Random loot drops means Diablo 3's real money auction house is a game of chance, says South Korean critics.
As controversial as Blizzard's plan to include a real money auction house in Diablo 3 has been in the West, in South Korea it may be even worse. There are questions over whether or not the cash auction house breaks South Korean gambling regulations; questions serious enough that the game could be refused classification in the country.
The reasoning goes like this: As the loot drops in Diablo 3 are random, being able to sell them for real money is essentially a form of gambling. Naturally, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime has denied these claims, saying that while the two were superficially similar, Diablo 3's real money auction house lacked one of the key parts of gambling: risk. "[In Diablo 3] you're not risking anything," he said. "You're just investing your time. It is an important distinction."
Despite Morhaime's protests, according to a report presented to the South Korean National Assembly, Diablo 3 breaks Article 1 of the Gaming Industry Promotion Law. There is a precedent for equating cash auction houses to gambling: Emperor Online, a game made by the South Korean developer IMI, was denied classification for having a similar feature. Sources say that Blizzard employees in South Korea were aware that the auction house would be a hard sell with the rating board, but had to proceed anyway.
If the game is refused classification, it will be quite the blow for Blizzard. The simple solution would seem to be to release the game with that particular feature disabled, but as it generates revenue for Blizzard - the studio takes a percentage of each transaction - losing a potentially lucrative market like South Korea is going to hurt.
Diablo 3 comes out for PC in early 2012.