Blizzard has announced that it will be removing the auction house feature entirely from Diablo III as of March 2014.
"When we initially designed and implemented the auction houses, the driving goal was to provide a convenient and secure system for trades," explained Blizzard production director John Hight. "But as we've mentioned on different occasions, it became increasingly clear that despite the benefits of the AH system and the fact that many players around the world use it, it ultimately undermines Diablo's core gameplay: kill monsters to get cool loot."
The company is currently developing a new loot system that it is calling Loot 2.0 alongside the upcoming Reaper of Souls expansion. This will involve fewer in-game loot drops, but the loot that does drop will be of much higher quality, with legendary items focusing on skill modification. This, according to Blizzard, will provide a much more rewarding experience for players.
The company is still working out the details about how the closure will proceed, but decided to announce it now so that players could have as much time as possible to get their affairs in order.
Diablo III broke the record for the fastest-selling PC game when it was released last year, with over 3.5 million copies bought within the first 24 hours of release. In 2012, it sold over 12 million copies.
Hight and Blizzard game director Josh Mosqueira have provided a few more details about the reasoning behind the closure in the video below.