Real Money Auction House in Titan [speculation]
While keeping my ear to the ground for anything Titan related, I stumble upon a lot of articles / forum posts which conclude that Diablo's Real Money Auction House, if it will be a success, will surely be implemented in Blizzard's upcoming next-gen MMO too.
That may very well be true, I have no way of knowing for sure, but right now, I definitely do not agree with this opinion. Here's why.
Diablo is a very weird game. Many of its important systems, like zones and items, are built with a strong random element in them. It's one of the things that makes Diablo special and probably one of the main reasons for its huge success.
It's also why RMAH fits like a glove with it. I won't go into details on this since they're not relevant. What does matter is that Diablo is not a true MMO and while it has strong multiplayer features, players don't interact with each other that much, like in most MMOs. This is the second reason why this "pay2win" system is relatively accepted.
In true MMOs, "Pay2Win" systems have always and will always be hated by the vast majority of players. And for good reason, since here people often interact with each other and one's playing experience can be severely affected by coming in contact with overpowered real-money spenders.
Now, consider that "Pay2Win" in MMOs usually means access to some buffs, receiving more exp when levelling, softer penalties when dying, etc. Well, RMAH completely overshadows this system. You'd be able to buy entire gear sets without doing anything but open your wallet. Can you actually see this working in a MMO, especially a high profile one? I do not.
A toned down RMAH wouldn't make sense either, since it would lose its appeal and it probably wouldn't generate much income for Blizzard, considering they only get the crumbs left by the players from a system like the RMAH.
Another thing to consider is the new B.NET Account Balance. It's clear that all games that will come out from Blizzard in the future will make use of this new system, one way or another. Diablo is the first with RMAH. Starcraft will follow immediately with its long awaited Marketplace. Titan won't be the exception, of that we can be sure.
Thing is, this doesn't necessarily mean it has to have a RMAH. An in-game official store would fulfil almost exactly the same goals, while also keeping Diablo 3's model unique. It would give people another way of spending the money they have in their B.NET Balance and it would even be an incentive for them to load it with "external" cash, not resulted from Diablo 3's real-money auction house.
Also, call me old fashioned, but I don't see RMAH providing more revenue than a classic in-game store, for a MMO at least. Put a shiny new pet in the store and you'll make millions in just a few days and you'll also keep most of the earnings. With a RMAH, you only take a very small percent from the transactions. There would need to be a lot of people buying ordinary crafting mats with real-money for this to bring substantial revenue... not a very plausible scenario. As for the rare items, they do indeed bring more money for Blizzard each time they're sold / bought, but these are, like I just said, rare. So there won't be a lot of traffic.
I'm not saying that RMAH for D3 won't be profitable... just that for a true MMO, I don't think it can compare with an official store. And even if it can, by allowing gear and everything else to be sold / bought with real money, is this really a good game concept? Transforming everything in a race to your wallet, instead of one to kill a raid boss or to win a PvP battle.
All in all, it's a very complicated discussion and only time will tell what Blizzard has planned for Titan. We don't even know what kind of game Titan will be (maybe it makes strong use of randomization, like Diablo), so at this point, really any option is open, but my opinion is that RMAH is and will always be a Diablo-only feature. And even if we'll see something like it in Titan, it will probably be severely modified in order to fit in the MMO space. I'm going with an official store though.