early November 2009 Blizzard introduced the Pandaren Monk and
Lil’ KT to the online Blizzard Store. The Blizzard Store has
always sold Blizzard merchandise, from t-shirts to collectibles but
these new additions were special, they were the very first in-game
merchandise sold for real-world money. While it’s
not unheard of for players to pay real money for in game
items, this practice is usually only popular in free-to-play
games whose cash flow comes only from these item sales.
World of Warcraft is most definitely not a free to play game, with
players paying 15 dollars a month to play for just one account on top
of the initial purchase price of the game, making this a huge risk for
Blizzard. As was to be expected the WoW community was in an uproar over
the announcement. Players took up both sides of the fight, some
condemning the company for their greed, while others praised them for
their ingenuity. Despite the seemingly large amount of scandalized
players the Pandaren Monk and Lil’ KT turned out to be a hit.
The success of these initial pets threw the door for micro transactions
in WoW wide open, and as we all know, once a door is opened it never
truly closes. In the following months Blizzard unleashed several more
pets with apparent success. Feeding upon these victories
Blizzard kicked it up a notch and presented the Celestial Steed, a 310%
speed mount purchasable for twenty-five dollars, the most expensive in
game item to date. Instead of being rejected by the community, the
Mini KT and the Pandaren Monk
were the first virtual pets introduced to the Blizzard Store.
Steed was a mega-seller, astounding everyone with over four million in
estimated sales in the first day, and a queue that would put the lines
at Disney World to shame.
While it is sometimes easy to forget, Blizzard is a company and like
any other company they are out to make money in any way possible. As
this overwhelming positive reaction to the newest addition to the
store will most likely fuel the continued expansion of in-game items
available for cash. As long as players are willing to
continue to fork out their hard earned money on the virtual items we
can expect to see new and pricier items appear in the store. Perhaps
eventually even in store only weapons, armor, and maybe even entire
Many readers are probably scoffing right now, paying for dungeons
indeed, what a ridiculous idea. I would have thought the same thing not
too long ago, but with the majority of the WoW community embracing
micro transactions so far and
the changes to raiding coming with
Cataclysm; purchasable dungeons may not be as far fetched as you might
think. Here are some of the major
changes that Blizzard has in store for raiding in Cataclysm:
The first of the refinements
being made is that we're combining all raid sizes and difficulties into
a single lockout. Unlike today, 10- and 25-player modes of a single
raid will share the same lockout. You can defeat each raid boss once
per week per character.
We're designing and balancing
raids so that the difficulty between 10- and 25-player versions of each
difficulty will be as close as possible to each other as we can achieve
For the first few raid tiers,
our plan is to provide multiple smaller raids. Instead of one raid with
eleven bosses, you might have a five-boss raid as well as a six-boss
As pointed out by the Blizzard post above, Cataclysm will spell the end
of 10 and 25 man raids as we know them, combining the two into a single
lockout and scaling them to be similar in difficulty.
Cataclysm will also bring smaller raid dungeons reminiscent of Tempest
Keep in place of the huge dungeons of the past. These changes will not
only serve to make dungeons more accessible to a larger portion of
players, but will cut down on the raid time for all players, leaving
open large chunks of time that had once been occupied by raiding.
At first these changes will not prove to be a problem, it will take
some time for all areas of the new dungeons to be opened, and once they
are more time will be needed for players to complete them. However with
shorter dungeons and more time to spend on them it won’t be
long until the majority of the raiding player base has defeated them.
Achievement seeking will hold the hordes over for awhile, but
The success of the Celestial
Steed may mean bigger microtransactions in the future.
eventually the cry will go out for fresh content. Much like a vampire
needs and desires blood, WoW players need and desire new content.
Usually around this time Blizzard would have a patch in the works which
once released would introduce a new dungeon or two to appease the
masses, but why should they do it for free when they have the potential
to make some extra revenue in the process?
It’s evident simply by observing the number of people with
the various purchasable pets, and the numbers created by the sale of
the Celestial Steed that so far, despite going against industry norms,
Blizzard’s new items for cash gig is going very well. So with
that in mind it’s not
such a stretch to come to the
conclusion that if the fan base is willing to purchase novelty items
such as pets and mounts, what would stop them from digging a little
deeper into their pockets to obtain a Blizzard Store exclusive dungeon?
While dungeons for cash would undoubtedly cause a backlash from the WoW
community at large, I believe it would be a success albeit not instant.
Players leaning more towards the hardcore would quite possibly see
these purchasable dungeons as a way to set themselves apart from other
raiders, giving them access to achievements and gear that few others
could obtain. Assuming all members of a raiding guild would be required
to purchase the dungeon, Blizzard would see large amounts of money in a
short period of time. Eager for new content, gear, and to compete more
and more guilds would take the plunge fattening Blizzard’s
cash cow and further perpetuating the micro transaction plague.
Blizzard is indeed walking a very thin line here, and at any time they
could stumble and fall, however it will take the combined effort of the
players to push them over the edge and limit the micro transaction
insanity. So the next time you feel the need to purchase that adorable
new pet, amazing mount, or any other new items up for sale in the
Blizzard Sore, keep in mind that by doing so you are inevitably one
step closer to the edge of what is the slippery slope of micro
transactions. One false step and we could find that our
pockets are empty.
What do you think is the future of micro transactions in Cataclysm?
Would you pay real-world money for in-game content? Share your answers
and opinions with us on our forums!