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Diablo III's real money Auction House was driven by design team, says director

"We never make business decisions outside of the game development team," Blizzard's Jay Wilson, director on the newly-launched Diablo III, told Gamasutra in a feature interview.
Alongside today's launch of Diablo III, Blizzard has introduced the series' first ever official Auction House, where players can buy or sell items for real-world currency. With this new system, Blizzard will take a cut from each item sold, but despite the obvious financial gains, the game's director says the Auction House came from the game designers, not the business side. "[The new Auction House] came from the design department," Diablo III director Jay Wilson tells Gamasutra in a feature interview, "Here's one of the things that I will say -- that no one in forums will believe me -- but we never make business decisions outside of the game development team. We always make them based on what we think is right for the game." Wilson explains that designing a system that makes extra money isn't a problem if it provides a real value to the consumer. If the players are happy and Blizzard is making money, it just means the studio can keep making bigger games, he says. "I don't think it's a bad thing to want to make money. I think it's a bad thing to want to make money off things that are not a good service or product for your customer, and that's our inherent belief, is that it's okay to make money on a service we provide for our customers that we think is a good service worth paying for." Wilson explains. "Do we want to make money off it? Of course we do, because we want to continue to make games, and we want to be successful. But we also think it's a good service. We think it's a thing players want, and want to do, and they want to be able to do it securely and easily, and they want to be able to make some cash off of it if they want. They want to be able to recycle that back into getting more items." The new Auction House made particular sense to the design team, Wilson adds, because Diablo II eventually developed its own consumer-run item economy, where players would buy and sell items through eBay or other third-party websites. "The whole trade economy of Diablo II was a really interesting element of the game, but the game didn't support it hardly at all. And so we looked at that and said that's a real failing, and something we need to fix," says Wilson. Thus, the team built the Auction House directly into Diablo III, giving players the opportunity to sell their items in a secure environment that aims to limit scams and other illicit behavior. An extended interview with Wilson, in which he discusses his thoughts on crunch, fan feedback, and the concept of "it's done when it's done," is now live on Gamasutra.

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