I remember thinking the D3 AH was a good idea. Every successful loot based (read: MMORPG) game of the last 20 years has spawned a black market where players have willingly forked over dollars and cents for pixels and stats. Economically, this isn’t really that surprising, but bringing up the idea that someone would drop $100 on a two-handed sword with AOE fire damage will still astound 5 out of 10 party guests. A lot of the big name titles explicitly forbade 3rd party exchanges, citing the fact that the items were their IP and not available for sale without their permission. This drove the market underground and ultimately squeezed most small purchases out of the equation. Why go through the trouble for anything other than epic lewt?
I thought the D3 AH was a responsible way for Blizzard to embrace reality instead of denying it while turning a somewhat renewable trickle of income for a online game that doesn’t have a subscription fee. It became clear pretty early after release that embracing the AH as an integral part of gameplay required rebalancing the core looting mechanic in ways that fundamentally wrecked the enjoyability of the game. If the whole world is effectively looting for you, item rolls and usability of your own drops are mathematically bound to be less enjoyable.
The solution(?) to this conundrum has been to dismantle the AH outright, increase the likelihood of item rolls to be actually useful, and make all legendaries account bound to blot out the secondary market. By solving one problem, have they closed the door on a whole sector of the gameplay experience? Due to the use of always-on gameplay, Blizzard can enact regulations that weren’t possible in D2. That may be a good thing (I’ve actually been enjoying the update quite a bit), but it seems like a very “swinging door” approach.
What if the auction house remained, but only real money, with a price floor. Say, $50. It’s economically similar to having to overcome the hurdle of the old black markets. If you have something good, but not good enough to ask $50 for, enjoy it! Go kill some mobs and trounce the armies of darkness. But the kernel of hope that the next big roll will be enough to bankroll a shopping spree on Amazon or heck, even just be tradable for the huge e-peen you’ve been coveting all these years is FUN! Tiering experiences is all about economics, but today we’re at a one size fits all model.
Honestly, I don’t know about the whole thing. Done right, the AH could have been a really progressive and community centric development, but then, so could the focus on playing for your own loot.