ForceStrategyGaming: Doubtful "$5 Per Week Playing Diablo 3"

Force Strategy Gaming
First off, I want to thank the guys at Force Strategy Gaming for mentioning me on their most recent podcast, particularly Kevin aka "Sixen." It's funny, because I had just spoken with him a few weeks prior on skype and I think I tainted him with my grandiose RMAH ideologies. Sorry Sixen! But seriously, both hosts had a very interesting discussion about whether the RMAH will be a viable way to make consistent income. They seemed to agree that the occasional random item will drop and be worth hundreds of dollars, but that this sort of scenario will be the only way to make any real money in Diablo 3.

Besides this occasional lucky drop, Force stated very firmly that competition would make it so that people would make very little money on the auction house despite devoting hours of game time to farming. Today I'd like to respond to these ideas and emphatically explain my complete OPPOSITE position. I believe that Force has said what's on everyone's collective mind, and it is a reasonable as well as intelligent position to take on the subject. Thankfully, he is wrong.

What Force Said That Was Correct

Force stated several times that competition would drive down prices to make farming virtually slave labor. He jokingly mentioned a certain ethnicity known for gold farming and said that this group of people would drive prices into the ground. You're right Force, but they can only drive them down so much. At some point, demand and supply will meet to create a consistent trend for prices. Being ignorant of this balancing act will lead to the assumption that it's impossible to make any money playing the system. But you are correct that simply farming items and selling them is a terrible way to make money on any auction house. Unfortunately, that's as far as people usually go when thinking about this subject.

He also mentioned that the occasional super rare item would make a lucky person quite a bit of money. Of course, this is absolutely correct, and it will drive people crazy farming for such items. Time wise however, it will never be worth it to go farming for hours on end even for $100+ items. It's just not cost effective due to the insanely low drop rates.

There will be tricks and secrets that make people lots of money, only to be ruined once enough of the player base discovers them. This is absolutely true, but unfortunately Sixen made the conclusion that this will be my modus operandi. Actually, these secrets are just parlor tricks used to bring the masses to this site. There, I admitted it. I use fantastic "secrets" to increase interest in auctioneering among the masses. You know what I do next however? Instead of attempting to bottle these secrets and sell them as miracle cures, I take the person aside and explain the error of their ways. Next, I show them how to truly play the auction house and discover systems that work long term, not just as parlor tricks. In essence, I'm an educator, not just a marketer.

This is where a lot of people hit a fork in the road when it comes to approving or disproving of my methods. They either believe that I'm trying to sell snake oil to trick people or I'm actually doing a good thing educating would-be auctioneers. Usually it's buyers who side with me and skeptical non-buyers who go on with hating me.

What Force Said That Was Wrong

Force, there will be many more ways to make money with this game. I have covered tons of them on this blog already, but I will write a few methods here that put very large holes in your theory.

Force's Mentality Opens Up Doorways for Auctioneers

The way Force mentally processed the concept of making money on the RMAH is an accurate prediction of how the masses will as well. Don't get me wrong, Force is incredibly intelligent and a very solid gamer. I used to think exactly as he did, but it was only after many years of playing the auction house that I began to unthink the common sense that drives us to foolishly ignore the auction house. What you really need is uncommon sense to succeed.

Players do not change. Seriously, their spending habits, ignorance to certain aspects of the game, and unwillingness to modify play style is ingrained into most gamers. You know why? Because people play games to have fun. This concept explains 99% of player behaviors. They aren't lazy or stupid, they just want to play a game to have fun. If someone doesn't have time to play a game to reach the highest levels then they will compensate with money, quit the game, or live with their inadequate situation.

Where auctioneers can turn a profit is in identifying a few key aspects of the market place:

  1. Where are the points in the game where players get stuck and need help gearing their characters (Ex: Going from Hell to Inferno difficulty)?
  2. What stats do players really want on their gear at what points in the game (Ex: Resistances for certain boss fights)?
  3. When do prices go up and down for certain items/commodities and why (Ex: During holidays when more people can log on)?
  4. How can you get crafting materials cheaper in order to better compete in price wars (Ex: bidding on cheap items to salvage)?
  5. What do players consider necessary while leveling their characters (Ex: Gold, +experience gear, +core stat for damage, etc)?

We have partial answers to some of these questions already, but many are still blanks since we have only played a small section of the first act of Diablo 3. Once we know the answers, however, we can focus on building long term strategies for playing the auction house. We call these strategies "shuffles" and they usually involve multiple spreadsheets and stages to track on a daily basis. The amount of work is far more complicated than what a normal person is willing to achieve on their own, so even if the strategies are revealed there are still many people who will doubt them like Force. However, once you have a system down, it's fairly easy to repeat it over and over again for huge profits. You just keep modifying and practicing with your system to maximize its potential.

These "shuffles" are the secret to being an auctioneer in any mmo's economy and they are the reason why I believe that Force's estimate of $5 per week is completely off. Shuffles rely on having a total understanding of the game in order to work properly, not just knowing how to follow directions. Reason being is that much of the shuffle involves making decisions in real time. When to buy in bulk, when to sell for the long haul, when to wait and do nothing. That's why most people cannot just play the auction house and miraculously pull consistent earnings out of their butts.

Some of you may have heard that buying low and selling high is the answer to playing the RMAH. That's actually just a small part of the equation, and it's really only going to get you some starter cash for the more serious and lucrative strategies (like shuffles). But if you thought of this then you're on the right track, don't be discouraged!

I would be most interested in seeing a reaction from both Sixen and Force to these ideas, and whether they are still skeptical about the RMAH being a money maker for those willing to put the work into learning to play the marketplace. I completely agree with them that for the common person who just farms and hopes for great drops that this game will be an excruciating exercise in futility. If ForceStrategyGaming ever wanted me to come on and debate them or share my ideas then I would be more than happy to.

What do you think? Are you in favor of Force's $5 per week or my $25 per hour? Are you somewhere in between? Share your thoughts in the comments and thanks for reading...


  1. By similar logic you can say that it's impossible to make money on average playing poker. Yet there are many professional poker players with 6 and 7 figure incomes per year. The average player will always lose money. The top 10% always makes money. The top 1% makes a lot of money. It's a pyramid scheme and if you want to do well you have to be at the top.

  2. Here's my response:

  3. :)

    Those "slave laborers" are often times helping you by farming for you. Then you buy their stuff cheap and shuffle it into the big bucks. Top 1% auctioneering FTW.

    How can China undercut us when they aren't allowed to RMAH on our server? Sure there are ways around the rules but the average player doesn't know how to break them.

  4. "At some point, demand and supply will meet to create a consistent trend for prices."

    Of course, but the point is that with slave wage farmers, supply will be very high, so the intersection point will be a low price. So this statement of yours is meaningless.

    Also, your bullet list is meaningless. Yes, some sections of the market will be more lucrative than others. This is obvious. There is no reason to believe professional RMAH players in low wage countries, people who will accept a few dollars per day as an attractive income, will not quickly figure these things out too. They may be living in crappy economic systems, but they are not stupid and they will render most niches and arbitrage opportunities unattractive quickly.

    Sure, some niche might spring up, but it will be quickly pounced on.

    You talk of systems and strategies, but this is like talking about systems and strategies for playing roullete. OK, it is not negative sum, but no matter how you slice it, you are squeezing blood from a turnip.

    1. You're ignoring how crafting can positively influence the economy.

      The focus should not be on random "secret" strategies but on crafting and the balance of materials instead.

      You can't just render these strategies useless... Even glyphs were popular and lucrative despite insane farming/crowding.

    2. Roulette is a 100% luck based game. Diablo 3 is not.

      I guess when the masses don't understand something they just have to oversimplify. That's one of the amazing things about poker: Most people think they know everything about the game and there is nothing more to learn. It's only after that theory gets proved wrong multiple times that a small minority of people realize that there is always more to learn.

      Mastery of any given complicated skill often requires 5000 hours of experience, and even after that you can still get better. The masses of Diablo 3 can't simply pounce on a strategy that requires mastery of the game.

      I can make $20/hour on average playing low-stakes poker. Does that make me some kind of wizard? I will be in Diablo 3 :)

    3. +1 REP for that comment Nathan.

      Even with 13,000 hours of writing about and playing WoW I still had more to learn about the auction house.

      You NEVER stop learning, and neither does your competition ;)