If you have spent any time hanging out Patch 5.4.2 on the World of Warcraft PTR, you might have noticed that the menu bar has had a new button installed. This new button leads to the brand spanking new in-game store. Here players may eventually be able to purchase a variety of in-game items including mounts, pets, and potentially even services and consumables.
While many players have learned to tolerate the current store found on Blizzard's website, this new in-game version could take things to a level none of us ever expected. In fact, with what we can see in-game and the information being data-mined by other players, we find ourselves wondering if this new in-game store is going to be a blessing or a curse.
In-Game Store Overview
Right now we can see the first incarnation of the in-game shop on the PTR. Currently, Pets, Mounts, and Consumables are all available for purchase. A fake money system (XTS) is in use, at least for the moment, making it totally impossible to try out the purchasing system. On the current PTR players have the option to select four subcategories: Featured, Pets, Mounts, and Consumables. Check out the picture below for a glimpse at the current in-game store model:
Also rumored to be going into the in-game store is the option to race change, faction change, and perhaps more unwelcome things.
A Downward Spiral?
Now you may be thinking that almost all of these things are already available for purchase elsewhere, so what is the big deal? The big deal lies in the consumables section of the in-game store. Here players can purchase one item; the Enduring Elixir of Wisdom. This elixir is an experience potion that allows the player to gain experience and while it may seem minor, it is perhaps the first step in a downward spiral.
It starts with just an experience bonus and then what? Gear, weapons, heirlooms, and more? Where will it stop? Of course, none of this may eventuate and this may be the only player enhancement we see available in the in-game store. However, this is a very slippery slope and it would be very easy for Blizzard to tip off the edge. Pets, mounts, and other nonessential items are easy enough to brush off, but if the in-game store starts to sell items that make your character actually better than others, dark days are ahead for those poor folks among us.
The Value of Choice
Thus far all items we have been able to purchase for the game haven't really enhanced our characters. Sure they may look nicer, ride cooler things, or have neat pets, but overall the purchases are not essential to the game. This is something that I think most of us expect in a game we already pay a subscription fee for, the ability to choose if we want to purchase something or not. With that being said, the Enduring Elixir of Wisdom changes things a bit.
Now for the first time, we may feel we don't have a choice to spend that extra money. Depending on what eventually shows up in the store we may feel we need to purchase something to make sure our character is the best possible. What if that piece of gear we are after is available for cash only or perhaps that buff that will increase our characters damage or healing substantially. While we of course still have the option to buy these things or not, depending on the item, we may feel almost forced into a purchase to enhance our character and keep competitive.
One theory that is being thrown around on forums that may make the in-game store make more sense is that World of Warcraft will eventually go free to play. Considering that almost all MMOs on the market end up canceling their subscription fees, this wouldn't be surprising. Except that, thus far, WoW has had no problem getting players to keep playing despite the fee. Sure, subscriptions have been lost, but with several million still playing, we can't really say the game is hurting all that much.
With that being said, going free to play would be a classic reason to implement an in-game store. This would also probably subside some of the rage at the possibility of heirlooms, gear, and weapons being seen in the shop, if they do indeed appear. In this writerÂs opinion, free to play is probably not an option we will see anytime in the near future and I believe that the purchasable items in the store will be something that we have to pay for on top of our monthly fee. However, there is a way to combat seeing things that you think will be detrimental to the game.
Supply and Demand
While we can't say for sure what will come of the in-game store, there is a way to stop the spiral we talked about in it's tracks. You see, Blizzard is a company. They are looking to make money and we can't fault them for that. In order to make that money they will only make thing available for sale that players are willing to purchase.
This means that if other items pop up beside the Elixir of Enduring Wisdom and you aren't happy with them, refuse to purchase them. If Blizzard isn't making money and they realize that their fan base is really unhappy, they won't offer these types of things. Of course, if you think these things should be available for purchase, by all means, purchase away.
Of course, all of this is simply speculation. The in-game store may be exactly what it appears to be now, noting more than an easier way to buy cosmetic items that don't really affect the game. However, as mentioned previously, it is a slippery slope and we will have to wait and see how it ultimately plays out. I, for one, hope to never see game changing items for sale in any World of Warcraft store, in-game or otherwise.
What do you think about the new in-game store? Do you think game changing items such as gear, weapons, and buffs should be available for purchase here? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below