Diablo 3 - A Lesson in the Future of Gaming

After such a long hiatus from the blog, it was only fitting for me to return with my favourite long business related rants. Imagine a semi-hardcore player like myself was able to make $759 (about $100 left to sell) throughout my 3 weeks of gaming (130-ish) hours, wouldn't that be great?

We all know Diablo 3 had nothing really innovative when it came to actual gameplay we all focus on, but I would like to look at this game from a different perspective.There was one thing Blizzard did that I feel will innovate the gaming industry, the real money auction house (RMAH). Long incoming rant, you were warned.

Lets start by review the 3 major gaming models being used right now: Free-to-play (pay for power), subscription based, and buy once. It is no surprise buy once is favoured most by gamers as there is no recurring costs, but gaming companies needed a way to milk their game for more money which lead to the introduction of DLC that we all hate. Buy once was great for end gamers, but it lacked steady income for the businesses which was desperately needed to justify some of the production and maintenance costs of games. Times have changed with games being all online and server costs compared to the old days where everything was single player and no patches were really needed. Before I go further, let me take a step to eleborate more on why Free-to-Play (F2P) and pay-to-play (P2P) games are much more favoured by companies as seen by the explosion of games using these 2 models. Unless you have been living under a rock,  the amount of new F2P games are coming out in handfuls, everyone wants to create that hit game that sells hard. The great part of F2P games was the much larger playerbase while being able to create steady income through marketing tactics, like item sales and promotions. The revenue was much more predictable being able to make money from nothing. No development costs were incurred to create more revenue and money could be continuously generated while buy once games needed the maintenance costs with no extra coming in. Part of the reason why F2P is loved by the companies so much was they can create very attractive items to make even the tightest jew budge with their wallet. After all, if you are playing a game, you will always want to have the best stuff. F2P cashed in on that fact, hence why the term "pay for power" relates so heavily with F2P games.

P2P games is also favoured greatly by gaming companies with even more consistent money. It was very predictable how much revenue each month would generate. The problem came with the expectation from players of constant content. In a F2P game, if no content was added, people didn't care as they weren't paying but could still get lured into buying. P2P games lose subscribers (money) oney as they produce no content leading to a much larger emphasis on quality of game. This becomes quite hard to keep up with the demands of gamers and very quickly people start to cancel subscriptions leaving a dwindling player base that only invites more people to quit. Though this is the best business model from a business persepective, it also extremely taxing to maintain.

As we established, it is clear why F2P games are loved most by gaming companies, but how does this relate to Diablo 3? Blizzard has effectively turned what was a buy once game, to consistent money without directly charging a single person money. With the RMAH system, they have melded what makes F2P games so successful, with a buy once to cash in on quick money. RMAH is a system that satisfies everyone, well almost.

You will always have someone that hates everything, that is just life. Generally, the RMAH hits everyone perfectly. The heavy cashop spenders love to be able to pay for power siphoning large money into the game. The hardcore gamers get a chance to make money from gaming directly which I am sure many are quite happy about. When you are able to sell your chacter easily and legitly for 1k+, I think anyone would be happy to see that money. Blizzard is happy since the small cut they take adds up quite a bit when everyone does this and turns into quite a bit of money. With consistent money, they can afford to have more manpower maintaining the game creating a better environment in general leaving everyone happier.

You will always have those that feel a RMAH "breaks" the balance of a game, but if Blizzard does not supply it, these buyers just go to Ebay. They smartly cashed in on a huge cash cow and turned what was considered a dying breed of game selling, buy once, to be a very viable business model. I would not be surprised if more games start following suit and RMAH become a norm for gaming in general.

Afterall, who wouldn't be happy to quit a game they enjoyed and come out with a good deal of cash? I mean, I made $759 so far cashing out my gear, that makes me quite happy since I loved playing the game so it wasn't like I was working. I got to have fun while making money, what more can someone ask for? I hope this is the turning point where E-sports start to be a bigger thing in North America when people realize there is so much money waiting to be milked...