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Blizzard is experimenting with a new feature on the PTR test realms right now called the In-Game Store. What is this new feature, what is available to purchase from it, and what does it look like? All these questions and more will be answered here, as well as my take on why we are seeing it enter the game and whether it is a good or bad thing for the game as a whole.
What is the In-Game Store
The in-game store is just what it sounds like, a store where you can buy items in the game. It is not that much different from the Blizzard Store where you can buy pets, mounts, and transmog items, except it is accessible inside the game rather than on a web site.
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It is different from any vendor or the auction house in-game since you can access it from anywhere via a handy button in the control bar along the bottom of your play screen. It is also different since it the items are for sale for real world currency. That’s right, you have to pay cash for these things.
What is for Purchase in the In-Game Store?
Right now being very early in the testing process for the in-game store there are only two items for sale. The two items are a bag of 50 Lesser Charms of Good Fortune, and Experience buffing elixirs (in 1 or 5 packs).
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Currently being on the PTR, the items are for sale for a fake currency called XTS so there isn’t really any way to say what these items are going to cost in real currency just yet.
The lesser charms coming as a bag of 50 are obviously in place to allow you to skip doing daily quests but still have access to enough to trade in once a week to get your 3 Greater Charms of Good Luck for raid rerolls.
The experience elixirs grant you 1 hour of 100% bonus experience points. This could greatly increase your levelling speed (which is already pretty fast) so that you can blast through getting alts to max level.
What else Maybe for Sale?
It seems to me that if this system does go into place then the next obvious step for Blizzard would be to allow the in-game purchase of all the items from the Blizzard Store. This would mean all of the pets, mounts, and transmog items would become available to purchase in-game rather than having to leave the game.
Why is this not in the PTR 5.4 Patch Notes?
Good question, and good catch. Blizzard has stated that this feature is being tested in the PTR but is meant for initial launch to primarily the Asian market, as per this statement:
That means that all of us in North America or Europe, may not see an in-game store for a while. Equally possibly, we may, but that doesn’t sound like the plan just yet.
The Messiah’s Opinion
Looking at this new feature, even before considering if it is a good or bad idea for the game as a whole, I have to ask the simple basic question, why have an in-game store at all?
This is all speculation, but it is based on some known factors.
- We all know that WoW subscription numbers are down significantly from their peak. Roughly 12 million in 2010 and currently around 8.2 million.
- It has been mentioned many times that a lot of subscriber loss has been in the Asian market where they pay by the hour and not a flat rate per month.
- Many other games have gone to a free-to-play model, and a prerequisite to that is to have a way to process micro-transactions in game.
The above leads to a few very simple possible answers as to why Blizzard is putting this in place now.
First and foremost, as subscriber numbers drop, monthly income drops, and if they want to keep the same income levels they need to find a way to replace it. This also ties to the free to play model that most other games have switched to, if you allow players to play for free you still need to find a way to charge them for something so that you can produce income.
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Secondly, the fact is that the game requires a lot of time to level characters to get to the end game and then additional time to complete daily quests to participate to maximum advantage in raids each week. This means that players in the Asian market that pay per hour are being penalized in a monetary fashion when compared to players in other markets where we pay a flat rate per month. By allowing players in the Asian market to shorten the time required to level or to bypass the time required for daily quests for a direct payment means that they can save the time they used to have to spend in addition to the funds.
Now onto the question about this new in-game store feature, being good or bad for the game.
I really believe that the answer will come from the items being made available in the store. If it remains simple items like those available in the Blizzard store and a few minor time saving items like the two being tested in PTR right now, them yet it could be a good thing for the game. If Blizzard attempts to put items that enhance your abilities in game then it could be a very bad thing for the game.
Time saving for cash is always a controversial topic for many players, but it is one that doesn’t bug me either way. Leveling up characters in World of Warcraft is extremely easy and fast, as are completing dailies. If the items are limited to speeding up or completing things that are already trivial in game, then I see no issues.
Would I pay to speed levelling? Probably not since the item in PTR only does so for an hour, unless it was dirt cheap, meaning maybe a 10 pack for $2.99, which doesn’t seem likely. Would I pay to skip dailies? Here I would be a little more willing to, but again the price would have to be right. If I could skip the few hours each week that is required for $2-$3 then yes, If it was $5-$10 no way in hell.
Maybe, I am being silly, since my time is worth a whole lot more that $10 or $20 an hour, but I just couldn’t justify spending more than a few bucks to skip that game time. If players out there are willing to spend a lot more, then feel free, I have no issue with it.
Any issue I would have with an in-game store would come from items that should be earned because they enhance your game play. For example if suddenly Blizzard decided that they would allow you to buy raid tier pieces or PVP set items, then I would have a serious problem with the game. While in theory I know that even this is nothing more than a trade of cash for time, since those items are all available to you if you put in the hours, it comes across very differently to me. If this ever happened you could have players in full raid or PVP sets that had never even faced the content. It would make it impossible to tell who has done what and further muddy the ability to fill raid groups as gear would be an even more useless check of ability and knowledge than it is now.
Overall I would prefer that the game remain strictly a monthly subscription based game with no micro transactions or in-game store. However, in the current environment where most other games have moved away from the monthly subscription model, I guess its inevitable that Blizzard will eventually be forced to go that way as well. This is just the start. As long as it remains cosmetic or time saving, no issues. If it even moves to paying for the "I win" type items, then the game will have issues.
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comment section below.
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