Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
WoW micro-transactions

Keen reports with loathing that somebody found a "paid character customization" button in the Wrath of the Lich King beta files, and Blizzard reluctantly admitted that this was a feature they are planning for the future. He talks about cash cows, which by definition are "products with high market share in a slow-growing industry". Is WoW a high market share product in a slow-growing industry? I think so. Not that the MMORPG genre couldn't grow any further, but at least temporarily we reached more or less a plateau. WoW has the highest market share in this (in dollar terms, don't start to tell me how many millions play this or that free-to-play game, it isn't relevant). And Blizzard is trying to make the most possible money out of that situation, by introducing micro-transactions. You can hate companies for wanting to make a profit (welcome to the real world), or you can hope they'll invest that cash back into the next big MMO (which was revealed to *not* be World of Starcraft, WoW2, or World of Diablo). In any case, companies wanting to make a profit is just how things are.

Whether we should loathe that or not depends on what is actually for sale. To me "paid character customization" sounds pretty harmless. Really, if they only sell visual character customization, that is totally okay with me. Nobody is hurt if somebody else can buy himself a halo and angel wings outfit for $20 from Blizzard. Where I would start balking is when that outfits gives +500 bonus to healing spells (just an example, I know that +healing bonus is out with WotLK). Because if the paid character customization actually improves your characters stats, we'd start seeing raid spots being reserved for people who paid up, and certain paid outfits would become mandatory for certain classes.

One of the things that many games with micro-transactions sell is some sort of scroll or potion that gives you a temporary buff to the rate in which you earn xp or gold. Blizzard is actually already selling that, as part of their "recruit a friend" campaign, which for many players turned into a "level an alt by two-boxing" paid triple-xp extravaganza. I'm not a fan of that either. True, the people who tend to have the money to pay for faster xp gain are usually those who have less disposable time, so in some way it balances their leveling speed against the leveling speed of those who can play all day. But I don't like the whole "lets rush through this game as fast as possible" attitude, because I don't subscribe to the idea that the endgame is the real game.

So I hope Blizzard is just selling stuff like haircuts, armor dyes, cloak textures, and fancy effects around your weapons. I wouldn't necessarily want to buy any, but I wouldn't mind other people buying them. Do you loathe your neighbor for buying a Porsche, or do you realize that due to traffic and speed limits it takes him exactly the same time to get to work as you? If paid character customization is just about visual status symbols, then I don't fault Blizzard for adding it.
It would be nice though if the customer could buy those sorts of character customisation using in-game money. Assuming I'm innocent of buying gold from a third party vendor (and why wouldn't I be), surely I should be able to spend the gold that I've had to slave over in the game purchasing an in-game haircut. Both the gold and the haircut are owned by Blizzard, right, so technically I should be able to do this. Blizzard could re-coup the gold as to get it I would have had to spend time in the game, and that time directly converts into a subscription charge, at the very least.

The only thing that breaks this whole idea is if I've bought the gold from another source like a goldbot - but then again, Blizzard are taking heavy steps to continuously ban these heinous criminals, correct?
I'll echo what I wrote elsewhere about this possible change.

Would it have been nice by Blizzard if this had been an option available free of charge to all of us? Sure. But now it looks like it won't be, so the question is will it hurt me. And no, it won't, as long as it's just cosmetic changes that become available. As a matter of fact I will benefit from the change even if I won't pay for any alterations myself, since the world population will become less dull and homogenous to look at.

So all in all it would be a positive change, even if it's less positive than it would have been if the option was available for free.
I thought that there was going to be the in game barber-shop where you could do whatever normal customizations that occur at character creation, but there will also be this extra feature with potentially "premium" looks.

source -
It all ends up with one final question that you already scratched several times on your blog, but never dared to ask:

Do we really, really need levels ??
Long overdue T! A decent blog article.

And even longer overdue... I agree with you.

If Wow becomes a them and us game then its very dead in the water for me.

Them being the guilds that demand the best stats only... so forcing players to buy physical stat improvements.

I consider the monthly fee expensive already... I will not cough up anything else for a game that I am entitled to experience.
Is this really much different than companies charging extra for "collector's editions" which have extra in game things like vanity pets or, in the case of WAR, different face models. Except all your customers can buy a change at any time, instead of a select few.
With the character name change service on the one hand and Upperdeck's Loot card codes being sold on eBay on the other hand, I really wonder what the Blizzard plan is here.

I expect $$ for in-game stuff. Gold for in-game stuff does not make sense as news, vendors are around since release.

Blizzard offering in-game goodies that are not combat relevant for purchase is to me much preferable to trading card codes or the horrors of the random loot.

Getting TCG loot codes as non-TCG player includes an ebay fraud risk. I doubt that a significant percentage of the people having TCG-eyecandy really play the TCG.

To me, shopping directly at the Blizzard Eye-Candy webstore would be the perfect solution for the eyecandy demand.
At first, I think we're going to see simple things, such as titles or armor dies or other appearance customization. Possibly mounts. I would really expect them to provide only things that don't impact actual combat, but maybe some of them won't be purely cosmetic either.

Oh, and I wouldn't expect any of this stuff to be purchasable with gold. Gold transactions hurt Blizzard, since they encourage (or at least allow) people to go to the gray market (i.e., gold farmers) to buy things - and when that happens, Blizzard doesn't get a cut.

Of course, I think this is only the beginning.

Unlike Tobold, I say open the floodgates for everything. Levels, armor, all of it. If the game is good enough that people are willing to pay more than the monthly subscription, why would you leave it on the table? Let each player decide whether to buy or not, just as they do now with the gray market.

So somebody who doesn't pay and doesn't play much loses his raid slot in a progression guild - so what? There are thousands of guilds in WoW, and certainly there will be more than one that meets your criteria.

Here's the thing - would it make players who grinded through the game "feel bad" that others could buy their way into higher end content? Would it make a player's own experiences any less enjoyable knowing that somebody else had taken a different route?

Hint: it shouldn't.
So somebody who doesn't pay and doesn't play much loses his raid slot in a progression guild - so what? There are thousands of guilds in WoW, and certainly there will be more than one that meets your criteria.

How do you figure 'Doesn't Play Much' come into this. This is irrelevant.

It won't only affect end game raid.. but will even sweep down to Heroics - where you wont get a group cause you don't have the purchased epics.

I pay a monthly subscription... that means a level playing field in my eyes... I'm paying for Bliz to provide a platform for me to experience all game quests and dungeons.

By introducing purchased bolts ons that will (unintentionally) become required for such runs... then they are in effect handicapping my game play and cheating me out of the experience... effect they are then guilty of defrauding me (in my eyes).

Open the floodgates and WoW will lose 30% of its player base I think.
There was a time not that long ago when everyone in WoW was on an equal footing, regardless of how much money they had at hand. This balance was only affected by "external" things such as people paying money for gold or automation of the game.

That time is long gone, as we now have the rise of smarter multiboxing software, RAF, and a slew of items which can be purchased.

The argument that some things do not affect the game balance is a very thin one, in my opinion. There are things in the game worth having that can only be purchased with real money. It doesn't matter whether they are stat'd or not. What matters is that the guy only willing to spend $14.99/mo on the game can not and will not [b]ever[/b] have a Spectral Tiger or enjoy 3x experience for his alts or any number of things.

I can't fault them for capitalizing on the market. I do, however, take issue with doing so while claiming that spending money outside the game world to get stuff inside the game world is wrong.

Gotta pick one or the other, guys.
The more money WoW makes the more money ABC Game MMO Development Inc. will be willing to put down for developing the next great MMO. If WoW wasn't such a cash cow for Blizzard would EA have bought Mythic and funded Warhammer for all of this time?

Warhammer is such a fun game BECAUSE WoW makes Blizzard a lot of money. Every dime they can squeeze from their customers is more money for development and bug fixes across the entire industry.
There was a time not that long ago when everyone in WoW was on an equal footing, regardless of how much money they had at hand.

FALSE. That time never existed, because from day one the person having more available TIME was on a better footing than somebody else with less disposable time. MMORPGs aren't, and have never been, fair and on equal footing.
Vivendi will do whatever they have to do in order to ensure WoW revenue doesn't decline. If fewer people are subscribing, it's obvious they have to figure out a way to get more money out of existing customers. Micro transactions accomplish that goal. Anyone who thinks this new money making scheme will be only or mostly limited to cosmetic purchases is being hopelessly naive.

The fact this information is coming to light the same week that Blizzard announced SC2 was being split into three games should come as no surprise. Both are classic examples of a publisher milking their properties for every last cent, at the expense of quality and reputation.

Expect similar nonsense with Diablo3.

I pay a monthly subscription... that means a level playing field in my eyes...

You're entering with an invalid assumption, then. You can already buy gold or levels or even PvP gear in WoW for real world money. Even discounting that fact, the playing field is never even - the guy who has more time to play always has a leg up.

Time is money, friend. The only practical difference with buying directly from Blizzard and buying on the gray market is that you have more assurance that the transaction will complete successfully.
I would pay all kinds of money (plus, you know, actually play the game again) for the ability to play as a class/race combo that isn't allowed normally.

Gnome shaman, GO!!!
It's not just time -- money has always offered a small advantage too. Even excluding EULA-forbidden gold buying, real money can buy you a better PC with better frame rate, especially in raids and BG's.

Recruit-A-Friend and Death Knights are just a means for experienced players to avoid repeating Stranglethorn Vale for the Nth time.
Just make purchasable characters already.

I have a priest and druid, but fancy playing a hunter this time around. But I have absolutely no desire to play through levels 1-70 for a third time, particularly as the 1-60 areas are a wasteland (and have been for some time) and the 60-70 areas are likely to be 100% death knights for a few weeks before succumbing to the same fate.

So I'd like to be able to buy a character. Flat-out buy, for cash: a level 70 with PvP blues, purple land mount but no flyer, and 100g. (Note: not level 80, at least for six months / a year / until the next expansion.)

(And yes, I know there already are umpteen websites where I can buy characters just like these. I just can't do it on the one website that really counts.)

And no "you must already have one level 70 character to purchase more" nonsense. If you want returning players, you want returning players: not "but only if they're good enough"; not "but only if they've given us a pile of cash already"; and not "but only if they still have access to their original accounts."

Do this, and they'd have my money in a flash. Do this, and they'd open up a whole new revenue stream. Do this and they'd cut CS costs with fewer "hacked" / reclaimed accounts to deal with.
I kind of agree with rob here; I would probably pay to get another high-level alt. 1-60 twice was more than enough for me. DKs already start at 55, so $50 alt at 60? Done.

I would also pay small bits of real money for cosmetic changes to my character, if there were any I wanted. I like the way my main looks, fortunately. That said, I originally became an enchanter to make my sword glow. Dyes would be great.

Anything that actually affected stats or gameplay should be totally off-limits, however, and I imagine that Blizzard knows this.

Puzzle Pirates has been doing this for years, and it's worked beautifully for them. They use a dual-currency economy with a blind exchange for trading between the two.

It completely kills RMT concerns (by monetizing the demand). The vast majority of purchasable items are cosmetic, and the few things that aren't merely unlock gameplay options. There is no way to "buy power" in the game.

It's absolutely brilliant, profitable so far, and it has the lovely effect of making the game largely free to play. If you want something in-game, you can pay for it, but it's literally possible to play the game without spending a dime. Players can trade their in-game currency (earned over time) for the store-bought currency on the exchange, thus trading time for someone else's money. That "someone else" with real world cash (but little time) can trade their money for the store-bought currency, which can be exchanged for in-game currency on the open exchange.

There's a huge market for cosmetic purchases. People want to get involved with their avatars and put a stamp on them to show individuality. Honestly, I'm surprised that it's taken Blizzard this long to implement something like this.

I'll second the notion that "buying power" is extraordinarily bad design. Buying cosmetics is a potentially huge market, though.

Now, if they would just monetize the game that way instead of subscriptions... I might get sucked into the game after all.
@Jeremy T
"Here's the thing - would it make players who grinded through the game "feel bad" that others could buy their way into higher end content? Would it make a player's own experiences any less enjoyable knowing that somebody else had taken a different route?

Hint: it shouldn't."

(psych 101 hat on)
Yes, I agree that it shouldn't but look at the stereotype of online game escapism - there are some people who use these worlds for a sense of accomplishment versus their current situation in the real world. By letting others just pay for parity, you're cheapening their sense of accomplishment.
(/psych 101 hat off)
They have to pull that off very careful. Even if they gain some new players in the short term, in the long term they'll be off worse. What will happen?

The new 'rich' players will tag along happily in their instantly created 70 with blues, do instances and raid. And whenever one of them wipes repeatedly on a boss, whenever one of them sees a hardcore raider walking by in shiny epics, they will wave with dollars in Blizzards direction and request epic items.
If they don't get them, they will leave as fast as they arrived. And if they do get them, the day will come when those epics won't be enough, and they will request stronger epics. And when everything is said and done our rich players will stand in shattrath, clothed in the finest gear from sunwell and will start wondering what to do next.

Then they will leave to destroy another game, because most other players will have left already, noticing that ingame goals become void when they can be solved by throwing money at them.

Regarding Card Game Items: I die a little bit inside everytime a spectral tiger or nether rocket passes my sight. The thought that you get rewarded ingame for buying this off ebay or playing some retarded Magic: The Gathering - Clone infuriates me.
9-10 million players are already paying them a monthly fee. I don't see how they could possibly need more money. They should just make whatever options they were planning on selling to all their already paying customers. Either that or make the game free-to-play, but that's not gonna happen...
Asian markets (China) is not setup via monthly subs.

You didn't read my sentence exactly. I said:

There was a time not that long ago when everyone in WoW was on an equal footing, regardless of how much money they had at hand.

You are correct in that people have always had more time. But before relatively recently, money has never had a direct input into who has what.

A person with more time will have things that a person with less time will never get. That's how it's always been. But the money thing is new.

I am, of course, only counting Blizzard-endorsed spending of money in the game, since that's what I have issue with.
Ah, but if the time is unequal, money can rebalance the playing field. That's the essence of a market; trading time for money.

That's why RMT flourishes despite attempts to strangle it. (Beside the game design that encourages time/money as the indicator of progress, rather than pure skill.)
Do we really need a court decision or some kind of legal precedent to come right out and define that "virtual representations of objects" are, in fact, real?

Or, do we operate on the premise of what a growing majority of online gamers seem to already know?

The problem for me is a completely seperate issue, in that we are talking about a virtual sandbox here. It's Blizzard's sandbox and they invite all of us to come play in it for a fee. But, that fee is the great equalizer, and everyone who is able to afford to pay that fee should have access to the same sandbox that everyone else has....without paying a single red cent more.

The moment you add the ability to "purchase" something in such an environment, you introduce classism and the ability of players with more disposable income to have things that others might not be able to afford.

It's completely wrong and I loathe Blizzard for even contemplating something like this. If they introduce something special in the game, give me the ability to earn it -in game- through whatever mechanic the developer chooses to implement.

But I digress. It seems that MMO's will soon be the virtual versions of playgrounds of years past.

Do we really want our games to mimick the same real world ability, where someone can have something that someone else can't, based solely on the ability to pay?

But Chris, that inequality is already the case. The thing is, some pay with time, some pay with money.

Arguing as you do for RMT purchases to be acquired via in-game means is exactly the same argument (albeit reversed) for making in-game purchases available for purchase via cash. Either the items are made available to all, and customers can pay with time or money, or the two sets of customers get different items.

Long winded rant of my own here:
Free to Pay to Play
If people think that the WoW micro-transactions will stop at paid character customization they really need their heads examined. Once you start down that slippery slope you're only heading in one direction.

To be honest, playing a MMORPG such as WoW and not wanting to spend any Time on it doesn't add up.

The keyword here is RPG, and lately many a-player forgets that acronym. RPG not only means typing "thou" in character but also means developing said character in a meaningful way.

Why on earth would anyone that does not want to spend time in the chosen virtual world, playing a character one created, want to play that game in the first place?

I don't mean to be a troll here but such complains come across to me as "i would love to surf, but i do hate water"...

The idea of In-game transactions as a way of leveling the play field between those who have disposable time versus those with disposable money is, IMHO, false. It will never happen because either the bought items are so powerful that a numpty would be able to win duels just by smashing his head repeatedly against the keyboard. Or, in the other hand, they are marginally more powerful and you still have your ass handed out to you by those who have been playing so much time that their knowledge of the class and of the abilities is huge. Let alone the more trained fingers...
I am sure it won't all be fantasy fluff items like angel wings on Blood Elf pallys. I know I would pay $$ to get access to a custom casting animation studio as well as to change the colors of spells and such. Who the hell doesn't want to play a shaman shooting purple lightning?

There was mention of a dance studio as well. I know a lot of players would pay for a custom created dance. Everyone seems so up in arms about all of this when we don't even know the scope of what will be offered.
Wyrm, what of the "the game starts at 70" mindset, then? Playing through the leveling content happens to be the part I enjoy most, and the part that most aligns with my Bartle EASK diagnosis. I totally agree that the RPG part of WoW is the best part.

Thing is, the designers are bent on getting people to the level cap and raiding for purples. They have accelerated the grand content tour with the Rent a Friend triple XP promotion as well as baseline quicker leveling.

To Blizzard, the end game is the game. You don't need the leveling content for that. Likewise, there are players who would happily pay for a Raid-ready character to go play with friends. Leveling through the content is a real barrier to these players.

I don't understand the mindset myself, but since it's one that Blizzard actively encourages and spends a lot of time designing for, it's obviously part of WoW.
The currency of an MMO is not time, nor is it money -- it is EFFORT.

An MMO is based on the idea of Effort=Reward. Break this, and you breaka trust with your subscribers.

I for one consider it unfair to have my game-efforts (not "time", since I can waste all sorts of time chatting and expect nothing for it) devalued by someone who doesn't "earn" in-game items. If an item is offered for some real-world action -- like attending Blizzcon -- at least give loyal subscribers the chance to earn the same item via normal means in the game.

If people wanted micro-transactions and getting items without effort, why not just allow everyone to buy an Uber-Character? Because after this "effortless" purchase, you will have been there, done that, strutted around in your uber-gear then have lost interest a month later.

I really think that it is more profitable for companies to use the subscription model, without violating the effort=reward formula.
"If an item is offered for some real-world action -- like attending Blizzcon -- at least give loyal subscribers the chance to earn the same item via normal means in the game."

Again, shawno, that goes both ways. If you're going to expect that, it's fair for the player with real world money to acquire what you made the effort to earn in-game. Earning real world money takes effort too.
"Earning real world money takes effort too."

That effort varies greatly depending on occupation, country, etc.

Introducing such real-world factors skews the game, causing imbalance and unfairness.

Would you play a lottery if you knew wealthy people could guarantee they could win the jackpot everytime?
My point is that the game is already unfair and imbalanced precisely because of the subscription model. The "one size fits all" pricing skews the in-game economy heavily to those who have more time per subscription unit to play the game.

If everyone paid the same real-world amount of money (regardless of how they earned it... you're right, that can vary) for the same amount of time spent in-game, it would be different, but as the subscription model charges for access, not time played, it's already inherently imbalanced.
My point is that the game is already unfair and imbalanced precisely because of the subscription model. The "one size fits all" pricing skews the in-game economy heavily to those who have more time...

What you fail to see, is that you are making the same baseless argument as everyone else who argues that "time" is a some kind of a commodity in a virtual GAME world. It's not, and never will be. Those who justify RMT with the time argument are just skewing the issue to fit their own argument that they dont want to spend the -time- in putting forth the same effort as everyone else in the same, equal sandbox.
Chris, I'm happy to put in the "time" and "effort" to grind myself up to the high levels of a game. My point is that the cost to do so is not fairly distributed in a subscription model. My assertion has nothing to do with copping out of the "effort". It's a simple cost/time calculation.

Put another way, if Joe the basement dweller plays sixty hours a week and gets his character to Uber status in three months, spending $45 in sub money, he's spending what, a little over 5 cents per hour that he's actually making that effort and playing. If I could pay the exact same rate per hour of effort, but play over, say a year, I'd be all for it.

The subscription model, however, has me spending four times as much money simply because I have less hours in the day to play (or exert effort, whatever). That's the imbalance.

There are two ways to fix that imbalance. Let players buy their way past the grind, or charge per time making "effort" playing, rather than a buffet subscription price.

Again, the sub model is charging for access, and those who are rich in time have the luxury of spending it on the "effort" of playing the game. Those with less time to make that "effort" are already at a disadvantage. It's a mirror image of the hated "money wins" argument; this time it's the player with time to make the effort that wins. Neither are fair. RMT levels the playing field in an already corrupt and imbalanced field.

To be sure, I'd prefer that the game be balanced so that players can either pay with time or money OR the actual time playing ("effort") be monetized at the same rate. The former is certainly more open to abuse and misinterpretation, but the latter means jettisoning the subscription system and moving to an hourly rate, or something even a bit more granular, perhaps even minutes.

Either way, the system as it exists now is imbalanced.
Chris, put another way, let's look at "effort" as a commodity. If you're defining "effort" as time taken from the real world to play the game, then those who level up quickly are making greater "effort"... but that takes us back to the real world. They are sacrificing things like a job, sleep or family, to play the game. That's little different from someone else spending their money that they earned for the same sort of sacrifice and buying "effort" in the game.

If, on the other hand, you define "effort" as effort exerted entirely in the game world, ONLY a pricing scheme that measures the exchange rate in the same metric will be fair. In other words, if billing is driven entirely by time spent exerting effort in the game, rather than charging access to do so, only then will the balance be fair.

To be certain, I'd prefer that the measure of fairness be determined by the entirely in-game "effort" metric that has everyone paying the same amount of money for time played in-game, not time the game is available to be played. The subscription model is not set up that way, pure and simple, and as long as it's going to be the main billing method, we're stuck with letting RMT be the equalizer. Credit where credit is due.
This debate could go on for years. So this will be my last post on the issue....

You seem to be jealous of the basement dweller who can spend untold hours putting forth the effort to gain his character gear and content progression in a game.

I, however, could care less. I play games for relaxation and the fun I have while paying said games. My e-peen is neither stroked nor abashed in the sense that I'm either sporting or not sporting the latest foozle as someone elses character is.

Breaking it down by time spent in game versus the subscription amount is just ludicrous, and goes to illustrate my earlier point even more.

People know after playing any game for any length of time, that there are elements of the grind that exists in any MMO.

For most people it becomes a challenge, while some cop out and bemoan the issue and resort to the time argument as a means to justify using RMT to bypass what others put forth the effort to achieve.

In the end, I can only speak for myself. I play games to have fun, to relax, and pass the time when I want to escape for a few hours. If I find that something is just too difficult or requires too large of an investment where effort is concerned, then I either make a long term goal to achieve it, or I make a mental note and completely ignore it.

And if I ever reach the point to where I've hit that brick wall of progression, then I'll happily quit the game and cancel my subscription.


My main concern with this is that once these sorts of transactions start...they tend to not stop.

Once Blizz sees the money rolling in from this, it will take up more and more of its focus until ANY cosmetic thing worth having will require real money.

Example : There is an online community called Gaia online. A few years ago they implemented a monthly "thank you" letter to those that donated 2.50 for Gaia's upkeep. It was not a "donation item" they insisted, it was merely an acknowledgement and thanks for caring about the site and supporting it.

Then they allowed people to buy as many as they want, and started calling them monthly collectibles.

Then they added a "cash shop" when you could buy better items for your avatar. The monthly collectibles became sub-par, and a new item or several was released every week. Why wait once a month when you get superior items much quicker with real money?

Also added in came "quests" which became nothing but product endorsements. Go see this movie preview, see this product page, read about this new item, and get a free in game gift! It became a joke.

Now they've introduced a "fish tank" that stocks fish that live for a short time, die and need replaced. You guessed it, it requires real money too.

The community has degraded into an open glut of trying to get as much money as possible. It has totally destroyed any desire to be on there. I don't need to "keep up with the joneses" when the "joneses" pay so much real money for pixels.

BUT...the point I am trying to make in regards to WoW is similar. Once the money starts flowing in, I fear that little else will occupy their time other than bilking us for all our worth on trivialities and "novelties" that should be in the game to begin with. Not as an additions only when someone pays more money.
It certainly can be argued that WoW, having already a monthly fee, doesn't need micro-transactions on top of it. But somebody blaming a free-to-play game for introducing micro-transactions is weird. What else are they supposed to live from? Shouldn't the devs and programmers get a salary?

On the time and effort thing, I'd like to say that unfortunately in a MMORPG there is too little difference between the two. It is hard to imagine anyone saying "I would have the time to level up in WoW, but the task is too mentally challenging for me, so I can't do it." Thus time is the bottleneck here, not the tiny effort needed once online.
I think the way to go then it would be two types of subs: fixed monthly payments and time-based payments. Here goes the micro-transaction justification.

But people would want to buy the super duper ultra sword anyway... Kinda like the guy who buys a Ferrari because he wants to be more successful with the ladies.
BTW, not sure if the comment was to me, but Im not blaming Gaia for introducing micro transactions...I was just demonstrating how something that started out "innocent" (i.e. donation thank you letters) has spawned this totally insane amount of "pay to get" features. So much so that the underlying "game" (so to speak), is being neglected.
Reading the comments, I think that the key point for this to be an acceptable feature is that it needs to be optional. Whatever you buy should be purely cosmetic or something that can be archived in normal gameplay as well.

A vanity pet, mounts, cosmetic changes to character looks or animation are perfect examples of desirable things that do not make the person who buys them any more powerful than anyone else. An instant (max-10) level char is not going to be more powerful than a char that was leveled by hand from level 1 onwards.

I understand if someone rejects ideas in that direction for reasons of perceived fairness, equality or morality but in the absence of any purchasable competitive in-combat advantages that other players can not get, those objections are only intolerance for different viewpoints and priorities.

It's not likely that Blizzard is going to sell "Blessing of the Rich: Increases all your stats by 100% and halves the cast time and global cooldown of all your spells and abilities. $200". It's Blizzard's WoW, not a run of the mill browser game where reaching maximal potential is bought.
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