Diablo 3 is approaching its third birthday in May and to celebrate, Blizzard is bringing back additional monetization in the form of microtransactions. Blizzard made the announcement on the Patch 2.2.0 forums. The details are below.
- A new currency called "Platinum."
- Timed experience boosts.
- New cosmetic items including wings, non-combat pets, and character portraits.
- References to stash space and character slot expansions.
- A new UI interface that references the above information.
These new updates will only apply to the Windows and Mac versions of Diablo 3, leaving the console versions in their current UI layout.
Reintroducing Diablo 3 to an added layer of microtransactions has caused the normal divisiveness you would expect on gaming forums such as NeoGaf as well as Blizzard's own forums. The memory of the disastrous Auction House still lingers in players' memories.
Diablo 3's Auction House was an experiment by Blizzard to give gamers the ability to trade items looted and crafted in an official space rather than on eBay or other online sites, which was the case for Diablo 2. Players could sell and buy using the in-game currency or with their country's respective currency. The loot system in Diablo 3 forced many players to turn to the AH in order to obtain the gear that would allow them to survive in the more demanding playthroughs of the game. The Inquisitr detailed this dark side in a previous piece, which you can read here.
Many gamers held that this went against the tradition and appeal of Diablo's grind in the hopes of finding that one loot drop that would make their character a powerful force. By the time the console versions of Diablo 3 arrived, the Auction House had been slated for closure and the loot tables redone so that the "sweet loot" would be readily available in game rather than in an online shop.
However, the constant demand of profitability is giving rise to the microtransactions, which will make its debut in the 2.2.0 patch for Diablo 3. Like many free to play games, the "Platinum" being sold for real world currency will give many boosts and cosmetic changes. As Forbes noted, the interesting part of the announcement is that Blizzard detailed which regions it was NOT coming to, rather than what regions will receive the changes. The Americas and Europe are not receiving the micro transaction implementing, which leaves Asia. The Asian market is known for its extreme profitability for microtransactions in their games, most notably the many MMOs that are available.
Diablo 3 is also very old in terms of game longevity. AAA releases for both consoles and PC tend to have lifespans of months, in which purchased copies of the game make up the bulk of sales. After that, publishers rarely see continued profit and things like multi-player servers are turned off and online integration with apps are left to die. Blizzard games are unique in that they have a very large and dedicated fan base, as well as updates to games that are nearly 10 years old. The idea of adding an additional revenue stream for the legions of owners of Diablo 3 is an understandable one, but microtransactions can be abused and, with the bitter taste of the Auction House still in some players' mouths, it's on Blizzard to prove that it can introduce a system like this without alienating their base of fans.