Love em or hate em, the Blizzard Store is doing a roaring trade in purchasable World of Warcraft pets and mounts; the latest of which is the Winged Guardian that was announced last week via their official Facebook page. Previously, it had been datamined by several sources but no one quite knew when or where the mount was going to appear in the live game.
The last mount to hit the Pet Store - the much-mocked sparkle pony (aka the Celestial Steed) - was a virtual sales triumph for Blizzard. Players numbering in the hundreds of thousands bought one and Dalaran was heaving under the weight of sparkly horse poop. Youd see Kingslayers with one, along with level twenty twinks and the ease of procurement soon led to the more insulting moniker of sparkle pony. I was out of the country when it was released and the shock of seeing less than 35% of stock left made me contact a friend back in Blighty and get them to purchase one (and the Lil XT
I know, I know) on my behalf. Of course, how a digital item can go out of stock is beyond me
but I digress.
The Winged Lion is the next mount to be offered for sale in the Blizzard Store
When it comes down to mounts, the response is normally Oh thats so cool, how do I get one? or What do you mean I have to spend $XX bucks on a virtual item?. The problem is that, because items like this are available to anyone with a credit card, they soon lose their legendary status and become commonplace, awe becomes scorn and the only winner is Blizzard. I like the non-combat pets, for example, because theyre cute and - in the case of the Pandaren Monk and mini Moonkin - a portion of the proceeds went to charity. But with most purchases, Blizzard is selling an item that can only be used with an account that you are - essentially - renting from them. The worst part is, even though I know this, I still hand over good money for virtual non-combat pets and shiny mounts.
Take the Celestial Steed, it could have dropped from Algalon the Observer, and could have been a trophy rewarding the hardest of the hardcore endgame raiders but instead it is now treated with irritation and annoyance. Indeed, there's only one named Celestial Steed, Twinkles, in the entire game and it features along with the infamous Blood Elf twink, Johnny Awesome, in the Horde quest chain that begins with Welcome to the Machine.
Best. Quest. Ever.
For those who've never played Horde, this is the start of a new questline in Hillsbrad where level 20 players are asked to be a questgiver to three NPCs mimicking different types of WoW players. There's Dumass, the clueless Forsaken, Orkus the Kingslayer with his Frost Wrym and, of course, Johnny Awesome the twink with his heirlooms and paid-for Celestial Steed. He also happens to get some of the best lines of dialogue currently in-game: "Look at me, peasant. Heirlooms cover my body from head to toe, gifted to me by the greatest heroes Azeroth has ever known. Now look at yourself. Quickly, look back at me. Yes, this horse IS made of STARS. What pointless series of tasks befitting a mentally deficient orc have you prepared for me?"
Yes, Blizzard themselves mocked something which made them millions and we loved them for it.
Sadly, the Winged Lion is sure to suffer the same fate. Easily obtainable and BoA, you just know millions of players will be buying them and they will soon be the new must-have mount. This is such a shame, as its look is not only unique but genuinely different to the other mounts currently in-game. Really, the Winged Lion should have dropped from some epic boss in Uldum or been a reward for some impossibly hard Achievement but instead, in a few months time, everyone in Azeroth will have one. Im not afraid to admit that I will be among them either, its one of the perks of being an adult with a credit card.
Considering the sales figures, "Money" may have been a more fitting Pink Floyd reference for the Celestial Steed in-game.
I must admit though, I was a little confused by how Blizzard announced the Winged Guardian. For the last six months, Blizzard has been using its community site with increasing frequency only to make this announcement via the official Facebook page. Wait, what? Yes, it's true. The weird thing is even the adorable charity Moonkin pets had an official announcement on the community site. Its been over a week since the announcement and the fact Blizzard will be selling this mount hasnt yet been mentioned by them outside of Facebook. Given that they should be hyping this thing prior to the inevitable sale, its rather odd that theyre not even trying.
But, where other games take micro-transactions to obscene levels, I kind of like the fact that Blizzard only allow you to buy cosmetic items for real cash, even if it means everyone has one. The day they start allowing you to buy gear, titles or anything else which gives you an in game advantage will ruin everything that makes World of Warcraft, World of Warcraft. But you just know, for now, that Blizzard is going to make an absolute killing and Im certainly not going to be the only one whipping out my credit card when the mount goes on sale.
Will history repeat itself, and owners of the Winged Guardian become the latest target for mass criticism and crude insults? Be sure to leave a comment below and let us know what you think!
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