Pay For Pets: WoW Cash Event Horizon


“WoW Microtransactions Begin”, says the headline on Bluesnews. I gasp and imagine what the RPS community will make of the idea of selling a mini-lich and a panda with a hat – two in-game pets – for $10 a pop. Buying the panda one actually gives money to charity, too. He’s not evil, you see. My journalistic analysis of this occurrence amounts to me inviting you to imagine Scrooge McDuck’s diving-into-gold sequence, only with squealing Blizzard executives instead of an anthropomorphised fowl.

90 Comments

  1. Vinraith says:

    Ouch. I don’t care about WoW in particular, but normalizing this kind of thing with a user base of that size and enthusiasm can’t possible be good for PC gaming as a whole.

    • Psychopomp says:

      You appear to be under the assumption that WoW fans like change.

    • Vinraith says:

      Mostly I’m under the impression that WoW fans will eventually come around to most anything Blizzard pulls, the subscription numbers seem to back me up on that one.

    • Psychopomp says:

      I doubt it would go beyond simple vanity items.

    • Ansem says:

      Never say never with Blizz. Faction and race changes have been a long-denied idea that have been recently implemented.

    • Inanimotioon says:

      Hahahaha they’re implementing race and faction changes now?!
      Jesus christ.

      1-year prediction: Blizzard announces you can just have a lvl 80 (90?) with Tier 10(?) gear the second you buy the game!

      WoW = Pillow Fight

  2. Psychopomp says:

    Does it affect gameplay?

    No?

    Then what’s the problem?

    • Vinraith says:

      The concern would be that once players are used to this the natural flow of things will inevitably lead to the kind of thing CaLe is talking about below.

      It’s a slippery slope argument, but I think based on the history of the business it’s not a completely unreasonable one.

    • Vinraith says:

      To be clear, I don’t mean Blizzard would start doing that, that would surprise me. What I mean is that, seeing other people comfortable with the idea of micro-transactions for vanity items, a number of less-scrupulous devs who might otherwise not have tried such a thing may start integrating micro-transactions for non-vanity items.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      E.G. Cities XL, where (I’ve think I’ve heard) that mass transit elements of the game are considered DLC and consumers are expected to pay extra for them. Fortunately, I doubt any sensible review will be sympathetic to games that follow this strategy, as they have not been with Cities XL.

  3. growl says:

    I’m surprised they havent started this earlier, tbh.

  4. jameskond says:

    But but but the little Lich King can freeze critters, CRITTER! ;D

  5. Chobes says:

    I would have never believed these would sell if I hadn’t played WoW for 3 years. Whenever I saw a Spectral Tiger mount in the game I would only think about how odd it was that someone would opt for a virtual ghost tiger instead of selling the code for upwards of $500 (double sad points if they actually bought the card on eBay or something).
    That said, I do actually like the idea of giving the pet proceeds to charity. At least that way you get the cheesy little trinket you like, but the real reward would be knowing your $10 got put to use in a helpful way.

    • bobphile says:

      Chobes – When you saw someone with a spectral tiger in game they most likely bought it for $500…

    • Chobes says:

      The part of me that wants to believe in humanity is assuming they are innocent* until proven guilty.

      *A $500 opportunity cost is enough of a shame on it’s own.

  6. CaLe says:

    If they wanna make real money they’ll start their own gold selling service. I seriously doubt they haven’t already considered it. It’s gonna happen anyway and at least it would solve their gold spammer issues. Pay to level characters next. $$$

  7. TRJP says:

    WoW provided me with some amazing experiences but I can’t say I don’t cringe when I see that it appears to have descended to the level of some sort of pet collecting game (where cash/collector cards and mindless grinding required).

    I always slightly resented that the only ‘War’ was in the title but this Barbie Orc Adventures shit is really getting just a bit twee isn’t it??

    I guess all the new and original ideas will be in their next MMO which will release ‘when it’s ready’ (about 2015 then)?

  8. Sajmn says:

    So why does only the panda pet contribute to charities?

  9. Lord_Mordja says:

    I am a fan of the tag.

  10. cyrenic says:

    Blizzard has quietly been adding more and more micro (and some not so micro) transactions to the game. So their business model consists of a retail box, retail box price for each expansion, subscription fees, and now “micro”-transactions.

    But, hey, if people keep paying…

  11. ChaosSmurf says:

    So can I be “that guy” that says “Capitalist company makes money in western world shocker”?

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Instead you could be original and not be the guy who defends dumb money-grabs from Activision, the company that’s set itself up to be the enemy of PC gaming. Why make excuses for them, why white-knight obvious greed? Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

    • Psychopomp says:

      There’s a difference between “defending,” and finding the hub-bub hilarious.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      The laughing only lasts as long as it takes for a decision like this to affect something you actually play/care about, then you wonder why nobody’s laughing anymore. Ah yes, that would be because the shift towards more-for-less monetisation was completed without adequate resistance, PC gamers were too busy laughing and bickering amongst each other to do anything about it.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Nice try, except slippery slopes don’t apply when there is evidence to prove that things will get worse. If you don’t know about said evidence then I guess you’re not informed enough to discuss this matter, it’s not exactly hard to find.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Things will not get worse because: If it goes into game effecting knick knacks. either they lose their playerbase, or drop the sub.

  12. Larington says:

    This is horse armour. As far as I’m concerned.

  13. Kurt Lennon says:

    Activision. Fuck ’em.

  14. Kid A says:

    This isn’t horse armour. This is a whole new level of shitisfaction. Shit for us, Bobby Kotick’s pockets growing slowly more full, and his grin becoming slowly more smug and self-satisfied.

  15. LewieP says:

    Why are we still all saying Blizzard?

    It is Activision Blizzard

    • Adam says:

      Because its in the contract that the Activision bit of the merger can’t do anything to Blizzard except take part of their steaming great pile of cash they make, so this is blizzards decision.

  16. WilPal says:

    Buy all your gear and be OP!
    Coming soon to an internet near you!

  17. Isometric says:

    This is scary, do they really need any more money?
    This opens up more options which is a good thing in terms of pleasing the user base i suppose but the devotion of WoW fans is ridiculously high i assume.
    Could this mean they are losing money/subscriptions with other mmo competition?

    I care not for WoW.
    Nuff said.

  18. Urthman says:

    $10 is not a micropayment.

    • ChaosSmurf says:

      Put it better than I ever could.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Congratulations, you have found out about Capitalism. The same principle drives the US Healthcare system. Look how well that turned out. Fact is, if this nonsense becomes the norm then it’s only a matter of time before we end up paying more for less. Offering content that should and has historically been free for money is bad for gaming, period.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Protip:I’m socialist.

    • Adam Bloom says:

      Healthcare doesn’t compare to anything. You don’t give up on cancer treatment because you can’t afford it, and you don’t shop around for the doctor that gives the best service at the lowest price. If an MMO starts selling stuff you don’t want, you can not buy it and you can cancel your subscription.

      Capitalism fails at healthcare because your health is not a good or service.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      That’s nice but the point was that pointing to Capitalism as a good justification for whatever bullshit money-grab Activision decides to implement next is a paper-thin copout and requires you to be morally bankrupt in order to actually believe it.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Not seeing the big deal about a silly pet, that doesn’t effect gameplay in any way makes you morally bankrupt?

      Hyperbole more, and call me when Blizzard starts selling a gear. Which won’t happen.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      You have no proof that it won’t happen and Activision has already proven itself an enemy to PC gaming in general. This is obviously an Activision-driven decision and to support it is to support the unreasonable monetisation of things which should and have historically been free. Yes, supporting that by saying ‘hey, capitalism, big deal’ makes you morally bankrupt since left unchecked, companies will ride rough-shod over your rights and the hobby which you enjoy and that doesn’t just affect you, it affects everybody.

    • Psychopomp says:

      You know those loot WoW cards? This is a step in the opposite direction.

      You seem to be under the foolish notion that someone’s who’s okay with this wouldn’t riot if it went into gameplay affecting stuff. Get off your high-horse, it’s just a vanity item. The WoW devs are smart enough to know they’d lose 2/3rds of their subscribers if they moved anywhere beyond that.

    • Chobes says:

      “Yes, supporting that by saying ‘hey, capitalism, big deal’ makes you morally bankrupt since left unchecked, companies will ride rough-shod over your rights and the hobby which you enjoy and that doesn’t just affect you, it affects everybody.”

      This kind of confuses me. What is a consumer supposed to do that’ll actually keep this in check aside from just not buying the damned things?

    • ExplosiveCoot says:

      @ Totalbiscuit:

      I am very sympathetic to the idea of socialism in matters of health and finance, but unchecked capitalism definitely seems like the way to go when it comes to the entertainment industry. If something doesn’t entertain you, don’t pay for it. If something would entertain you but you think it’s too expensive, don’t pay for it – the world will go on, you’ll keep your health, job, and family, and you will find other ways to be entertained. The company that was overcharging for the entertainment will likely re-think their strategy or fail, and someone who is providing excellent entertainment for a more palatable cost will rise in their place.

  19. lumpi says:

    Note that the lich pet money doesn’t go to fucking charity. And it still costs $10. It goes right in Kotick’s smeary pocket.

  20. lumpi says:

    PS: I love how they have a “Quantity:” pull-down menu that lets you buy up to 10 of those things at once.

  21. Gap Gen says:

    That’s actually an excellent metric of a company’s income – how big a swimming pool they could fill with a year’s profit.

  22. AceCrikey says:

    Activision and Blizzard as a development house still exist as seperate entities with Activision Blizzard being the holding company at the top created when they merged to plug them together. It’s Vivendi pulling the strings ultimatley though.

  23. Psychopomp says:

    How can anyone think people would let it get worse? You can’t even announce substantial DLC without the entire internet getting angry. What makes you think people are going to be ok with non-vanity microtransaction, in a subbed MMO?

    • Chobes says:

      I bet if you read a post on the WoW forums with someone threatening to cancel their subscription you’d actually believe they were gonna do it.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      When I were a lad there was no such thing as DLC. It was called either patches or expansions.
      Patches were when the dev’s fixed bugs & generally made the game better. Sometimes they gave you some new content for free with the patch too if you were really good all year.
      Expansions were optional extras you paid for if you wanted to play them. In most cases they were completely separate from patches.

      Kids these days, don’t know they’re born.

  24. br3ntbr0 says:

    You sir, win the internet for use of the word “anthropomorphised” in an article.

  25. Chobes says:

    Man, lots of strong feelings in this thread. I’m not gonna count against Actiblizzion slipping down the slope, but I do think it’s a little unrealistic to expect them to straight up selling gear. Selling multiplayer maps on consoles is accepted nowadays, so I’m going to save my judgment for when they start selling instances with meaty gear, and I’ll start caring when Valve adopts the business model.

    • Psychopomp says:

      “I’m going to save my judgment for when they start selling instances with meaty gear,”

      Expansion packs?

      YES I’M BEING FACETIOUS

  26. Z says:

    So it’s like the mini-floating-eyeball thing, then?

  27. mootpoint says:

    Haven’t a bunch of companies been doing essentially the same thing with their limited edition in-game items for a long time already? And BioWare/EA with their camp/storage for $7? Seems like this is where we’re heading. Actually all that episodic content talk is essentially the same thing as well…

    And actually, if they weren’t so greedy about it, I’m not sure that I mind too much. Say someone would for example release the core game for a fiver and then charge for extended gameplay for example. Might be a “good” way to battle piracy as well. Example:

    First ten hours of Dragon Age: €5
    Each “episode” of ten hours further: €5

    If you tire you just pay for what you’ve played, if you want the whole shebang that’ll be €40 for you thank you very much.

    • Psychopomp says:

      “And BioWare/EA with their camp/storage for $7?”

      You know there’s already a camp, right? You just don’t have to leave to dungeon to go camp.

    • mootpoint says:

      Ah, no, didn’t know that, I gathered from Tom Chick’s diaries at fidgit that you needed to pay to get unlimited storage (lets see if I finally manage to link something):
      Dragon Age: the hidden seven dollar storage fee
      To which BioWare responds here:
      Bioware responds to Dragon Age inventory criticism
      (Didn't manage the links, weird things happen, thank the spaghetti monster for the forums :) )

    • Starky says:

      More for the point they are NOT selling you a storage chest for $7…

      They are selling you a 3-5 hour adventure, with proper plot, unique items and new magic – and a storage chest.

    • Psychopomp says:

      There’s no storage in camp.

      I think the storage part of the equation has to do with the overall size of Warden’s Keep, as it’d be kinda annoying to have to leave to sell extra kit, especially when there’s no return scrolls and such.

    • ExplosiveCoot says:

      I don’t really see how anyone could take 3-5 hours to get through Warden’s Keep unless they had the difficulty cranked up to nightmare and spent the majority of that time beating their head against the wall in overly-difficult combat.

      I was very thorough in playing through the keep, reading every codex entry, exploring every nook and cranny, etc. and it took me less than 90 minutes to complete.

      I’d still say it was worth it for the enjoyable story / exploration of Grey Warden history and extra skills provided, but I don’t think it’s helpful to overstate the amount of content provided here.

  28. Dean says:

    The pets haven’t always been historically free. The first ones came with the CE of the original Warcraft. Which cost more money. There were extra ones with the CEs of the expansions, which cost more money. You could get them from the card game, and people sold those cards on Ebay. They were bundled with Blizzcon tickets and at other Blizzard events… and so forth. You’ve been able to buy vanity pets if you wanted to for ages.

    If you don’t, there’s over 50 you can get in-game for no money at all. And you know what, no-one gives a damn. You know what happens when you get a vanity pet in WoW? You walk around with it for a few days, then the novelty wears off and it gets annoying and is wasting a spot on your toolbar and you never bother with it again. It’s just a damn vanity pet. No-one cares. Even if it were a different skin for a mount, then maybe there’d be a crime to answer for here, as exclusive mounts are cool and normally given for doing something in-game. But a vanity pet? If you’re going to get wound up about that then you need to take a good hard look in a mirror…

  29. Merus says:

    I’m normally fairly tolerant of DLC extravagances – you sell me horse armour, and I’ll say “no” and be on my way – and my attitude doesn’t change much here. Yeah, they’re nice pets. There’s more than a hundred free ones in the game, and there’s been a precedent for Blizzard to pack in pets for the collectors’ editions and give them away as gifts for people who pony up for Blizzcon.

    Moreover, Blizzard aren’t stupid. They’re well aware that vanity items like pets and mounts serve as motivation for some of their player base, and if they’re moved behind a pay wall many of them will stop playing because they’re only playing to collect pets. It’s also why I suspect the “buy gear” argument is invalid – Blizzard have installed a lot of ways for alts to skip gameplay, but they seem to be adamant that new players should go through all the content like everyone else. The heirloom gear they created, that has an XP boost property and improves its stats as characters level, seems to have been done in response to players purchasing a second account for an XP boost. Blizzard’s stance on these pay services has been that it shouldn’t allow (new) players to skip gameplay, and I’d be frankly kind of shocked if they relented on that stance.

    • JKjoker says:

      they will relent when they start getting a slice of the dough, see Starcraft 2’s bnet2 ideas about allowing map makers to charge for their maps with blizzard getting a juicy cut

  30. TCM says:

    Have they not bilked enough money from their thralls?

  31. TeeJay says:

    I have never played WoW. I probaby never will.

    Am I missing much?

  32. Craig says:

    As far as I’m concerned, if you are paying a subscription then you should be entitled to EVERYTHING in the game and new content should be a given.

  33. Jocho says:

    Really can’t see the big problem here, and isn’t really that surprised they’re doing this. Micro transactions have been more and more established for every passing year, and these are really meaningless stuff. Yes, it will most likely sell, and most likely because people seem crazy with this cute stuff – and no surprise, really, as in a game where almost anything can be gotten in one fairly linear path of progression, people start wishing to be unique and get something to talk about with their friends.

    I’m pretty sure this will get me jumped by a bunch of angry socialists, who’ll come saying “But the big publisher wants to greed us out, this is a step on the road to buying relevant stuff that has been free before”. And, perhaps your right. When people buys free, silly, stuff, they’ll start trying selling more meaningful content. In a game with only one path of progression (in WoW’s case, better gear), this will mean people have to buy it to progress. That being said, if they can sell meaningful stuff that’s not *required* to play the game, but only broadens the way you can play (a WoW-example: battlegrounds not required to progress), is that a bad thing?

    Sure, you may say its been free before, and I agree it sucks to pay for whats been free before, but don’t throw all eggs in that same basket. Some of these have been micro transaction in disguise (“buy a ticket to BlizzCon” – costs money), and some will most likely remain free (making all pets a buy-for would undermine the whole “how’d you got that?” about them).

  34. Doug F says:

    I don’t have a problem with this feature itself, but with the escalation of the “exploitation” of Blizzard franchises. I tried to believe that the sheer amount of money WoW brought in would be enough for Blizzard to keep their autonomy within Activision Blizzard, but each new way they’ve introduced to get money out of players over and above the subscription fee has made me increasingly cynical.

    Paid name changes, paid server transfers, paid “character recustomizations” (gender/appearance swap), paid faction changes, paid race changes, and now a real money pet store.

    Yeah, I’m not optimistic for the future of the game. Not with the example Infinity Ward is setting in regards to what can happen under Bobby Kotick’s rule.

  35. rupert says:

    dunno if anyone else has said this , got bored reading all the comments but …
    i wonder when they will make it so you can buy gold with real money :)

  36. Sonic Goo says:

    But does it comes with an achievement called ‘more money than sense’? That’s what I want to know.

  37. Nick says:

    SoE have been doing this with EQ/2 (and probably their other games) for a while now. Pretty annoying.

  38. Carra says:

    $10 is excessive.

    Save your money and go buy Psychonauts on gog.com instead.

  39. We Fly Spitfires says:

    $10 is indeed excessive. And once you figure out that they’re charging the equivilent of $15 to UK and European players, you’re head will explode. Go go Euro exploitation!

  40. Dean says:

    As for the slippery slope, Blizzard have been making money giving vanity items away with the card game for about two years now. In all that time, it’s never progressed past vanity items.

  41. sigma83 says:

    Backdrop: The roiling disgust of late ’09, with the dick moves pulled by Infinity Ward fresh overhead

    The scene: sigma83 comments on Blizzard’s new monetization features.

    AN OFFICE IN KUALA LUMPUR
    INT DAY

    SIGMA83
    Well, they’ve promised never to monetize actual game-affecting items, and looking at them so far they’ve stuck to their word. With regard to B-net sales, they’re not B-net exclusives and they don’t have to be. Any creator who releases something as a B-net exclusive is going to get ostracized by the community unless they release something DOTA level, and even then they’re going to need to work up to it a la Tripwire and their Red Orchestra efforts.

    sigma83 clicks ‘Opinion, Away!’

    SCENE.

  42. Scarves says:

    These pets look cool, but they have the negative stigmata of being obviously bought.

    They should unlock an achievement called ‘Me and My Money are Some Party’.

    Ah, I should mention to all you Britishers, you can buy the American ones for the $10 and save yourselves some munnies if you absolutely neeeeeeeeed them. They will still work on the EU servers.

    I ain’t getting them though.

    Mr. Pinchy is still cooler.

  43. Scarves says:

    ‘negative stigmata’ is reduntantly redundant………

    and I lost the edit button in the couch somewhere.