The cat's no longer in the bag. Multiple reports are confirming that Diablo III is to have an in-game auction house, through which players will be able to sell items acquired through play for real money.
The feature was announced at a preview event in California last week.
According to GameSpy, Blizzard's Rob Pardo "gave a PowerPoint presentation entirely devoted to this auction house concept. Apparently, this whole idea grew out of the black markets that arose around items, characters, and gold in previous Diablo games. Pardo stated multiple times that the developers added this auction house because 'people were going to do it anyway, and this way it's secure.'"
The feature will allow players to take any in-game item - including weapons, armour and potentially even characters - and sell them to other players for real money.
Blizzard will not handle the money itself, although you can choose to keep your funds within the Blizzard universe to spend on the Blizzard store - to get the money you'll have to use a third-party vendor.
The move has quickly raised concerns about giving legitimacy to gold farming.
Money, money, money
Blizzard said in an official statement on the matter:
"The item-based nature of Diablo game play has always lent itself to an active trade-based ecosystem, and a significant part of this trade has been conducted through unsecure third-party organisations."
"This has led to numerous customer-service and game-experience issues that we've needed to account for. Our primary goal with the Diablo III auction house system is for it to serve as the foundation for a player-driven economy that's safe, fun, and accessible for everyone."
Gamespot is reporting that "there will be a single, regional real-money auction house for each type of supported currency. Auto-bidding and instant buyout options will also be available, and you can set your items to be buyout only."
You'll be charged a fee to auction an item, as you are on other real-cash auction systems such as eBay. Pardo said this was to stop players flooding the marketplace with unwanted items.
Cashing out with your third-party vendor will cost you fee. Items you buy in either auction house will be sent to your private stash in the game, and players will be anonymous during transactions.
The real-money auction house won't stop normal trading between friendly players.
Constant net connection confirmed
That's not all, though. Blizzard has confirmed the game will require you to have an always-on internet connection. You'll have up to ten character slots in the game, which will be stored on the company's servers. It's because of this players will be required to have an constant connection for all modes of the game, including single-player.
"In both Diablo and especially in Diablo II, I think the intuition for a lot of people when they're playing the game is 'I want to make my character offline away from that scary battle net environment. And then once I have this powerful character, I'll jump online.'," Pardo told IGN
"But the problem with that concept is we can't really detect if they're cheating. They might have the capability to hack their character, things like that, so at that point we can't really allow that character to be in the battle net environment. Then they're going to have to restart their character, which is exactly what happened in Diablo II, which was really unfortunate.
"Your character will be online on battle net the moment you start playing. You can play a solo experience like you would in Diablo II, it's just your character is on Blizzard's servers and authenticated."
Diablo III has no release date as yet. The press event last week offered play-time with the game's beta, which will release this calendar Q3.
Watch Rob Pardo explaining the auction house move in a Gamespot interview below.