If Diablo III's real money auction house wasn't in direct opposition to the spirit of its own game and also an incredibly prominent representation of modern PC gaming's most deadly sins, I'd find this whole thing kind of inspirational. I mean, Blizzard's stared down the demons that are abysmal server stability and account hack outbreaks, yet its progress has only been delayed - not deterred. And now, the heavyweight champion of all things hack 'n' slash is gearing up for a high-stakes rematch against the hacking menace. Its secret weapon? Very small pieces of plastic.
Blizzard explained its policy change in a forum post:
"With the introduction of the real-money auction house, account security will become more important than ever. To help ensure that players have a positive experience when using the real-money auction house, we’ve made some adjustments to how players can use and access their Battle.net Balance."
"Starting today, in order to add to your Battle.net Balance, players will be required to have a Battle.net Authenticator or Battle.net Mobile Authenticator attached to their Battle.net account. For clarity, this means you’ll need to have an Authenticator to add to your balance via Battle.net Account Management or to send the proceeds of your real-money auction house sales to your Battle.net Balance... While we understand that this creates an extra step for players during the login process, we believe this added layer of account protection will help foster a safer auction house environment for all of our players."
When reports of hacking first arose, a few victims claimed that account-swiping ne'er-do-wells had tunneled right through their Authenticators. Blizzard, however, more or less shot down those accusations, noting that it hadn't investigated a single hack tied to its tiny, easily swallowed last line of defense.
That said, I have friends who've been hit by WoW hacks in spite of their Authenticators, so I still find that a bit hard to believe. Moreover, even if Blizzard's telling the truth, this still comes as yet another knock against its "always online" policy. Between this new wrinkle and connection issues that both bewilderingly and infuriatingly continue to this day, "games-as-a-service" seems to be anything but. After all, services, by definition, are helpful and convenient. And sure, Battle.net adds some neat multiplayer functionality, but only after we've peeled back layer upon layer of complication.
It could be worse, though. The real money auction house, at least, is completely optional. And, seeing as I plan on both keeping my cash far from the clutches of crafty thieves and starring in the first episode of Hoarders dedicated to loot in a videogame, I'll be steering clear.