For his latest WRPG-focused Joystiq column Rowan Kaiser writes about what he believes are Diablo III's long-term planning failures, and considering some of the die-hard fans' opinions I've read on the title, I'm not going to be surprised if this is going to be one of his best-received write-ups yet. Here's an excerpt:
If you've played World Of Warcraft long enough or on varied enough servers, you know that the various in-game economies can differ based on how mature or progressed a server is. The older or better-developed a server, the higher the equilibrium on prices on the auction house. There's more gold in older worlds. This is a slow process, but it seems consistent, only disrupted when Blizzard releases new content that dramatically alters dynamics. This usually makes items cost more, so higher-level characters have to work harder to buy things. Two other things keep World of Warcraft prices growing at a relatively stable rate: items of the same name have the same statistics (unlike Diablo 3's randomly generated stats), and the existence of mods like "Auctioneer" which allow auction super-users to understand and control the rules of the economy – something Diablo 3 doesn't allow.
Instead, Diablo 3's economy is a chaotic mess, which may be impossible to stabilize. First, there's no mechanic to control the amount of gold within the system. It's easy for a character to make thousands of gold pieces without trying much, just by using "Gold Find" gear. Some, including farmers, were even making multiple millions of gold pieces per hour within a few weeks of release. Second, the terrible user interface for the Auction House plus the random stats on every item combine with the lack of auction software to make stability impossible. I cannot pick up an item and search for how much it should sell for, because everything with its name may be different, and in many cases, it's impossible to search by name.
This makes searching for items on the Auction House a total crapshoot. Chances are you can find equipment that's a massive improvement on your own for a few thousand gold pieces or less, or there's an inflation of items, and no way to tell how much something should cost. Alternately, a player may get something that they think is really good, and put it up for six, seven, eight figures. There's enough gold in the economy, after all, that it might work. Diablo 3 ends up detaching loot from work with its Auction House, and then it detaches gold from worth by making the Auction House too difficult to use.
The only solution that would come close to fixing these issues would be regular new content. Higher levels, better items, and harder enemies added on a regular basis would fix motivation and difficulty issues. Yet that's something Blizzard's community manager specifically stated wasn't on the table: "But honestly Diablo 3 is not World Of Warcraft. We aren't going to be able to pump out tons of new systems and content every couple months."