Diablo III's most despised feature will soon be no more. Blizzard has just announced that they're stripping the game's controversial auction houses, effective on March 18, 2014.

This is a surprising move for the folks behind the third Diablo, which has dealt with heavy criticism since it first launched last summer. The real-money auction house, which allowed players to buy and sell in-game items for actual cash, had been criticized for encouraging a pay-to-win atmosphere, in which people could max out their credit cards to max out their characters. The point of Diablo, many fans have argued, is to earn virtual loot, not cheat for it.

Now it seems the company regrets that decision, and they're taking a big step to fix things. Here's Blizzard:

When we initially designed and implemented the auction houses, the driving goal was to provide a convenient and secure system for trades. 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 game play: kill monsters to get cool loot. With that in mind, we want to let everyone know that we've decided to remove the gold and real-money auction house system from Diablo III.

We feel that this move along with the Loot 2.0 system being developed concurrently with Reaper of Souls™ will result in a much more rewarding game experience for our players.

We're working out the details of how the auction house system will be shut down, but we wanted to share the news as soon as we made the decision in order to give everyone as much advance notice as possible. Please note that the shutdown will occur on March 18, 2014. We will keep everyone informed as we work through this process.