Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Real Money needs a cell phone

Blizzard has announced some of the details about their Real Money Auction Hall for Diablo 3.  Most of it is exactly as expected of course but there is one really surprising detail that may well mean I can't get money out of the RMAH at all.  In particular it is this:’s Mobile Alerts SMS authentication service will occasionally send a text message to your mobile phone containing a code you’ll need to enter to verify your identity. You will be required to sign up for the Mobile Alerts service in order to use PayPal to buy or sell items in Diablo III’s real-money auction house.

In order to sell things on the RMAH and collect my cash I will be required to have a mobile phone that can accept texts.  It appears as though I will be able to use the RMAH and have any net balance sit in my Blizzard account to buy new games or whatever but that getting cash out is more restrictive since I don't own a cell phone.  I can't help but wonder why exactly this requirement is in place.  Is it there to assure Blizzard that the person getting the money in fact is located in the region they are supposed to be?  Is it there just to make it more annoying to run bots because of the increased infrastructure demands?  I don't know.

There are multitudes of people complaining of course, partly because of the cell phone requirement and partly because Blizzard is charging a $1 fee on each successful sale and then a 15% fee for all money taken out of the system via PayPal.  There are apparently loads of people out there who are planning on making massive amounts of cash off of the RMAH and who expect to lose substantial amounts of income to the 15% fee.  A quick reality check tells us that with real money vanishing out of the system to buy Blizzard stuff, $1 being taken from each transaction and the requirement for somebody to pony up real cash in the first place to get it going there is not going to be much left for people to cash out.  There are way too many people thinking they can make a bunch of money playing a video game and not enough people thinking that they are going to pay a bunch to avoid playing a video game.

More than that though I suspect that Blizzard really just wants to make it terrible to move money out of the system.  They really want us to pump money in and then trade items back and forth willy nilly so that they can take $1 each time and eventually get *all* the money.  When somebody cashes out Blizzard only gets 15% of the money and when that money stays inside D3 Blizzard gets 100% of the money... guess which is better for them?  They want to make it hard and/or unprofitable for people to get rich off of D3 because every dollar that person gets is a dollar Blizzard loses in the long run.  Adding in the requirement of a cell phone and tacking on a big fee are good ways to keep people from cashing out and making sure they use their currency to buy items from somebody else - after all, the entire point of the RMAH from Blizzard's perspective is to smoothly facilitate the exchange of items and cash without letting anyone else take a piece of the pie.

While I do have a love for game economics and playing virtual markets I don't think that Blizzard loves me and my ilk.  It doesn't help Blizzard at all to have people fleecing the rubes in their games and probably just causes the rubes to leave in many cases.  Since there are a lot of rubes for each playa I figure Blizzard is making the right decision from their perspective by trying to limit how much fleecing I can actually get away with.

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