Blizzard officially announced that they plan to remove the auction houses that operate both with real money and ingame currency by March 18th, 2014. The company decided that the extensive use of the auction houses to acquire items was detrimental to the game experience and thus decided to do away with it. On their forums a detailed FAQ on the matter can be found.
The developers even put the effort into recording a small video explaining the change
When Diablo III features were detailed over two years ago, the auction houses, especially the real money auction house (RMAH), were touted as a safe and efficient way to trade items with other players. Too efficient it seems as many players found it faster and more convenient to gear their characters via the auction house than actually kill monsters and acquire loot drops.
Blizzard earlier announced that the add-on will introduce a new looting system called ‘Loot 2.0′, which reduces the number of overall drops but makes those that happen much more valuable than before. In other words ‘Loot 2.0′ is meant to return the fun in acquiring items by killing monsters, one of the main activities in the game.
While it was not confirmed, it would be an educated guess that the shutdown of the auction houses coincides with the release of the pre-patch to the Diablo III addon ‘Reaper of Souls’. Blizzard also announced that while the new story content requires purchase of the addon, the updates to the game systems such as the new loot system and many others will be available to Diablo III players through a free update.
Interestingly enough in a recent interview with Eurogamer the same game director stated that the auction house would stay in the game. The interview was taked at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany last month but only published little over a week ago. Since the console version of Diablo III, that was launched on September 3rd, 2013 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, shipped without the auction houses there was already some controversy whether it would stay in the PC version. This shows that it certainly wasn’t a lighthearted decision but ultimately the company decided to remove it to improve the actual gameplay experience.