Blizzard didn't remove Diablo 3's real-money auction house right away because "it was on the box"

Diablo 3
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Diablo 3's controversial real-money auction house stuck around so long because it was advertised "on the box," which Blizzard worried might cause legal issues.

Speaking at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo (spotted by PC Gamer), Diablo 3 lead designer Jay Wilson touched on some of the more controversial aspects of the 2012 sequel. Now, while we all collectively process the implication that Diablo 3 is a retro game now, let's focus on what Wilson said about the auction house and the "always-online" thing.

Apparently, Blizzard implemented the auction house, which allowed players to spend real money on in-game items and trade them with others, as an effort to curb cheating and hacking.

"When I was at Blizzard the reason for doing the real money auction house was security," said Wilson. "It wasn't money, we didn't think we'd make that much money from it, [but] the biggest problem with Diablo 2 was item duping and duping hacks and all the gold sellers and all those things."

He adds, "There's almost no way to fix that problem without somehow controlling the trading market. There's lots of good ways to do it, but that was our idea at the time. The trading market's in the game: we control it, so the hackers don't."

According to Wilson, it's a similar situation with the game being always online. "As soon as you go offline you have to give out the client server and once you do that the hackers have got you. But I couldn't say those things because you do not poke hackers. You say 'oh we're doing this for security reasons' and the hackers say 'oh really?'"

The real-money auction house was almost universally maligned, leading Blizzard to remove it from the game back in 2014, saying it "undermines Diablo's core game play." Although it was poorly received at launch and never made Blizzard a ton of money, it took the studio almost two years to remedy the situation. 

Well, now we know why: the feature was advertised on the game's retail box, which, for our younger readers, was still something people bought back in 2012. Here's a picture of a Diablo 3 retail box we had lying around the office that lists the real-money auction house as a feature:

(Image credit: Future)

"The reason we did not get rid of it right away when we saw it was a problem was legally we didn't think we could because it was advertised on the boxes…" said Wilson.

"So we actually took a long time to try and work out all the legal issues before we finally said, OK, we think it's worth trying it, if we get a lawsuit, oh well."

Now, more than 10 years after launch, Diablo 3 is auction house-free - though like most multiplayer games these days, it is still very much always-online. Diablo 3 season 27 kicked off this summer, with its 28th season set to begin later this year or early next year. Diablo 4 launches in 2023.

Here's why Diablo Immortal only made me want Diablo 4 more.

Jordan Gerblick

After scoring a degree in English from ASU, I worked as a copy editor while freelancing for places like SFX Magazine, Screen Rant, Game Revolution, and MMORPG on the side. Now, as GamesRadar's west coast Staff Writer, I'm responsible for managing the site's western regional executive branch, AKA my apartment, and writing about whatever horror game I'm too afraid to finish.