Diablo III's auction houses, one of the polarizing features of the game, are going to be shut down on March 18, 2014. According to Blizzard's John Hight, the auction houses no longer fit with what Diablo III and the upcoming expansion, Reaper of Souls, are trying to accomplish. The closure will affect both the gold and real-money auction houses, and should probably make a lot of people pretty happy.
Hight had the following to say about why the auction houses are closing:
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.
"Undermine" is a pretty strong word, but it does tend to line up with what Jay Wilson said earlier this year. Wilson expressed regret over what the auction houses have done to the game, and Hight backs that up with why they're closing. The Loot 2.0 system coming with Reaper of Souls is going to result in a "much more rewarding game experience," and should bring Diablo III more in line with its predecessors.
Details on how the auction houses will be shut down aren't known just yet, but Blizzard wanted everyone to have advanced knowledge about the closure. Both John Hight and Josh Mosqueira explain the decision in the video below.
Auction House Update - YouTube