Blizzard recently invited The Escapist down to its Irvine, CA studio to get some hands on time with the upcoming Diablo III. While there, we also learned about Blizzard's plans to launch a cash-based auction house for the game. You can read Gus Mustrapa's interview with Rob Pardo to get most of the details. But since you're likely to have lots of questions about some of the service's finer points, here's a comprehensive FAQ straight from Blizzard.
Q: What is the Diablo III auction house system?
A: Acquiring epic new gear for your characters has always been a big part of the Diablo experience. Because of this, players have found a number of different ways to trade and otherwise obtain items both within and outside of the game. Many of these methods were inconvenient and either tedious (for example, repeatedly advertising for a desired trade in Battle.net chat channels and waiting for responses) or unsafe (e.g., giving credit card information to third-party trading sites). With Diablo III, we're introducing a powerful auction house system that will provide a safe, fun, and easy-to-use way for players to buy and sell the loot they find in the game, such as weapons, armor, and runestones. Two different versions of the auction house will be available in Diablo III: one based on in-game gold, which players acquire through their adventures, and one based on real-world currency.
Q: What's the difference between the gold-based auction house and the currency-based auction house?
A: The gold-based auction house uses in-game gold for purchases and sales. With the currency-based auction house, players will be able to conduct these transactions using actual currency from an authorized payment method or from funds that have been added to their Battle.net account. Players can choose to participate in whichever version of the auction house they prefer, on a per-transaction basis.
Q: How does the auction house system work?
A: Players can open the auction house interface from anywhere in the game to make purchases or list items for sale. Items can be sold from the shared stash (storage shared among all the characters on your Battle.net account) or from any individual character's inventory. When posting the item, the seller picks whether it will be sold in the gold-based auction house or the currency-based auction house. The item is then held by the auction house system until the listing expires or a purchase is made. Items that are not sold are returned to the seller's shared stash, and items that are sold are delivered to the winning bidder's shared stash. In either case, the auction house system will deduct a nominal fixed transaction fee from the seller, the amount of which is determined by whether or not the item was sold (see below). For the currency-based auction house, players will have a few different options for how to pay for item purchases and receive funds for item sales, as discussed elsewhere in this FAQ. There may be differences in how this system will work in different regions of the world. We'll provide further details at a later date.
Q: How is the transaction fee determined?
A: A nominal fixed transaction fee will be deducted from the seller for each item listed in the auction house. This fee consists of a fixed charge to list the item, which is assessed whether or not the item is successfully sold, and an additional fixed charge that is assessed only if the item is sold. Because the listing portion of the fee is charged even if the item doesn't sell, it will be in the seller's interest to list items he or she believes other players will be interested in, and to do so at a competitive price. Specific details related to the transaction fee for the currency-based auction house will vary by region and will be announced at a later date.
Please note that we plan to waive the listing portion of the fee for a limited number of transactions per account. In other words, for these transactions, the seller will only pay a transaction fee if the item is successfully sold, and that fee will not include the listing charge. We'll have further details on this as well at a later date.
Q: Why are you creating a currency-based version of the auction house?
A: Our goal with all of our games is to ensure players have a highly enjoyable, rewarding, and secure experience. Acquiring items has always been an important part of the Diablo series, but the previous games have not had a robust, centralized system for facilitating trades, and as a result players have turned to inconvenient and potentially unsafe alternatives, such as third-party real-money-trading organizations. Many of the transactions between players and these organizations led to a poor player experience and countless customer-service issues involving scams and item/account theft, to name a few. To that end, we wanted to create a convenient, powerful, and fully integrated tool to meet the demand of players who wished to purchase or sell items for real-world currency, and who would likely have turned to a less-secure third-party service for this convenience.
Q: How will the currency-based auction house work?
A: Players will be able to make purchases in the currency-based auction house using a registered form of payment attached to their Battle.net account. As with other popular online-purchase services, players will also have the option to charge up their Battle.net account with a balance of funds that can be drawn from for purchases of any digital product available through Battle.net -- this includes not only auction house items but also things like World of Warcraft subscription time and paid services, to name a few examples. On the flipside, when players sell an item in the currency-based auction house, the proceeds of the sale are deposited into their Battle.net account and can then be used as described above. Note that this process might be different for certain regions; we'll provide further region-specific details as we get closer to launch.
Q: Can players choose to get cash from currency-based auction house sales, instead of having the proceeds deposited into their Battle.net account?
A: Yes, as an advanced feature, players will have the option of attaching an account with an approved third-party payment service to their Battle.net account. Once this has been completed, proceeds from the sale of items in the currency-based auction house can be deposited into their third-party payment service account. "Cashing out" would then be handled through the third-party payment service. Note that this process will be subject to applicable fees charged by Blizzard and the third-party payment service. Also, any proceeds from the sale of items in the currency-based auction house that have been deposited into the Battle.net account will not be transferrable to the third-party payment service account. Not all regions will support this advanced feature at launch. Region-specific details, as well as details regarding which third-party payment services will be supported and the fee that Blizzard will charge for the cash-out process, will all be provided at a later date.