If you have been paying attention to anything related to Diablo III, you know that two weeks ago Blizzard launched patch 1.0.8 on the North American servers. What makes this news worthy is that players soon discovered a bug that allowed them to dupe or duplicate any amount of gold that was placed on the Auction House. In a matter of hours the player economy experienced a fit of hyperinflation, the type which has not been seen since Post-World-War-I Germany leaving the value of gold completely worthless.
While Blizzard did temporarily freeze the player auction houses and issued bans left and right to the players who exploited the bug, the damage to the player economy has already been done, with unknown amount of gold, some estimate in the billions or trillions, suddenly forced in circulation.
In light of all of this, a question does emerges, “Does Blizzard, and other game companies, have an obligation to the players to monitor and regulate the in-game player economy?”
In all other games the player economy follows a purely capitalist free market model, with players putting their items up on the Auction House and then the player community collectively decides how much they would be willing to spend on the item.
In the past other game companies have been perfectly fine leaving the player-run economy alone leaving players to gamble their gold by working the auction house, but Diablo’s market is not like other player economy. Blizzard decided to introduce a Real Money Auction House (RMAH) to run alongside Diablo’s in-game auction house.
This allowed players to buy items with gold on the gold auction house and then re-list that item on the RMAH and end up with net-profit of real currency. The process could work in reverse allowing players to place bids on items on the RMAH and sell it on the player auction house for gold.
As a result of two different auction houses that ran on two different types of currency, but with goods that could easily be sold to either type of players (the people who use the AH and the ones who use the RMAH) the Diablo community decided how much gold you could get with one U.S dollar. (Fun Fact: This is how we decide the currency rates between two different nations).
If a person starts playing the market, with real money on the line that person expects some stability with the economy, an occasional bump or hit to the wallet is understandable when trying to play against the needs and desires of other people with disposable income.
When a market becomes unstable the people starts demanding for the government to step in and place regulations to prevent that certain economical disaster from happening again. In American history we the avocation of government regulation in the Great Depression in the 30’s and right after the housing and banking meltdown in the late 2000’s
In real life most of nation’s economy has some government intervention to try to make sure their market does not crash from any tricky trades, this type of economic intervention involves placing regulations how companies can conduct business. More importantly, though, the government has the power to decides the value of the currency in the world market by changing how much money is printed, and in circulation, for that year.
While unable to place regulations on the trades players can make in-game, Blizzard can change the global drop rate of gold in the game from day-to-day, thanks to Diablo’s always on DRM.
Which brings me back to my question of should Blizzard monitor the player market to (not prevent, because no one can a foresee a glitch) but set in place government-esque policies and protocol and regulate the dollar value of gold in the game?