Speaking at a Diablo III press event last week, Blizzard vice president of game design Rob Pardo revealed some features for the upcoming hack and slash RPG that are likely to prove divisive. Firstly, like StarCraft II before it, Diablo III will be an online-only game. The reasoning behind this is firstly so Blizzard can ensure cheating doesn't take place; and secondly so that players who spend hours developing a high level character and then want to jump into multiplayer don't have to start all over again.

The big feature that everyone's talking about this morning, though, is the way the in-game auction house will work. Designed as a means to "facilitate player trading" according to Pardo, it's fully integrated into the game client and, most notably, allows players to sell items for real money. Pardo was keen to stress that it is not a Blizzard store -- it is a means for players to list their own items and potentially make some money from them. It's, in part, a response to the almost nonexistent trading interface in Diablo II, where players would have to negotiate a trade in Battle.net chat, then jump into a game to resolve it.

Players will be completely anonymous during trades, and proceeds from each successful transaction will go into a player's Battle.net eBalance, which can be spent on other Auction House purchases or other Battle.net services. Apparently it'll also be possible to "cash out" -- but only at the time of the transaction -- by linking up with a third party client and giving Blizzard a percentage of the fees.

"Hardcore" (aka permadeath) characters won't be able to use this service, because it leads to the possibility of players spending real money and then losing all their items through an unlucky encounter.

"We're doing this because players want it," said Pardo. "If Blizzard doesn't do it, I'm not so naïve as to think it's not going to happen anyway."

Given the growth in free to play games and post-launch monetization through DLC, we asked Pardo whether or not there was a certain amount of pressure to monetize Diablo III based on current industry trends.

"Pressure is the negative way to look at it," he replied. "I would prefer 'inspired.' I would be just as happy going out with what we did with StarCraft II, which is a box model. But I don't know, it's kind of an exciting time in the gaming industry. People are trying new things and having a lot of success. Everything's going wide open, which is more what we're inspired by."

This article originally appeared on GamePro.com as Diablo III to Feature Real-World Currency Transactions in Auction House