I've heard a lot of people argue that "barter trade is really painful" and therefore it is a mistake to remove the AH's. I beg to differ.
To put it simply, trade needs to be painful or else itemization will suck. It doesn't matter what they do with Loot 2.0, the AH removal is actually the most important part. And here's why:
*** THE MATH ***
The simple mathematical fact is that AH's dramatically skew itemization. Let's assume there are 2 versions of the game with identical itemization: self-found and AH:
*Self-Found*: I find an "awesome" item every 20 hours of gameplay. However, 80% of the time, it's designed for a different class or spec. So I equip one "awesome" item after 100 hours of gameplay. Once I have one slot occupied by an "awesome" item, the next one that drops has a 1/12 chance of being a sidegrade. After two slots, each item has a 2/12 chance of being a sidegrade, etc.
Mathematically speaking, it will take me an average of 3,723 hours to find an "awesome" item in every slot.
*GAH*: I find an "awesome" item every 20 hours of gameplay. 80% of the time it's designed for a different class or spec, so I sell it on the AH and get 85% of the Gold required to purchase an equally awesome item. Better yet, I know exactly which item slot needs the upgrade. Even if I have terrible luck and never find a usable item in my life, on average I only need to play for 23.5 hours to earn enough Gold to purchase an "awesome" item.
Mathematically speaking, it will take me 306 hours to earn enough Gold to purchase an "awesome" item in every slot.
Using the GAH decreases the time needed to gear out your character by a factor of 12! Remember that this is a paper napkin estimate, completely ignoring the increase in kill speed and MF/GF for the GAH user.
If itemization was tuned to be "reasonable" for self-found characters, an AH user would have every item BiS after 2 weeks and could never get another upgrade again. In order to prevent this, Blizzard has to intentionally tune itemization to be extremely slow. (ie 3700+ hours to get all-BiS, the real number is probably even higher)
This is the reason why itemization is so bad on PC.
There are other reasons why the AH is so bad for itemization. One reason is that the AH is equally efficient regardless of your gear/wealth level. A player with 500k to his name can buy a whole bunch of 50k items just as easily as a player with 2B can buy a bunch of 200M items. This causes three harmful effects:
- There is no gear level at which AH'ing is not optimal (by an order of magnitude or more). D3 players are AH dependent from "cradle to grave".
- There is no change in optimal behavior from "poor" to "rich", therefore no sense of progression for the player.
- Since it is easy to turn items into gold, players sell all their items and don't just drop them on the ground. Think about how often you saw people give away stuff for free in D2, and compare to how often it happens in D3.
- Bartering takes a large time investment. At a poor gear level, you will get more items playing the game rather than hanging out in trade chat. Only high-value items are worth the time and effort required to barter them.
- Therefore, the optimal behavior changes dramatically when going from a "poor" account (never barter) to a "rich" account (frequent barter). This gives a sense of progression.
- Bartering requires a huge amount of game knowledge. Therefore, the "real money player" does not have an insurmountable advantage over "in game players", unlike with GAH/RMAH.
- Bartering is a huge pain in the ass and a lot of players would rather play the game self-found. This is a good thing if you believe that videogames should be about gameplay.
- The players who don't barter because it's too much hassle give away their items for free. This feels really good for the newbies in their games and generally helps the sense of "friendliness" and "community".
Trade needs to be painful. It's the best way to improve the game.