Since Jay Wilson stepped down as director of Diablo 3 we’ve seen a sea change in Blizzard’s outward opinion of the game’s auction houses. The stores drew a great deal of criticism from fans at the game’s launch but Blizzard designers recently added their own voices to the noise, acknowledging that “the fact that most players get their gear from the AH is an issue".
Now, speaking at GDC, Wilson, too, has openly criticised the stores, saying "I think we would turn it off if we could" but that it’s "not as easy as that".
The problem with the auction house, as Wilson sees it, is that the auction house became the endgame, players weren’t playing to kill Diablo anymore but were instead farming gold and items to trade on the auction house. It "really hurt the game," Wilson says, because it "damaged item rewards". And, with more than 50% of the games 3 million monthly playerbase regularly using the auction house Blizzard can’t keep the value of gold from fluctuating.
Why not, as Wilson suggests, simply “turn it off”? Well, it’s that 50%. If half your playerbase are regularly using a feature, even one you think may be harming the game, do you just turn it off? Blizzard aren’t sure what the community's majority opinion of the stores is and so don’t want to rush into something that will create further backlash.
Wilson claims the team are working on a solution to the issue though he wouldn’t reveal what it was.