they're doing, they just hope no one will notice.

Also there comes the possible long term implications that such a business model may have on the gaming industry, but that's another story...

Before you post at least educate yourself. Someone posted very relevant citation a few entries up, so the least you could do is take time to read it and get a load of what it's all about. Most opinions here have no arguments and are utterly irrelevant to the topic at hand.

In 2006, a guild on Lightbringer held a virtual raffle for the AQ War Effort with prizes consisting of virtual items like Guild Gold or Gear. Blizzard promptly shut it down and they called it "ILLEGAL GAMBLING."

In 2007, the FBI launched a probe into online gambling taking place within Second Life. As a precautionary measure, Linden Labs shutdown all gambling activity within Second Life and prohibited all forms of gambling. It was left as a grey area, and never deemed illegal, but Linden Labs didn't want to take the risk of potential prosecution. Most lawyers agreed however, that it was illegal gambling; you buy the game, play a game of chance within the virtual world, receive Linden dollars, cash out the Linden dollars into real money. In this situation, however, it was a player run economy and not gambling games created by Linden Labs. (However, they provided the means of facilitating the gambling.)

In 2007, the UK Gambling Act 2005 was revised to include MMOs. They redefined the definition of "gambling" as any and all games which involves the use of both chance and skill to win a prize (the definition of a "game of chance"). Prizes can be cash prizes, products, or virtual objects that can be exchanged for money. A similar change was made in US law in 2006.

Online Gambling

Online gambling is illegal in most countries, but I'm going to focus specifically on the USA. Every country (or region) has different regulations of course, and they go about different ways of trying to control online gambling. It's very convoluted from what I understand and a very unclear legal area, which is why they created the UIGEA.

It's not just for gambling sites, but also anyone or anything related to the gambling service (installation, maintenance, facilitation, etc.) The reason why online gambling was made illegal in the US is because it's difficult to license, regulate, and internet gamblers don't know who is operating the gambling site, if the games are honest, if winnings will be paid, or if the money wagered is used for criminal purposes. Players also have no recourse if they are not paid or cheated, they're put at risk to identity fraud, and internet gambling is an uncontrolled environment for problem gamblers and minors.

As you read through each of those examples, you could see how this already relates to Blizzard in the case of the supported gold and item selling; accounts can be banned with no recourse, money or gold can be seized and not returned, minors can play the game, there's no regulation, it's an addictive environment that is uncontrolled, there's no oversight, it's impossible to tell if the games are honest, and RMAH users don't know if any of the money is used for criminal activities. Blizzard has made posts (but no strong regulations and monitoring) regarding identity theft, so we also know for sure that it happens.

Blizzard has also stated that the Diablo 3 Real Money Auction House will be completely anonymous. So, players will never know who're they're playing against, who they are buying and selling from, if the sales are honest, if sales are being used in criminal situations, or if Blizzard or Blizzard employees are selling items. It's impossible to know and there's no third party oversight.

The generally accepted definition of gambling has 3 components:

* consideration (you have to pay to play the game)
* chance (a random game of chance in which skill can play a minor part)
* compensation (cash, something of value, or a reward)

Consideration and Compensation

Both of these can come in many forms, and it doesn't necessarily have to be in the form of cash. Basically, it's "value in" and "value out".

For example, you could cash in to play a game, but win a car. Or, gamble your car for another car. Value in and value out can be representative of chips, tokens, or virtual gold. Technically, you could apply value to almost anything, but online gambling laws are only interested in something that is cash or can be converted into cash (e.g. "it's liquid").

Gold in Diablo 3 is just a token representing cash value, in the exact same manner as casino chips. Your gold "chips" can be cashed out into real money, or used to play other games inside the virtual "casino" game world. Blizzard owns the virtual property and when you pay for items or sell items, you collect money, but the items ("tokens") are still owned by Blizzard. It's much like a casino owning their own proprietary chips.

Real world value of gold can also change, depending on the virtual economy. Some days it might be worth more than others. Just like in the real world, there are dynamic economies and variables that can adjust the value of money.

So, how does Diablo 3 exhibit these 3 components?

1. The most obvious one that everyone immediately thinks of is loot drops.

Blizzard has repeatedly stated that Diablo 3 is an "item centric game" but they have also stressed a major difference between WOW and D3. Whereas WOW had fixed loot tables and drops in an "Achiever Economy", Diablo 3 random wins are "indeterministic" and everything has a random chance of dropping varying levels of value. There is no skill required in WHAT drops.. you can't control it, it's like a roulette wheel. So, the "loot generation" is purely a game of chance with no skill. However, there is another game of chance (and skill required) to get TO the loot generation components.. and that's by killing a virtual monster. The gambling part is what the monster might drop when you roll that dice.

In regards to loot drops, there's consideration ($60 to play the game and/or gold "chips" to equip armor and play the game), there's a game of chance (loot drops are randomized and have real world value), and there's compensation (items have real value and can be sold.)

But this is where it gets interesting. You see, even though World of Warcraft already falls under this same example, Blizzard is free from legal prosecution because the compensation component is not maintained by Blizzard nor is it supported in any way. Blizzard has called gold sales illegal, and compensation can only occur in the black market. Most MMORPGs are free from prosecution, because gold selling (cashing out) is a violation of their rules, not supported, and there are preventative measures in place to prevent it. Without the "cashing out" component, it's not considered gambling.. even though a form of virtual gambling does take place.

In Diablo 3, it seems as though they're getting around this loophole by calling it a "Player Run Economy". The current beta client also has old references to actual "gambling" systems within the game, but I strongly suspect that the word "gambling" will be removed from all Blizzard announcements and communications and probably stricken even from the game itself. :)

In a "Player Run Economy", Blizzard is implying that any activities or gambling within the system will take place between the users and which they won't directly profit from. But, they still get a cut of all the action, they create the games and prizes, they collect consideration, they control the odds, and they can influence or change the economy. It's not really a "Player Run Economy" either if they can control and change the economy on a whim directly or indirectly. This is what Linden Labs tried with Second Life, and it didn't work out for them.

2. Player Gambling and Betting

The impression that Blizzard is trying to give is that the "Player Run Economy" will all take place between the players and they're completely hands off. We know that's not exactly true though. But, let's say for arguments sake that it truly was a player-run economy and that they profited in no way from gold or item sales.

What if players started gambling in game? What if they create virtual casinos like they did in World of Warcraft? (Which Blizzard had already banned and called "illegal.")

What if players engaged in gambling and placing wages in Arena PVP matches?

There are already some great communication systems in place to facilitate and support these exact activities.

The players might be doing something illegal, but Blizzard is supporting the activity, facilitating it, and maintaining it. And, as stated by Blizzard previously, since they don't view it as "gambling" in the first place, then that would mean it's not regulated, there's no oversight, minors can participate, and they're not stopping or preventing the activity from taking place.

Arena PVP would be an awesome betting and gambling system with very high stakes and risks. (And undetectable cheating.)

It might also encourage the development of virtual bookies, escrow services, and loan sharks. Don't have enough money? Just put your high level players up for collateral, if you lose, they're sold off. Gaming is becoming a professional sport, and it wouldn't be a professional sport without gambling and cheating.

3. "Gheed" Gambling and Artisans

As mentioned previously, there are references to gambling and a Gambling Vendor in the Diablo 3 beta files. They're right along side the General, Weapon and Armor vendors.

It appears that there was, at one point, a "Gheed" gambling vendor available in the game. I'm uncertain if it will be in retail or not, but I suspect that all references to "gambling" will be removed.

"Gheed" gambling is a gambling system within the game where you can wage gold, and there's a small chance to win a highly valuable item. That item can be, in turn, converted into real money.

Artisans also have a gambling feature. When you craft certain items, by inputting gold and materials, the item crafted has random statistics.. this means that you can gamble your money (gold) for a chance at winning an item of less, equal, or higher value. Salvaging of items is also gained through a randomized gambling system.. so you can gamble an item, to create random materials, which can be used for more gambling to increase overall value and win more cash.

You shake the dice when getting loot, you shake the dice when converting the loot into mats, you shake the dice when turning the mats into a random item, and you shake the dice when selling the item.

As you can see, there are layers upon layers of gambling systems within this virtual world.. and everything can be cashed out into the real world.

4. The Auction House Metagame

This is one of the activities that Blizzard lawyers might not have considered to be gambling. Blizzard has already boasted at great lengths about the new Auction House metagame within Diablo 3. They're completely right about the AH being a metagame.. it's a game of chance within a game of chance.

However, when you see how the system works, it's evident that "playing the Auction House" is actually a type of gambling.

Whenever you put an item up for sale on the Auction House, you must pay a mandatory Listing Fee. So, every time you post an item, you're taking a risk or a gamble that your item may or may not sell. If you don't win the AH gamble, you lose money. If you do win the AH gamble, Blizzard takes their cut and you get a cash prize.

There are inherent risks involved in every listing. And don't be fooled, there are a significant number of random variables that can alter your odds of winning or losing the AH gambling game; number of players buying or selling, when farmers are banned or allowed to play, when new patches are implemented, hotfixes, hacks and cheats, Blizzard changes listing fees or AH cuts, when certain regions have network access or others can't access the AH, Blizzard changes random loot, changes loot value, decreases loot drop chances, increases treasure drop amounts, changes skills or items that affect MF%, creates new items or loot, creates new bosses, changes number of monsters per zone, etc. All of these examples can drastically alter the economy and your chances of winning with just the simple flip of a number.

The RMAH metagame is like taking all of your winnings from various casino games, and then gambling with the casino to see if you can exit the building with your prizes. You also gamble to see how much they cut into your profits and how much you get to keep.

Bidding and Posting

Keep in mind that the RMAH "metagame" does involve chance and risk due to the non-refundable Listing Fee. But, there's very minimal case law when it comes to gambling and auction systems. There are a lot of websites or online games right now that are operating in murky legal waters because gambling commissions have not pushed the issue.. yet.

When you're posting items, you're playing a game against other players where very little skill is involved and it's mostly random chance. Bidding for items, on the other hand, is something different and more strategic.

So, forget auction listings.. what about just bidding in an auction?

When you examine the Unique Bid Auction system for example, it's considered gambling but not always enforced in most countries. The reason it's considered gambling is because BIDS are NON-REFUNDABLE.

(a) Paying a non-refundable fee
If no fee of any kind is required to bid, as with traditional auction models like EBay, the scheme is not a lottery because participants are not losing money or kind.
In Diablo 3, bids are refundable.. but posting items is not.

Last year, the Italian government shut down a number of online auction sites because they were charging non-refundable fees for bids. So, in Italy, unique bid auction sites are considered games of chance and they are illegal to operate without a gaming license.

And this was just for BIDDING on an auction, not even the POSTING aspect that I've been writing about.

There is also the Bidding Fee auction system (aka Penny Auctions) where players must pay a non-refundable fee to place on a small incremental bid. Some lawyers claim it's illegal and others say it is legal because bidding on the items is strategic. But, once again, it's very ambiguous because government regulators haven't pushed the issue.

In South Africa, however, this type of auction/gambling system is considered illegal. And, here's the interesting bit as to why:

(7) No fee may be charged for participation in an auction, but this does not apply to refundable deposits.
In other countries, though, they don't have any clear legislation about this type of auctioning system. Because of the advances in technology, gaming regulators just can't keep up and there are a lot of legal loopholes being exploited.

Swoopo is a good example in the US. They've gone bankrupt now, but it was under heavy criticism because of its gambling nature. This NY Times article was a funny read, the gambling industry consultant basically said: 'Well.. it's not really permitted in some states and most of Europe, but it's also not explicitly prohibited either." Brilliant. :)

I liked this part too from the sources in the Wikipedia entry: "the non-determinism comes directly from the actions of other users." That sounds very similar to the D3 RMAH, however Blizzard also has the ability to alter the non-determinism of LISTINGS by changing loot flow and random chance within the game.

If Blizzard and PayPal want to avoid any possible legal complications, they should remove the Listing (Non-Refundable) Fee to remove the definition of gambling from its auction system.

Infidel666:
You know as strange as this sounds the only thing that surprises me about this is that its only South Korea that is complaining about it.

Good point. Korea earns a lot of my respect with precautions like this.

On one hand I'm kind of pissed at the fact that 1 country may delay a worldwide launch (if it hasn't already anyway) but then again the auction house...the implications are so damn far reaching.

I just have this vision in my head of monetized RPGs/MMOs in which players play all day long to earn money like in an office job. Maybe some people already do that in WoW, but at what point is it the norm and at what point do we lose the 'game' aspect? I mean, it's just such a bugger to think about. I don't want to think of games as somthing that I can make money with in my freetime, it would change my perception too much and remove the fun. It's like when pro-athletes start playing their sport for money, they just lose part of that childish exubarance and excitement that you can see in their early years. My friend recently told me that he could have sold his WOW account for a few thousand bucks 2 years ago, that just blew my mind.

I don't want to brag to a friend that I netted 10 bucks from my fire sword +3. I don't want to pick up every rare item thinking about what it might be worth or what it could buy me.

Love the discussions going on here - a lot of posters far more informed than I :)

Agree with this response within the comments thread of the quoted citation above:

Pebble:
How can you call it a game of chance if you have infinite tries?

All it costs you is time, and since we don't pay for that, there is no input value. You cannot count licencing the game as an input, because the only line from 'Pay for game -> chance happens -> get money' is one where the chance bit can be repeated as many times as you want, so its not a situation of input->chance->output.

They give several free listings every week, which means that you don't have to pay for your listings, so the input isn't mandatory. Its just there if you are overzealous with your RMAH transactions.

If they had infinite free listings it would create the opportunity for resellers to really **** up the economy.

I see the legal & technical similarities to gambling, but there doesn't seem enough risk in Diablo 3 to warrant it's constant flame-broiling. It won't cause bankruptcy and destroy lives like (real) gambling can.

I look forward to the day when more companies have similarly genius real-money trading that allows games to be initially free without being pay2win.

Brotherofwill:
I don't want to pick up every rare item thinking about what it might be worth or what it could buy me.

After 'can I use it', that was all I thought about in Diablo 2 when picking up items.

Levethian:

Agree with this response within the comments thread of the quoted citation above:

Pebble:
How can you call it a game of chance if you have infinite tries?

They give several free listings every week, which means that you don't have to pay for your listings, so the input isn't mandatory. Its just there if you are overzealous with your RMAH transactions.

I see the legal & technical similarities to gambling, but there doesn't seem enough risk in Diablo 3 to warrant it's constant flame-broiling. It won't cause bankruptcy and destroy lives like (real) gambling can.

First of, in every game of chance you have infinite tries. The only thing that may stop you are your finite resources - be that money, time, or battery life on your wireless mouse.

Also the "several free listings a month/week" thing is no argument at all - every online casino gives you a starting bonus and will sprinkle some virtual money goodness on you just so you will have incentive to come back and keep playing. Damn, even a crack dealer will give you a free sample plus you don't even have to buy any drugs if you don't want to. Does it mean that selling drugs is legal and we should stop caring? To participate in a game of chance is *never* mandatory (unless you're playing russian roulette in a vietcong prison in the middle of the jungle...) so please stop bringing this up. As with every gambling practice you decide to participate and only then you do (if you are of age to take part in such activities) but it's still gambling.
And what can ruin lives? Well, pretty much everything, even playing too much WOW but this is not what it's all about. Almost none of the laws regulating gambling in the western world are truly and honestly only about the good of the player so he won't get too hooked up. The regulations are to streamline the gambling, bring in more revenue and cut off those who don't pay the government. The tax on gambling is enormous and only a friction of those dues are paid to gambling hotlines, help groups etc.
With online gambling the problems are plentiful but most importantly the current laws in any given country *must* be abided so if every gambling practice requires you to be of age, the provider of the service has to make sure that you are. If they cannot satisfy this requirement then they cannot operate.
The list of such requirements goes on and on and differs from country to country, but I bet that if the issue with AH becomes more visible it will get addressed in many countries around the world. At this moment in time though, a little game called Diablo 3 is not even on most governments radar, but as with anything, it soon may be.

EDIT
just so it's clear - I'm not against gambling, hell, I frequently go to a racetrack and lose my money betting on horses while downing vodka or I just play poker. This issue to me is about gaming industry not getting ahead of itself and trying to circumvent the law so they'd milk more cash.

Levethian:

Chased:
Blizzard is showing companies that they can squeeze even more money out of their games by having players interact in a real world economy

You make AH-interaction sound compulsory. I don't feel remotely squeezed. I didn't in Diablo 2 when others were feasting on 3rd party items, and I won't here.

Hopefully 3rd time lucky.
It wasn't gambling in the first instance, as nothing was risked. Now that the pay-out option is disabled, nothing can be gained either.
Are South Korea looking to ban all games with random loot? :/

The Diablo Auction House is bringing about the social construct that defines classes of people by wealth into a video game. I feel squeezed by a company doing that but then again my wallet may be smaller than yours.

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