Tobold's Blog
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Blizzard introduces microtransactions

A lot of people have previously argued that while Blizzard will take extra money from you for services like server moves or race changes, they aren't selling you any virtual items for real money. That isn't true any more. Via MMO-Champion and comes the news that Blizzard now officially launched a microtransaction shop for their game, the Pet Store. For $10 you will be able to buy an in-game pet for World of Warcraft.

Right now there are only 2 of them available, a pandaren monk and a miniature Kel’Thuzad. Others will undoubtedly follow. Then maybe other fluff items (armor dyes would sell well, Blizzard!). And later this could be expanded to classics of microtransaction shops like double XP scrolls, mounts, and various other things.

I think I just won an argument with one of my readers who swore that no AAA MMORPG like World of Warcraft would ever add microtransactions. Wake up and smell the coffee, people! Microtransactions are now officially arrived on the list of possible features for every MMORPG. Once World of Warcraft does it, many other games that don't have microtransactions will copy them.
And the genre is worse because of it. The temptation for publishers to sell features that use to be, or should be, part of the core game will simply be too strong for them to resist.

As for as vanity trinkets, fine, but it never stops there, never.
Mmh. You're right. I've been wrong.
They really do it.

Time to become a billionaire and finally create the first real MMO.

A non-profit MMO ..
Hell - it's a charity pet .. Blizzard knows how to be careful. If it works, the next pet won't be a charity pet :(

And of course they claim

As with the pets, mounts, and other items players can obtain through Loot cards from the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, Pet Store pets are purely cosmetic and just for fun. Like other paid services we offer, such as Paid Name Changes, Race Changes, and Character Re-Customizations, the Pet Store service is entirely optional and intended to provide players another means to enjoy World of Warcraft in a way that isn't detrimental to the game and that doesn't detract from the gameplay experience for players who choose not to use the service.

I really, really, really need a new MMO ! Space travel and trade for example.
I just hope it stays to things that don't alter the balance of the game. I don't have a problem with pets or mounts but beyond that I think it becomes damaging to the game. If Blizzard is as smart as I hope they are they won't push the micro transactions that far.
I'd hate to see WoW become a Facebook game to see who is willing to spend the most money to win.
Hell - it's a charity pet .. Blizzard knows how to be careful. If it works, the next pet won't be a charity pet

Read the small print: Only the pandaren monk is a "charity pet", that is $5 of the $10 you pay for it go to the Make a Wish foundation. And the charity thingie is only going on until end of the year, after that the full $10 are into Blizzard's pocket. The second pet, the mini lich, is NOT a charity pet at all, already now the full money you pay for it is for Blizzard.

As it certainly costs a lot less than $5 to "produce" a pet, even with the other $5 going to charity, Blizzard is still making a big profit on that. I don't really like this sort of pseudo-charity, where the oh-so-generous company ends up making a profit from the charitable intentions of the buyers. I'd suggest you give your money to charity directly, without passing via Blizzard.
I wonder exactly what kind of person is purchasing the KT pet when the other pet gives 50% to a very worthy charity. I bet this is some kind of social experiment on Blizzard's part to see just how horrible some people can be.
To be fair, there's 2-3 mounts out there for real money already - the TCG mounts + the recruit-a-friend one. I can easily see some version of those appearing in the store, bypassing the TCG makers.
I think the reason this is disappointing to many people is a feeling deep down that this really is a sign of a definite turning point for their favourite pastime. Sort of like Nils put it up above: we need a new one!

The new pets and whatever else they decide to introduce won't alter the balance of the game. However, I seriously doubt that it will attract any new customers. In commerce-talk, it is a definite "milking" tactic:

Blizzard has a well-established dominant product, which due to it's age and size has peaked with the consequent inevitable stagnant growth or probably shrinkage. At this stage, it makes perfect sense to extract as much cash as possible from your existing customers before they leave.

No doubt the pets will be moderately popular and bring in some further revenue, but the real significance is that we now have confirmation of what everyone already knew: WoW is past it's prime. Who's willing to bet against the game holding up relatively well until Cataclysm some time mid-year next year, a brief surge in popularity after that, then an announcement of Blizzard's new online adventure, and everyone with active WoW subscriptions will be given perks on launch depending on various factors (time /played, number of 85 toons, whatever), and that announcement keeping WoW dominant for another period until the new game launches its public beta?

Nils, the first online game I played was Trade Wars, a turn-based BBS game (yeah, I'm not as old as that grumpy fool Tobold, so I'm completely down with the whole BBS thing ;)). It was in space, space pirates (called the Cabal, if I recall correctly), trading and domination of star systems. Sort of like Elite but without graphics, I suppose. The second one I played was WoW. I think I'm not quite ready to go back to Trade Wars just yet!
I'd suggest you give your money to charity directly, without passing via Blizzard.

As do I.
Trying to earn money this way is literally pathetic.
This definitely proves that microtransactions are here to stay :) But (with the danger of sounding incredibly naive) I believe there is a line that Blizzard won't cross when it comes to giving you an edge in-game via microtransactions. I think we may see stuff that affects gameplay, but not stuff that alters the way you play at max level. Giving epics for $$ would undermine too much of what they are selling at the moment.

On the other hand, heirlooms for $$? You bet. The reason given will be something along the lines of giving new players a fair chance or something like that (besides, low lvl economy is all about selling raw materials anyway). As I see it XP bonus for $$ is already sort of there via the "Buy another account"-scheme that is Recruit a Friend.
Not at all surprised at this. The move towards micro-transactions has appeared inevitable for some time now.

Blizzard appear to be adopting a softly softly approach - start with fluff that won't annoy the long time subscribers and take it from there.

Turbines bold move with DDO is far more revolutionary and probably has bigger implications. Turbine appears to have shown that you can rescue a failing game by going from sub only to sub optional + microtransactions.
Wake up and smell the coffee, people! Microtransactions are now officially arrived on the list of possible features for every MMORPG. Once World of Warcraft does it, many other games that don't have microtransactions will copy them.

So as to not get drawn into another RMT debate; I will quietly cancel my WoW account and salute the once great MMO industry for being, once upon a time, the fresh voice of the gaming scene.

I find it hard to believe that Blizzard needs to make even "more" money from WoW than it already is. They have made enough cash in the past 5 years to fund several AAA titles over. While these may be just mounts for now, Tobold is at least correct that this will open the flood gates for interpretation on what can be included in future MMO's.

I am very troubled by this. I think I am quietly going to return to my original genre and hope and pray it doesnt become bastardized like this.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the merge with Activision is playing a big part in these kinds of decisions...time will tell.
Is $10 really a microtransaction?
They were careful not to mention the word microtransaction anywhere (there's nothing micro about $10).
Well, that's my cue to get out of this genre. Not that it hasn't been impending for a long time, but microtransactions in general are a fairly detesable model for a game like this. It's worse in that it's obviously a test for broader future plans, especially with faction/race changes already in; how much longer until you can just buy heirlooms or badges or gold directly?

(And not much on the "micro" end. How many more would they sell if the price was, say, two dollars?)

I can't blame Blizzard for it (or is Activision pushing it?), since the DLC/microtransaction model is a liscence to print money. But that doesn't make it any more justified, and nor do I have to participate.
The genre is not all the worse because of it, as long as it stays with Vanity items, or 'substitutions' - for example these pets, or a 'talent respec', or server changes, etc.

The moment it becomes cash for weapons, it becomes awful, since the chance for fraud and unfair competition comes in.

I'm a casual player, with one level 80 after a year and a half of playing, and no epic items, 'cos I can't raid to the standard that people require, but even I wouldn't consider buying in game weapons\armor, because that's just, well, sad.

I'm more than happy to allow others to spend money on vanity items. In fact, I encourage it. The more that people spend on things like this, the more money WoW has. Which is fine by me ;)
With 10 euros per transaction....
Oh well, I wouldn't name it "micro" transaction.

I saw that half the money is devolved in charity but anyway the price is a bit high to call it micro

But I'm sure many will buy it anyway.
And a bit high (but not so high) price is for sure good for Blizzard and good for buyers that will have a good feeling to have something almost unique.
Ugh, sell outs is what comes to my mind.

$10 for a virtual pet does seem excessive. I also wonder if that will amount to €10 in which case rip off also comes to my mind.

As long as it's fluff items I don't really mind though. If they start giving out double XP scrolls or worse, epic items that will be another matter.
I can remember posting a comment the first time Blizzard brought in a paid transaction that they had started down a slippery slope which would only lead in one direction, feels like the first time I've ever been right about something MMO wise hehe.
Does 10$ for a single pet really qualify as a "microtransaction"? That is at the same level as server transfers, character re-customization, and other existing services.

As with all their paid services the price-point seems rather too high to me. The marketing people probably did a lot of research to find the most profitable price. But I think real microtransactions would sell *a lot* more of the virtual goods and services, bind players more to the game, and make Blizzard more money in the end.
People keep saying that vanity items are 'not part of the game', or that they don't affect gameplay.

But isn't vanity nearly one of the most important aspects of MMOs? People want to be unique snowflakes, whether it is by beating everyone in PvP or by killing PvE bosses or by investing time in rare achievements.

I'm not a fan of microtransactions. I understand perfectly how it's defendable by saying the game isn't affected, but still.. it's this nagging feeling that have to pay extra for certain achievements, and that someday, I will fall for it and pony up the cold hard cash to get that pet.

In a year: will there be vanity armor sets? Custom hair? Dances? Maybe even mounts or heirloom items?
Also, the European prices are ridiculous. €10 instead of $10! Although there are vague reports of people buying US pets on Euro realms...
As long as they are vanity items, that can also be acquired through putting in time, I don't really have a problem with micro-transactions.
10$ for a pet though, damn that's steep.
Would it take on average 2-3 weeks to get a similar pet ingame?
Blizzard has provided me with thousands of hours of entertainment, and I want them to succeed so I can enjoy Starcraft 2, Diablo 3, and their Next MMO.

So I have no problem throwing an extra $10 their way for an awesome pet like Lil' KT.

$10 is only alot for those without jobs. As others have said many extremely expensive and rare vanity items have been available through the trading card game.

If people have discretionary income they would like to use to enrich their WoW experience better they buy a pet from Blizzard then gold from some hacker.
As soon as a company becomes overwhelmingly successful the cries of "what are you doing for the world?" comes out. I am surprised Blizzard hasnt been called out sooner to "give something back". I am in no way saying that is right to expect these companies to do that, just making a point.

People keep saying that vanity items are 'not part of the game', or that they don't affect gameplay.

But isn't vanity nearly one of the most important aspects of MMOs?

That hits the nail on the head.
That's why I didn't fight paid server tranfers or the like.

This is another level of MTs and I believe Tobold now that it is just the bgeinning.
Next we will be able to buy mounts, then buffs, then the entire leveling game will be affected.

Eventually, just before the end, WoW will offer gold, armor (but no weapons and no legendaries they will point out - Legendaries will be rather common then).

Like a Supernova the revenue will explode one last time before WoW fades away forever.
I don't understand everyone saying that $10 is expensive - $10 is a movie ticket, an action figure, some cheap wine? Check ebay sometime and see the TCG minipets selling for $50-$100 and mounts selling for serveral hundred dollars.

If it's not the cost that bothers, but the fact that Blizzard is selling content, certainly server transfers, race changes, faction changes corrupt the integrity of the core gameplay far more then pets for cash.

But it is still World of Warcraft. You know what you are getting. It's a great social gaming experience regardless of how passe or mass market or commercial you feel it is. When the "next big thing" or your own niche game comes out, you'll know it.

Oh and by the way, when I'm not raiding I'm playing League of Legends and Dragon Age: Origins :)

Nothing wrong with enjoying many gaming experiences.
I find this all fascinating in that with the last three collector's editions, a pet was part of the package. Where was the hue and cry back then?
They have been selling virtual items like this since the TCG. Still, there is no difference between buying this pet and buying a collectors edition to get THAT pet, to buy a transfer or to buy additional accounts.

Hell, if anything, the additional accounts or transfers ACTUALLY equal game-play differences more than some silly pet, yet you don't see people whining about that.

Go figure.

"So I have no problem throwing an extra $10 their way for an awesome pet like Lil' KT."


I thank you personally for having passed the message that we like being milked and that full sub games with cash shops are really what the market wants.

If one day Blizzard starts charging for time spent in an instance (why not) would you cheer that as well?

In any case, Zode might be a Blizzard/Activision PR puppet or simply a troll for I can't imagine someone being so happy about 10$ for a virtual pet or implying that everybody who complains must be jobless to be anything else than one of both...
Ugh, sell outs is what comes to my mind.

I find it hard to believe that Blizzard needs to make even "more" money from WoW than it already is.

You do realize that Blizzard has always been a for-profit company, right? That they're in it to make a profit? As much profit as they can? This is not a charity. I'm not really comfortable with the change, but it's silly to believe that Blizzard did something surprising or immoral.

They could just as easily raise the subscription fee by $1/month. Actually, according to the inflation calculator I checked, $15 in 2004 is equivalent to $16.96 in 2008, so there's even a justification for that kind of change.

The main question is whether you believe the system is fair. If you could buy an Icecrown-worthy weapon for $100, I'd be pretty upset. Paying for raid flasks at $1 each would be similar. At some point (different for everyone) you give up on the system because you don't feel you're getting a fair shake.

A vanity pet is nowhere close to that line for me. And I believe that $10/pet is probably a lot more 'fair' to players than tying it to extremely rare TCG loot cards. If you want to argue that Blizzard has crossed a line, fine, but how is today worse than yesterday, when you had to pay $100+ on eBay for some of the coolest rare pets? Or getting cool pets with the Collector's Editions? Or Recruit-A-Friend?

I wonder how far Blizzard will go. I do expect to see mounts next. The next step after that would be a 310% speed mount for sale. It will be interesting to see if they go that far. But you can't claim that it's 'inevitable' that they'll cross the line. They haven't yet, and they've been giving out cool perks like this since the original Collectors' Edition.
Hey Tobold, I'm a bit torn up on it myself and threw added it to my blog as well.

The WoW Economist
Hundreds of pets are already in the game and have been covered by our monthly payments to Blizzard. Now they have effectively removed content that was previously given to paying customers and decided to make us pay if we want it.

It makes me nervous about what else they might stop giving us and make us pay for.
The actual connotations reach further than this. The pet codes may be sent as gifts to other people as well. It makes these pets a roundabout (and legitimate) method of buying in-game gold.


WTS LIL KT CODE, 10000g!

What's going to stop anyone from doing this?

My reaction, in short:
Negative. (But not surprised given the recent avalanche of new paid services.)
And I find it repugnant to use Make-A-Wish to sell stuff for profit.

Bottom line:
Microtransactions are officially in WoW.
And since people are buying, microtransactions are in WoW to stay.

So are any ‘lines’ left?
RMT gold? (Probably no: IMO only because of legal ramifications)
In-game advertising? (Probably yes: IMO very likely in Cataclysm’s first patch)

Final thoughts:
The bad: No need to look for another MMO -- now I need a whole new hobby :(
The good: I need to break out of WoW anyway, and now I have more incentive than ever.
Harry brings up an excellent point. MMOs are by their nature social and, for "achiever" types at least, a large part of the motivation to play them derives from progressing your character relative to others occupying that world. Whether it be meta-achievement mounts, PvP titles, or legendary weapons, people are constantly after that little something that will distinguish them in the sea of familiar faces. Noncombat pets are just another example and so these pets are the latest and most direct way Blizzard has offered of buying an ingame advantage.

I dislike any sort of "microtransaction" within the context of a subscription based game. If the virtual world is inevitably going to be stratified, I'd rather it be along an axis of time invested or player skill than, additionally, real money investment. The introduction of this store is a disincentive for me to continue playing the game though not a fatal one, yet.
Has anyone considered the ramifications of this in terms of Achievements?

Blizzard has already stated that these vanity pets will count towards fulfilling the various in-game pet acquisition achievements, so if you're short a couple of pets, you can now spend money and get not just 2, but 3 vanity pets and the associated achievement points as well. The achievement game is a meta-game within the game itself, and if this isnt considered a game breaker in that regard, then I dont know what would.

I'm of the opinion that we have already slid down the slope, and we're all now at the bottom scratching our heads wondering how we got here so quickly.
THank you for paying for WoW for 5 years. Here buy this pet for $10.

It sure beats the hell out of farming one or losing a roll to somebody.
I am quite amused at the various people threatening to quit WoW over this. Shouldn't they have quit in rage when Grunty was made available bundled with purchasing Blizzcon access?

Here is their official stance on microtransactions: "As with the pets, mounts, and other items players can obtain through Loot cards from the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, Pet Store pets are purely cosmetic and just for fun. Like other paid services we offer, such as Paid Name Changes, Race Changes, and Character Re-Customizations, the Pet Store service is entirely optional and intended to provide players another means to enjoy World of Warcraft in a way that isn't detrimental to the game and that doesn't detract from the gameplay experience for players who choose not to use the service."

As long as they stick with "entirely optional" and "no gameplay impact", I think it's an entirely reasonable move and one that really doesn't portent the death of the game by a thousands micro-cuts.
Was thinking about Tobold yesterday when I purchased the monk. This most certainly falls in the classification of microtransaction, so yes Blizzard has joined the side of "EVIL." :)

As an aside I never would have spent the money without the charity connection. One thing about charity fun raising, most people do not go out of their way to donate, but will if what they see as a meaningful opportunity is dropped in their lap.
I've already wrote reply to this sort of thread over @ JAVAs site wow economist, this will be just the start of a ndew revenue stream for blizzard, in the same way trading cards were.

But its strange that Eu customers are being fleeced for $16 to buy their pets (€10). Instead of the US rate of $10. Theres no justification for this other than $10 and €10 are nice round numbers and €6.72 isnt. Nice way to treat loyal EU subscribers blizzard.
For quite some time now the WoW Trading Card Game has allowed players to buy unique items for cold hard cash.

You've been able to get both unique items from UDE points and unique items from Landro Longshot in Booty Bay by inputting the code of your "loot card".

Want Reins of the Swift Spectral Tiger? Just check out how much one sells for on Ebay. Silly money.

Basically, ever since WoW brought out the CCG with in-game loot cards, we have been on a path towards directly purchasing items from Blizzard.

I would have to say though, as many have commented, $10 is about as far from the concept of "micro" in micro-transactions as I think you can get.

Whats interesting about this is, it's a definate signal from Blizzard in from a Business POV. It's running up the Cash Cow flag and trying to milk the business for every penny you can while it's still viable. The only logical line of reasoning to come out of that is that the "powers that be" at Blizzard clearly are thinking that WoW doesn't have much legs as it's "flagship" product left.

Obvoiusly Blizzard still have their "un-announced MMO" project still being built, and I would not be surprised at all to find out that they see this product as their new flagship and have thus decided to milk WoW for every penny while the customer base is still as high as it is.

This isn't the same as saying WoW is on it's last legs, far from it, it means the product is still in the mature phase of it's life cycle and, before it enters decline, they're (sensibly IMHO, from a Business POV) going to attempt to maximise profitable revenues streams while the going is still good.

These pets represent almost pure profit to Blizzard, as would nearly all item sales from their store.

From a Business POV it's perfect business sense. From a WOW player point of view it all depends on *what* they sell in future.
Read the small print: Only the pandaren monk is a "charity pet", that is $5 of the $10 you pay for it go to the Make a Wish foundation. And the charity thingie is only going on until end of the year, after that the full $10 are into Blizzard's pocket. The second pet, the mini lich, is NOT a charity pet at all, already now the full money you pay for it is for Blizzard.

As it certainly costs a lot less than $5 to "produce" a pet, even with the other $5 going to charity, Blizzard is still making a big profit on that. I don't really like this sort of pseudo-charity, where the oh-so-generous company ends up making a profit from the charitable intentions of the buyers. I'd suggest you give your money to charity directly, without passing via Blizzard.

I think that is a very important point and one that should be made more forcefully--and I would like to see it as its own post.

The incremental cost of the pet has to be less than $0.10, so Blizzard is clearing $4.90 of pure profit on your charitable contribution.

That, I think, is the height of hypocrisy and Blizzard should really be called to task on it.

To make several thousands (if not tens of thousands) percent profit on the altruistic feel good feeling most players would get from making a contribution is down right evil.
This could just be the start for Blizzard. If they go down the road of they will be making a bagillion dollars. Stardolls started out free. Its like virtual paperdolls. They have over 27million players world wide probably more now. Then they opened up the microtransactions. I was sucked in for my daughter when we just had to buy the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader outfit. I then thought if only Blizzard would let me buy some snazzy outfits where the stats would transfer over. As a girly girl adult, I wouldn't hestitate to spend alot of bucks to get a beautiful dress for my toons. Heck if they are smart like Stardoll get a designer to design it and you could have the Vera Wang Gown of Audacious Healing.
$10 is not a microtransaction.
As many have said, if an mmo lets you buy epics for real world money it isn't going to be fun.

I feel that microtransactions aren't all bad though. I started playing DDO a month and a half ago because they switched their business model. They survive on microtransactions, but I haven't had to buy anything. I might end up investing in an adventure pack, but I might not.

I've been playing for a month and a half and I have paid $0. For a normal MMO I would have had to pay $65 or so to play that long ($50 box plus $15 subscription).

Yes, microtransactions could lead to a bad place but they definitely don't have to.
This is sad news indeed. Being the most successful MMO, WoW set the standard for everything. And now with this change it made the first step toward killing the western style MMO genre. The socialist utopia in which real life wealth does not matter in game is dead. Thus for me, WoW ceases to be a game, and turns into a sport.
And what is next? selling instant lvl 55 kits for all classes? Reputation increase items? In game gold? It would have been nice for WoW to age gracefully, but no, they have to take down an entire genre with them. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, I guess...
I've been a long time lurker on this site, but after reading all the outraged comments Blizzard's latest move has generated, I had to respond.

No. One. Is. Forcing. You. To. Buy. Them.

You have a choice: a choice that you didn't before. Some people in my guild bought them and we had fun with them while waiting for stragglers to arrive for a raid. My gaming experience that evening was enriched.

It's standard practice for businesses with a subscription service to try to sell their customers add-ons. Ring-tones and apps for cell phones, call-waiting and voice mail for your land line, online access for newspaper subs, special channels and games for your cable.

If anything, Blizz has been restrained in 'milking' their cash-cow. Compare their behavior to EA in sucking all the content from 'Spore' prior to release in order to sell expansion packs. Look at all the 'Sims' expansion packs. (What's the latest? 'Sims: Doughnut Shop'?) But even there, you have a choice.

Blizzard's brand is very valuable, and they're not going to toss it away by setting up stalls to sell you Epics. They may sell mounts, and I know there'll be more pets, but so what? (When are the dogs coming? People like dogs...) The game I pay for is still worth the money. But what happened with Spore is a good example of how to destroy a brand -- the game was not there after they took my cash. Maxis is in many people's bad books now.

Anyways, the idea of complaining when a new choice is available to you is perplexing to me. And for the people that 'gotta gettum all!', which do you prefer: $10 bucks for a huggable KT, or 4 hours grinding jousts to get a Tirisfal Batling?
I'm quitting.

Because of the pet store? No. Instead, after 5 years I need a break. Its been a long haul, and every time I play it just seems like more of the same.

However, the pet store is certainly the catalyst. I don't like where this is headed, and I don't like the tie-in of for-profit to charity.

So, I will quit NOW in protest to make my mild dislike of this new turn of events known. I'm sure they look at the quitting reasons with a little more scrutiny than the QQ of the forums/blogosphere.

And after this upcoming break of perhaps six months (representing $90 of revenue), good for them if they can find nine other customers to pick up the slack by buying pets to make up that lost revenue.

Not so good for them if I don't come back, though.
Just in time for the end of the year! A very charming write off of "donations" for the healthy profit gained this year. Very cute, almost as cute as the $10 panda.

Are you people serious? I realize most of you here are against microtransactions, and I'd never play a game that allowed you to advance faster because you paid cash for something.

But Blizzard selling pets at the Blizzard store is what is finally taking Blizzard over the line?

After years of special in-game items from Blizzcon cards or TGC cards, these pets that everyone can purchase...if they want what is causing the hurt feelings? The fact that you can now change the race of your character, or the FACTION of your character is glossed over.

Ultimately, the pets are there. Don't want one? Don't buy it. Want one and refuse to pay real money for anything virtual, quit WoW...I mean keep playing WoW but don't buy the pet.

I think most of the people here are so narrow minded that they forget they already pay $15 a month on WoW. Think of it as buying a ticket to get in. Beer and pretzels cost extra.

One last thing... How the hell can anyone say its a ploy or repugnant for Blizzard to donate money to charity?

I have a feeling that the Make-A-Wish Foundation doesn't have a problem with each $5 donation they receive through the purchase of the pet, since they wouldn't have gotten it otherwise.

Charity fundraisers like this are the norm. People are often unwilling to donate money to a charity. But invite them to spend their money to have dinner and listen to a celebrity give a speech, and they have no problem finding the money.

And the organizers give part of the proceeds to a charity...THAT OTHERWISE WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN DONATED.

Try logging out of the virtual world for a little while to see how ridiculous your remarks are about the charity donations are. Talk about repugnant.

I can’t speak for everyone, but the reason I’m sour on WoW microtransactions is expressed perfectly by Chris:
“I'm of the opinion that we have already slid down the slope, and we're all now at the bottom scratching our heads wondering how we got here so quickly.”

WoW already had, in effect, the most expensive 'microtransactions' (transfer, race change, faction change, Recruit-A-Friend). And WoW already had broken taboos for $$$ (i.e. paid faction change, Recruit-A-Friend power-leveling). Now with the Pet Store it’s official: WoW has microtransactions -- worse yet, it keeps the same monthly sub and (from what I’m reading) WoW has the most expensive microtransactions in the business!

The bottom line: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
I'm just wondering where it stands from the legal perspective. Every in-game item is a property of Blizzard. Does this include items obtained with microtransaction? Does it mean that players merely pay for service of attaching this item to their account? Is this item licensed not purchased the same way as game client and game content?
Blizz has been selling pets since their first boxed collectors edition (i.e. from day 1). This is just the first time you can buy them without "other stuff" (a BlizzCon ticket, or lots of collectable cards for a somewhat related Warcraft game).

From my point of view they have avoided crossing the line from cosmetic to leveling or raiding items for five years. Or at least _almost_ avoided it, the refer-a-friend program _does_ give 200% to 300% bonus XP to level 60 when you level with the friend, and it gives a free mount (but not free training).

That is no guarantee that they will resist for another five years, but it is a (mostly) positive sign.

Should they falter and start selling "scrolls of leveling", "potions of XP", or even stuff like the current heirlooms, then I'll strongly consider leaving for another game. Until then, I'll just keep a watchful eye out.

Well that, and open my wallet. My wife bought me lil K'T 'cause I found him amazingly cute. I already sent my own money to charity, so I'm not bothered by not getting the critter that gets $5 to the (very worthy) make-a-wish foundation.

(and yes, while the usage of micro-transaction has drifted from the sub-penny transactions nobody ever figured out how to make work in the real world, into pennies, and now dollars, I really find it absurd to call a $10 item a "microtransaction", it's just plain a regular transaction, just like spending $8 on a paperback from amazon would be, or $12 for a kindle book)

Besides, who can resist a mini pet that laughs when you kill something?
I donate to charities anyway - I won't be buying these pets.

With that said, I think this is a great idea, but I don't give a flying combat-nun about pets, I never use them.

Its good for Blizzards pocket - but its just a vanity Item- as long as they start bringing out badass pets from normal bosses I don't mind.

Hope it stays at vanity items.
As long as they don't make actual competitive game play linked to Micro Transactions I can just say no.

I have one fast Mount and one flying mount. Done!
All I can say is BWAHAHAHA, TOLD YOU.

Is it even a microtransaction? Ten bucks is pretty macro. Thought micro was <.99 cents.

They recruit-a-friend (aka buy a box, get a 300% xp scroll and free levels) was the Trojan Horse for this. Soon, you will be able to get free repairs for 20 bucks a year or some other nearly straight gold for cash program.

If you choose to look at things from that dramatic angle, WOW has always been at the bottom of the slope. After all, the first CE of the game came with vanity pets bundled in for extra $$. If one believes that optional vanity fluff for $$ is "sky is falling" material, I'd argue one is about 5 years too late to get all worked up.

Check out GreenWiz's excellent post
, I wholeheartedly agree with his comments.

As long as they keep their transactions completely optional and restricted to vanity farfunkle, I think that's a perfectly valid approach to take. I personally wouldn't pay $10 for a pet, but if others want to what harm is that to me?
Don't forget the obscene amount of money they are charging for the pet in Europe. Well over the US dollar conversion rate! We're paying about 30% more.

Actually, I have a Collector's Edition. I can assure you that it contained much more than the in-game pet. There was a mousepad, a DVD, a music CD, a pack of game cards, and a book of artwork.

The Pet Store, on the other hand, is a 'naked' transaction - you get nothing but an in-game item for money.

I can see, feel, and hear the difference :)

In my opinion, it is foolish to think that Acti-Blizz will keep the transactions vanity (they are already not “micro”), given such broken-taboo examples as Recruit-A-Friend power-leveling, paid faction change, a Pet Store implementation that accommodates trading the pet for in-game gold, and this (from a comment on today)

Q: Have you considered micro-transactions in WoW?
A: We chose to go with the subscription-based model instead of that approach. We've taken the approach that we want players to feel like it's a level playing field once they're in WoW. Outside resources don't play into it -- no gold buying, etc. We take a hard line stance against it. What you get out of microtransactions is kind of the same thing and I think our player base would feel betrayed by it. I think that's something else you have to decide on up-front instead of implementing later.

You mileage may vary.
I'm now a dirty micro-transactionist! I bought both the pets :)
Racial Changes are introduced to the game, with abilities that have a direct (albiet slight) impact on gameplay, and it is met with a sound "meh."

Blizzard offers up a Kung Fu Panda and a shaved Space Cat that zaps critters, charges the equivalent price of a movie admission or chow for two at a fast food joint, and suddenly OMG Blizzard is the Devil!

I don't get the player base sometimes.

"But what about epics?"

Blizzard develops game content. To keep players using that content, they need a carrot to dangle. While many claim they do it for the challenge, even more will say they do it for the epics. The sweet, sweet purples. They've even simplified aspects of the game to make it easier to get these items.

The day they let players buy the gear they'd get from raiding, they no longer have a game. There will be no carrot.

Pets? Mounts? Party Grenades? Dare I say it... purchase DANCE MOVES? Those you can count on. Let Blizzard charge the vanity-dependant folks through the nose, says I.
Speaking of micro transactions, would Blizzard selling gold end professional farming, or just slow it down?

Don't farmers offer other things besides gold?
I seem to see a few people claiming that Blizzard is only doing this for vanity items, and that they'll never sell useful gear, for example, for real money.

But they're already doing this, folks. Gear is character level at the higher levels. So to look for a precedent, look for whether they're selling levels for real money.

If you get boosted via recruit-a-friend, you just paid for levels that regular monthly-subscription-only players don't have access to. If you bought a character transfer or faction change, heck even a rename, you've paid for what someone who rerolled is paying a monthly-subscription for.

And it has the same effect as RMT gold: Gameplay, such that it is, is devalued.

Do you remember when once upon a time character transfers didn't exist in WoW and there were a lot more people playing the low level game? And now? The low level zones are empty and the game has become a brutal grind to get to where the action is.

If we think that giving Blizzard money hand over fist is going to encourage them to release new games and new content, we're absolutely right. And we'll be paying even more for that too. certainly costs a lot less than $5 to "produce" a pet..

This is indeed, quite literally, a license to print money.
Is not there a very simple solution for everyone "appalled" by this Blizzard move? DO NOT BUY the freaking pet!

Those claiming that they are somehow compelled to buy it anyway (collecting purposes or whatever), they really should not transfer their own "collector's drives" (to put it nicely) onto a company's, dare I say, right to offer itself as many ways to earn money as possible.

Just because it is there, does not mean an automatic right for you to own it - there was no such outcry when guild shirts started selling, or mouse pads, or figurines or weapon replicas. From my point of view this falls into the same category of "having" - your own choice.

And yes, I bought the Monk: best hero in WCIII (even if it was the Brewmaster then :))
Companies have been donating a percentage of sales to charities for years. I don't see what's repugnant about it.

Target, for example, gives a certain percentage of overall sales to local charities. Oh the horror, that they also strive to make a profit, keep employees employed, etc.

While I realize that people can be dense and stupid, I find it hard to believe that anyone doesn't realize that Blizzard is making a profit on every monk pet sold. Of course they are making a profit. And for a brief time they are donating $5 of every sale to Make A Wish.

And somehow this is bad? Making a profit is bad? Making a donation is bad?

I understand the gameplay implications of RMTs for in-game items. I hope I never see weapons and items that increase a character's power become part of RMTs. So far, other than the refer a friend leveling boost which I don't see a big problem with since most of us don't care how fast someone levels, Blizzard has resisted this.
The outrage against the Pet Store is rather amusing. Let me address a couple of points that have been raised in error I think.

(1) This is not a sign of WoW's peaking or impending collapse. Introduction of microtransactions like those found in the Pet Store show Blizzard's strength, not their weakness. They have more customers by magnitudes above their next closest competitors, they continue to grow (although the China market is in flux with regulation developments), and this is a great way to tap into additional revenue streams from the massive customer base.

(2) Blizzard prices their product in order to maximize profits. They're not trying to be unfair or even "micro." They know how much it costs to develop and deploy the Pet Store and the first couple of pets, and they know how much their customers are willing to spend on a vanity pet. The price is merely a reflection of what they think will produce the highest profit, period, and crying that overhead might only cost Blizzard 10 cents per transaction ignores this fact.

(3) The vanity pet has no impact on gameplay, and it isn't much different from dozens of other similar transactions. If they count toward achievements, so what? Nearly all achievements provide only vanity rewards -- achievement points, a pet, a mount, etc. You can't even spend achievement points on anything.

You can only obtain 310% mounts through long meta achievements that aren't subject to microtransactions (i.e. the violet proto-drake) or raiding. Now, if Blizzard suddenly introduced a 310% mount for sale, that's another matter, but I don't see that happening.
Blizzard introduced microtransactions long time ago. The faction change, name change, race change. The pet shop is just another avenue for their capitalism to thrive. Their main form of capitalism is making the game easier and accommodating to mass audience - children and casual gamers. That's why about a couple years back players started quitting, but those numbers are insignificant compared to the number of new players.
Blizard is better than gold farmers & sellers because they will sell you something and leave your account intact. On the other hand, they are selling you something that costs them not much effort or money at all.
I bought the panda, it's cute. I bought name changes x2, because the cost seemed reasonable.
I am very aware that Blizzard is scamming me. I can only hope they spend my money on abolishing bots and leechers in BGs rather than or more so than breeding more capitalist ideas.
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