When JayeDub left a comment yesterday about Blizzard implementing paid vanity pets, I didn’t take it seriously. WoW’s not a cash shop game. They’ve spent the last year showing that everyone can achieve anything if they put in enough time. Imagine my surprise when I found out they were total hypocrites. Money trumps philosophy, is the take-home from this one and, for a company with Blizzard’s reputation, it can only be a sign of changing times.
When I read WoW.com‘s post, people seemed pretty torn about whether this was FTW or epic fail. People who don’t see a problem with it feel that it’s OK since pets are vanity items; they don’t affect gameplay, they’re just neat to look at and have follow you around. That’s true but it’s also a stance that completely ignores the other half of the argument.
Here’s why I don’t like “pay-for-me” pets.
The shady waters of item shops
WoW isn’t at the point of a real item shop yet but a lot of the outcry over these pets is based on what may be around the corner. Blizzard is putting their toe into some very murky waters, when it comes to charging for in-game items. It’s a slippery slope when you start offering things for sale rather than earning them in game. Now, it’s pets, but what happens in a few months? Consumables for time-challenged raiders? Crafting mats for similarly starved crafters? Using money to pay for things other players can’t earn undermines the value of everybody’s time and the line between acceptable and “crossing the line” is subjective at best.
It’s also up to the company to make sure item shops don’t segregate the player base. Even when items can also be earned in-game, when someone can just go and buy whatever it is, it draws a line between the “player” and “payer.” This separation becomes, not only obvious, but annoying to the average player and resentments start to fester. The only place to lay blame is on the parent company that cared more about cash than community. See: Runes of Magic.
Excluding players without credit cards
Not all WoW players have debit/credit cards and, contrary to what many people think, not everyone can get a debit card, unless you’re somewhere that sells the deceptively innocent appearing pre-paid kind that mostly tie you into contracts by using them.
What does this mean? If you’re one of the many, say, under 18, WoW players you’re out of luck. Unless, of course, you can convince your parents to pay for you.
But mooooooom… I really want it!
Cool should not equal cash
Right now, the lich pet is probably the coolest looking and most unique vanity pet in the game. Granted, it doesn’t affect gameplay but it leaves the door open to other likewise fun things being cash only. One commenter at WoW.com mentioned that this was no different than buying TCG loot cards on Ebay. He’s right, but those players buying the loot cards are bypassing a system that’s supposed to reward the time and effort of card collecting. In other words, they were cheating the system to get a one-up on other players.
Fun items shouldn’t be credit card purchases. They should require some vestige of effort more than typing in your three digit security code. As a player paying a monthly fee, I want the chance to get the same, or similar, item without giving up more money every month. Why am I paying a $15 fee then? So you can design vanity pets I can’t buy or to wait six months for a new patch? That’s why most games either go P2P or F2P with an item mall.
Ending the meta-game
Vanity pets don’t effect game play… unless you’re a pet collector. Blizzard looked the pet collectors in the eye and told them if they’re meta-game is at an end… unless they pay them $20. That’s lame, plain and simple.
There are only two things this could mean
After thinking on it, this decision could mean only two things. First, that Blizzard is looking to money grub. Or, second, that Blizzard’s not earning the way it used to.
Personally, I think it’s a mix of both. Making money is something all companies try to do but I tend to get a little sore when a company making way more money than all its competition tries to dig their customers even more by charging 2/3 of their monthly sub for a single pet. Hey Blizzard, word on the street has it that that’s about 1000% the average microtransaction. They’re digging because they can. And why not? Their investors can’t be happy they just lost the whole Eastern hemisphere through, you know, those silly things called laws.
Just to keep this in perspective, people’s problems with this pet store are mostly based on “tip of the iceberg” type thinking. In the interest of full disclosure, I can say that I like both of the pets. I’d probably get the lich one, if I didn’t care about not supporting this idea. Still, if they start offering anything else other than silly little pets and total vanity pieces, I’m going to call for either giving me a way to earn them in game, or lowering my subscription. I don’t like being dug and the potential is definitely here.