Auction minigames. They’re not all over the place, but there’re plenty of’em to be found in RPGs. Some of them are kind of accurate mimicries of the actual process of an auction, like the one found in the Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor games. Others are no closer to an actual auction than a “Mash the A Button to Eat Soup” minigame is to the actual act of masticating, such as the “auction” in Final Fantasy 6. I mean, that one is really just 2 opportunities to say you will pay a predetermined, unchangeable sum of money for 1 out of about a whole 6 randomly generated items, wherein only the second opportunity to bid actually has any bearing on getting the item. It’s less an auction minigame and more a Will You Buy This or Not minigame.
But even when an auction minigame is made well enough that it actually feels like an auction of sorts...what is the freaking point? The enjoyment of being in a real auction certainly isn’t present. You’re not actually there, you don’t actually get to see the people you’re competing against for the item you want, there’s considerably less of an exciting mysteriousness about what unknown junk and treasures could be put up for sale...sure you’re pleased if it’s some item or such that you could use, but I’d have trouble believing that anyone could achieve the same excitement about an auction minigame’s prizes as they would for the possible spoils of a real auction. And if you find that enjoyable, somehow, then okay, fine. But why would you want to waste time doing so in an RPG for pretend items when you could just hop on EBay, get the same experience of bidding against a faceless rising number, and actually have a chance of getting a real, actual item for your trouble? Don’t need an RPG for that.
Now, I’ll give you that the auction in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker managed to actually make the whole auction scenario feel fairly realistic. The minigame has Link in a room, with the other bidders being recognizable NPCs from town whom the player likely has some familiarity with, and so it doesn’t seem like you’re just competing against an impersonal number generator, you actually get a better feeling of bidding against someone else. Additionally, as far as I can tell, the NPCs bid in a relatively unpredictable manner, at least more so than most other auction minigames I’ve encountered, so that also adds a bit more realism to the process. So this one, at least, tries to capture the atmosphere of an actual auction, instead of just being a weak mockery of EBay. Still, it’s a time-consuming process for item acquisition that could otherwise have just been handled quickly and efficiently by just buying the damn thing outright, and its novelty only lasts a couple times before it wears off and the process becomes boring.
Auction minigames certainly aren’t as frustrating as many minigames I’ve covered before (fuck Spheda, man), nor as gratingly common and widespread (I’m so goddamn sick of fishing), nor as time-consuming (goddamn Torneko’s stupid-ass weapon shop!), nor are they annoyingly mandatory (stupid hauler beasts), so I don’t have too much hatred for them. Still, they ARE annoying and/or boring, they DO consume more time than they’re worth, and I frankly just don’t see the point.