Tobold's Blog
Friday, April 16, 2010
Sparkly Pony

So after non-combat pets Blizzard started selling mounts for $25, and immediately finds a hundred thousand buyers on the first day, or more, because those 90,000 people queue observed was only for the US version of World of Warcraft. Note that unlike mounts sold by several Free2Play games, the Celestial Steed of World of Warcraft is pure fluff. It is just a sparkly pony, looking cool, but it moves in exactly the same way and same speed as your existing mounts. That is if you already have the epic flying riding skill, your sparkly pony will move at epic flyer speed. But if you are at an earlier stage and due to level or lack of gold have less riding skill, the sparkly pony will be slower. In other words, you are paying $25 for something that has no real game advantage at all.

And in my eyes that makes this "good RMT". The sparkly pony does not make any game content obsolete, nor does pretend that the buyer reached some epic achievement. If you see somebody on a sparkly pony, you know he spent $25 on it (or €20). Is that an excessive amount of money for something nobody really needs? Most certainly! But does that make selling it, or buying it for that matter, wrong? I don't think so. Buying something excessively expensive that doesn't do anything more than a much cheaper regular version is called luxury, and most people like luxury if they can afford it. Actually people like luxury so much that they are even willing to fake it, thus fake Rolex watches and fake Louis Vuitton handbags.

Does wanting a luxury item which isn't even real, but just virtual, make any sense? Well, I'd say it doesn't make less sense than grinding something in game for many hours to get a similar item. Some of my characters do have "special" epic flying mounts like the Nether Drake mount. I wouldn't call a reputation grind an "achievement", so whether I spend X hours on getting a special mount or I spend X dollars is pretty much the same to me. Some people would do neither, some value their time more than their money, and for some it's vice versa.

Blizzard is going to make millions of dollars with this. Which will prompt them to offer more and similar items in the future. And as long as these items remain fluff, like mounts and combat pets, that is fine by me. I believe Blizzard is clever enough to know that lets say selling epic gear would be a huge mistake, so I don't see this as a slippery slope. I don't think lots of people will cancel their WoW accounts just because they are jealous of somebody else flying around on a sparkly pony. I just hope that Blizzard is using some of that extra money to speed up their expansion development cycle, because *that* is where they are losing customers from right now. The sparkly pony is not a big deal.
I bought it, I like it. The 17 quid is nothing.

I'm astounded at the level of bitterness on the forums to people who have bought it. I can only assume it's misguided jealousy from children without money
I dont play WOW anymore so i dont really know what Blizzard is selling now and what changed exactly. But im surprised it took them so long to implement this type of non intrusive RMT. It is almost like printing money. From a gamer point of view there is nothing wrong with it, although "purists" may laugh at you when you ride into town on your new pimped out mount. If i was playing WOW, something i would be interested in buying is the possibility to paint your armor (remembering UO and the true black dye or whatever it was called...).
I agree with you, RMT is fine as long as it's fluff which doesn't give your character a gain over other, less fortunate players. If you don't want to spend the money there's still tons of other pets/mounts you can try to obtain.

And one does wonder why Blizzards development cycle is still so slow with the billions of dollars they make. On one hand, I'd rather play one great game every two years than a shitty one every year. On the other hand, it's been 6 years since Blizzard released their last new, not-expansion game.

Would I spend €20 on a mount? No. €2? Maybe...
I won't buy it. The money would be no problem, I just don't want to throw out money to achieve something ingame. I had a good laugh yesterday when I looked at dozends of those ponies running around and quite literally making their owners *less* standing out than those who had more ordinary mounts. However I have one complaint about those thingies: They make the count of how many mounts you have go up by one which could lead to a future situation where you have two possibilities to gain a future Mountain of Mounts - Achievement:
- Raid successfully and get the hundreds of mounts they throw in your direction there
- Spend 100 bucks to get the all new 10 sparkling ponies that will be available then

As someone who is still struggeling to get the current Mountain of Mounts - Achievement (don't raid anymore and have no luck with drops like Strat) that would make me somewhat unhappy.
I am abit confused and hope someone can clear it for me. This mount is a riding/flying combo mount ? It has 280%/310% speed for flying and 60%/100% for riding depending on your skill ? Or does it in fact alow you to ride 280%/310% on ground ( on areas not alowed to fly ). The latter would be an astounding improvement so Im guessing that`s not the case. Its a pure vanity mount for sure. Really nice imo, much better than the previous spectral tiger wichs is just awful. Iv always prefered the white Winteraber tiger though.
I bought it, like Kall says £17 is nothing, I know it's a sparkly pony, I know it's fluff but I like it :)

If you want to be pedantic everything in WOW is fluff apart from the stats, but I wouldn't to sit around in a chat room rolling virtual dice. That would make for a pretty dull game.
On the ground it will never move faster than 100% (an epic ground mount)
In the Air it will fly as fast as you quickest mount you're allowed to fly.
However- this mount can be summoned in no-fly areas. You can mount it near the Bank in Dalaran and ride to the landingpad and take it to the skies right there.
It works exactly as the headless horseman mount.

It's BindOnAccount and all your toons will get it. Thus once you get this; you'll never have to buy a mount for your goblin/worgen - just the riding skills.
I think it's cool as long as they keep it reasonable how much better looking the purchased pets are. Like if I am driving a wooden kart and people are buying a golden chariot, that's going too far. A lot of people would say, "Why?, it does the same thing, it just shows those people are stupid for spending money on it." I agree, unless it goes to a ridiculous extreme where I look ridiculous because I don't want to spend real money. So basically I agree, this celestial pony is fine, I think it looks stupid actually, let alone make the player look stupid for wasting their money. I hope Blizzard does not get carried away with this easy money and cross the line. Already it IS crossing the line just a little bit, since you do have to have at least 1 mount, even though they are cheap now, theoretically it saves you that small amount of money if you did not buy any other mounts yet and this is the only one you obtain.
So spending money instead of grinding reputation is good, but spending money instead of farming gold is teh evil and destroys the achievement feeling?

I don't get it...
Meanwhile at Blizzard/Activision HQ:
Mounts are not really the status symbol they once were. I remember back in vanilla when it was actually impressive to see someone riding on the mount of another race, or riding the swift zulian tiger.

Only the gladiator or glory of the icecrown raider mounts have that same status now.
I think Kall sums the problem up very nicely. Rich spoiled morons gets bragging right in game, because they have money. Call it fluff, call it whatever you want, it is still the people who lure their daddies credit-card to buy things that look shiny, so they can feel superior to those that cannot.

Same in the UK and the uniforms they wear. Those where invented so that the people would be judged equally, and not by the wealth of their parents. Yet, cuff-links, belt-buckles and whatever else where not affected by the uniform-rules where instead used by the haves to lord it over the haves-not.
It is indeed misguided jealousy from those pathetic children who have no money. Good call Kall
I agree. This is no big deal and it is no different that selling a collectors edition of a game with a plastic toy for a few dollars more.

However, because it is more fun to be paranoid let me put my nerd rage hat on and play devil's advocate:

Now that gamer's favourite Bobby Kottick as re-organised Activision Blizzard to give him more direct control of the WoW franchise expect to see more and more of this kind of monetisation of the franchise. Furthermore expect to see resources being diverted from core gameplay concerns into developing fluff that can be sold at a profit. Furthermore expect that future game updates will include subtle changes which will push more and more players towards the cash shop. In particular expect Cataclysm to have a significant number of roadsigns that funnel players towards the cash shop. Activision Blizzard may pull back from actually selling stat enhancing items in the shop but be sure this decision will be made purely on financial grounds and not because of any impact on game play. One likely target for further monetisation is cosmetic gear. Expect gear earned in game in Cataclysm to be a uniform grey colour (but they will have great stats) while cool looking items can be bought in the cash shop.

I'm only supposing.
The ingame selling of timecards like EVE can't be far off.
**Not Snotty, Tam**

Dull comment though it is, I entirely agree. I'm always surprised when people get surprised that people are willing to spend "real" money on "virtual" objects. People will spend money on whatever has value for them.

And, God, I'm embarrassed to admit it but I really want a My Little Pony...
I agree with you on selling the epics. But I still think that with the next expansion they'll have to either start letting people start at 80 or begin to lose more than they'll gain with the expansion.

I think Kall sums the problem up very nicely. Rich spoiled morons gets bragging right in game, because they have money. Call it fluff, call it whatever you want, it is still the people who lure their daddies credit-card to buy things that look shiny, so they can feel superior to those that cannot.

As oppossed to no life basement dwellers playing 12 hours a day having the superior shiny look so they can feel superior to those that cannot? Silly complaint.
Hey guys. Whats up with the hars remarks here. Im sure many will think the looks of the pony is kinda feminin/gay, but its not really that expencive. Same cost as a month of subcribtion, cinema ticket or something like that. And its just vanity or atleast until someone makes a Sparkly Pony guild that absorbs all other guilds on your server including your own and you have to buy one to stay in the guild. Ofc you can transfer, but oups, same cost as buying the pony. Then your screwd and I will fully suport yor whining.
There is one possible ingame advantage: The pet and mounts achievement get easier to achieve the more pets/mounts blizzard offers in its store..
RE: Everyone saying it's whiny brats getting the mount.

I've noticed the exact opposite. I saw lots of people with the mount(I bought it), but they weren't saying anything. Just flying around enjoying it. There WERE 5-10 people in trade for the whole night just bitching that people were buying it.

It was pretty funny cause it's pretty clear that those people are jealous, or angry that they can't afford it or that mom won't buy it for them. Everyone else that didn't want one were quiet, going about there business with no steed.
@Dwism: If they want to feel superior, that's good for them. They aren't superior. They just ride a different mount. It's really the best of all worlds: people who want to feel superior can feel superior, people who think it's pointless have absolutely nothing change, and Blizzard gets a ton of money. Maybe they'll hire more GMs. Or I should go buy stock.
Chris over at Game by Night said it better than I ever could:

"So, to be clear, the horse is cool. I don’t care about it, or the pets, or any of that really, because, at the end of the day, they don’t hurt anyone. The precedent we set by paying for it is a different matter."

"Gamer exploitation is like boiling a frog and we should all feel a little warmer."

So yeah, keep paying fools.... Blizzard just loves you!
"Fools and their money are soon parted."

My only annoyance is that RMT items move focus from the game itself to external factors.
I'm simply ecstatic that people who enjoy cosmetic fluff like this are subsidizing MY gaming experience. I have zero problem with RMT until it affects my gaming experience (ie cheapens achievements I have done personally).
I think Blizzard should use these gimmicks/fluff as fundraisers for charity. The only reason I even slightly considered purchasing the Pandaren was that a proceed would go to Make a Wish foundation.
Make at least 50% of the profit go to charity and I would purchase it. Giving just a buck from each purchase is kind of cheesy to me. I don't like how Blizzard is profiting 100% from these new mounts.
I'm rather disgusted, to be honest, although I have yet to decide whether I'm more appalled at Blizzard or at the droves upon droves of people who thought it would be a good idea to pay $25 for a mount that says, "I pay $25 for mounts." The problem is that it normalizes the idea of RMT. It doesn't normalize only paying real money towards officially sanctioned RMT - it sends a message to everyone that virtual luxuries in a game are worth extra cash. While I don't have figures, I speculate that it encourages the same kind of irresponsible spending as illegally buying gold rather than deterring people from doing it.

If it subsidized a reduction in subscription costs for the rest of us, kind of like how national lottery tickets subsidize the government by taxing people with a poor intuitive sense of probability, I wouldn't mind so much. If there were some transparency to assure us that the profits are being directly reinvested in the game, I wouldn't mind so much (although that's not something we can expect from a business - they don't have any responsibility to do that for their customers).

Let's look at a few of the canards I've seen tossed around.

1. "There's no impact on gameplay and therefore nothing compelling people to pay if they don't have to, therefore it's okay." Wrong. Thankfully there is a big difference between selling mounts/pets and selling levels/gear/progression, but we shouldn't forget that collection is itself an objective in the game, and completing collections to the extent that they can is an activity for many players. Here Blizzard has created a situation where players who don't pay can't have complete collections. To some extent that was already true with the loot cards and RAF programs, but Blizzard implemented the rewards to incentivize sales of the TCG and the opening of new subscriptions, respectively. It's unclear what they're incentivizing with the Celestial Steed apart from using the Blizzard Store. Don't tell me that an online store counts as product development.

2. "People who think special mounts must be rare and hard to attain are jealous and frugal elitists." Wrong. I'm not saying every special reward has to be tied to a hard-mode raiding achievement (or a soul-sucking grinding achievement), but they should be tied to some activity in the game. It should be clear by now that I'm not a believer in RMT generally and I don't think Blizzard, as an influential market titan, needs to adopt it. I do think that game economies (including the economy of activities and rewards) should be a closed system. Everything should be achievable in theory by the people who pay their $15/month, even if they're not necessarily achievable in practice.
3. "If people spend on wasteful things that don't affect you, ignore them and let them spend." Wrong. The point here isn't to dictate what people should or shouldn't do as private citizens. The point is to advocate for a society that doesn't exploit them with the allure of irresponsible choices. Open your eyes, people. No matter how infinitesimal $25 is in the grand scheme of your sustainable income, it's a flatly stupid amount to pay for a mount that you can't even have access to unless you've paid your subscription for the month.

There's a significant difference in principle between exorbitant, extortionate RMT like this and the $15/month that people pay for their subscriptions. I have my own discomforts about the subscription model as well, but what can't be denied is that it yields a deterministic return in service that is comparable to club memberships in most recreational activities. The difference is in the kind of service that you encourage Blizzard to provide. The overwhelming sales of the new mount and pet don't encourage them to develop a better game (or investors in the MMO market to support better games). It encourages them to provide more RMT. In terms of the efficiency of revenue generation, and the use of the company's resource of artists and their finite hours, this is a decision that is indeed zero-sum.
As long as buying things like this offers no in-game advantages in terms of mechanics, I don't have a problem with it. I bought Lil' KT and I think it's a riot when he starts cackling after I kill someone in PVP. The moment they progress to selling weapons or armor or whatnot, then we have reached a point where I will raise a flag in protest.

When I first heard it was 310% speed I was pretty upset, but it's not. Some random doomsayer claimed that they go 310%, but my current understanding of it is that you require an actual 310% mount for it to go that speed, and not just epic flying training. So I no longer care; much like Tobold, anything that's purely cosmetic (and maybe for saving your alts a few hundred g on a wyvern) doesn't bother me any.
Wow Nick, that's quite a mouthful. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to agreement/disagreement with RMT and whether the mount constitutes an affect on gameplay.

First let's talk about gameplay:
I can see what you mean about achievements, however there's two things to consider here:

1) it's entirely possible to get the pet/mount achievement without buying any of the items in the store.

2) The achievement score is entirely arbitrary and has no bearing on gameplay itself. A player with 10,000 achievement points does not theoretically have any better gear/skill/power than a person with 500 achievement points. (of course we're solely focusing on the achievement numbers here, not the fact that the player might have raided and won loot or done BG's and got honor, those are different scoring systems). Point being that achievement numbers along do not increase player effectiveness.

Second overall point of your article is RMT. And I can understand your not liking it, however the reality of the situation is this: RMT is pretty much here to stay. Blizzard is just moving into an arena that almost every other MMO on the market is already exploiting. At this point I'd wager a guess that there are less than half a dozen MMO's with a RMT store. You can rage all you want but this is just the evolution of the industry. A market has emerged and companies are just changing to address an obvious niche in their business model that can be exploited for more profit. It's how businesses work. If there is a profit to be made, it's in a company's(and shareholder's) best interest to address it.

Back in the DOS days I used to rage about windows 95. But eventually I had to accede that it made sense for microsoft to move in that direction because it made PC's more accessible to more people whether i liked the interface or not. Of course there was always an alternative (UNIX) and I'd imagine that if there is a big enough market for anti-RMT'ers that eventually there will be a game that caters to that market that you can go to to enjoy a RMT free game.
Hell .. it doesn't even look good.
I have to admit that I am not really annoyed. It's like people paying money to look extra silly.
Is Blizzard trying some psycho experiment?

I really don't understand that.
I want to quickly answer the claim that vanity items have no bearing on your effectiveness in the game.

That's all well and good if we're talking about your ability to accumulate gear (directly or via gold), get through content like pass/fail raid encounters, or run up an arena rating. I'm not a serious collector or achievement hunter - I play the game to raid and to manipulate the economy on the AH. In a personal sense, I'm completely unaffected by this. I am under no pressure to buy a mount.

The whole point of Blizzard's refusal to extend RMT to items that affect all this (which is an admirable principle, and I do trust them to stick to it simply because they will lose loyal customers if they don't) isn't just competitive imbalance. The underlying principle is that people shouldn't have to feel like they're forced to pay extra. It's not an in-game necessity to have an epic mount. It's not an in-game necessity to be geared for ICC hard modes. But this isn't a single-player game and there is tremendous social pressure on players to not be a drag on others. If you could quickly gear and level characters through the Blizzard Store, the danger would be that guilds would require people to pay in order to participate. (Even if the gear isn't optimal for mains, there could still be pressure to do this to have alts at the ready so a raid composition is flexible.)

Once again: nobody should feel like they have to pay.

Now let's look at what happens if your objective in the game is to collect things. At first inspection that seems to be a single-player activity where you're pacing yourself against what's available in the game, not against anyone else. Then you talk to the friends of yours who play the game to collect. You discover something quickly: they're not doing it to get 50 mounts or 100 mounts or 9000 achievement points. They're going after achievements, mounts, and pets because they exist. That's the kind of completionism that people were already engaging in before the achievement system was introduced.

And that's the kind of completionism that is now being exploited. If you want to see all the content in the game - and for collectors, possessing mounts and pets is a far more critical piece of the "content" puzzle than defeating raid encounters or attaining a certain arena rating - your $15/month does not suffice.

For most people, completionism isn't attainable in practice anyway. But now, for people who won't pay extra hard cash, it isn't even attainable in theory.
I guess I'm not really seeing how blizzard is pressuring you to buy this in any way, shape, or form. They're simply adding another item that, if you desire, you can own. I mean we never really saw this uproar over CCG in game collectibles. And getting those costs exponentially more than what Blizzard is charging for the horse whether you buy them off of ebay or buy boxes of cards until you finally get the ultra-rare card.

If someone is that driven to collect mounts/pets then odds are they've already paid $150 for a spectral tiger or one of those goblin rocket thingies. They're probably glad that they don't have to plunk down nearly as much to get Sasha, the glitter pegasus.
Well, after much thought, I've concluded that by purchasing it, you would be effectively "buying gold" now in the final analysis.

Why? Because regular mounts cost gold. And this one is a mount for each and every one of your characters at each level and every level past 20. You will never have to spend gold on a mount ever again. Ergo, you are "buying gold" indirectly with your $25 US.
Hmmm... let me clarify my prior comment:

This is not directly buying gold (or other in-game advantages) for $... but it is doing that indirectly!

So, you get all your mounts paid for (gold)... or you avoid the reputation grinds to get your mounts (time). You also avoid travel time to the mount vendor. In wow, time is really the only currency, since you make gold with your time. So, this RMT transaction minimizes the amount of time you need to dedicate to obtaining mounts. Ergo, it is providing an in-game advantage to those who shell out the $25.

I don't dispute that this is an insignificant advantage, but the worry is that it sets a precedent for more, which will become more palatable to issue. And this becomes the slippery slope.

Note, application of this reasoning to the RMT pet is a little different, since you don't use pets for an important in-game function that everyone needs (in the case of mounts -> travel!).

Instead, RMT pets are vanity. You "saved time" and received an advantage by not having to acquire another pet. But this is like apples and oranges. One cosmetic pet might not hold the same appeal as another to any given individual.

However, the equalizing factor with the mount is the use for an ingame mechanic. Because, in addition to the cosmetic value, it still has value as a mount - an in game mechanic used by everyone.

(e.g. what I'm saying is that if you don't like Lil T's looks, it has no value to you. If you don't like the Sparkling Pony's looks, it still has value to you because you can use it as a mount).
Given that RMT market is huge I kinda expected it to happen. What surprised me is the sheer return on investment. Say 1 million players will buy it ( which might have happened already by the way) -you just made $25 mill for a day of artists works.

Poor scrub artist made $300 that day maybe. Mister Kotik and Co got the rest
Those assholes who buy Aston Martins are $200k are RUINING FUN.

They need to stop it because now companies realize that people are willing to pay $200k for cars. I bet Aston Martin is laughing their asses off over how people are willing to buy a new look for their car for that much.

This is pretty much theft guys, they are ruining my experience of car ownership
Actually the horse doesn't work like that. If you haven't bought the riding skill the horse cannot be used. They've been very specific about the horse only going as fast as the level of riding skill you've bought. And let's be honest, odds are you're going to have an in game mount LONG before you have a RMT version.

Again this argument doesn't hold water. We weren't having this discussion about the spectral tiger, the riding turtle or the Nether rocket. Heck we weren't even having this discussion about the Zhevera or the new 2 seater rocket you get from the RAF program that can also essentially be purchased for money.

I see this outcry as just the birthing pains of a new market. RMT isn't going away folks. If sparklepony taught us anything it's that the only guarantee in all of this is that RMT is here pretty much for good. The only variance is how much affect it has on the game itself.

Heck, based on my own argument I wouldn't even be opposed to a scroll/buff/potion that allowed bonus XP up to level 60 to be sold in blizzard store. I mean you can do it pretty freakin' easy now with the RAF program. Why not just cement it as a legitimate way to level an alt. Blizzard blues have clearly stated they have no problem with people using it to level alts. (post 95)
Askander, I get your point about this being just another collector's item for people who think it looks cool to have on (the virtual equivalent of) their shelf. As a product by itself it's rather harmless; it's more the principle of the thing, and the fact that RMT is being so openly endorsed by the industry's major player. Now, you've decided to live with it and accept it as the inevitable trend in the industry, and remain thankful that it isn't so bad as to extend to performance tangibles like gear; a lot of people seem to be reacting that way. I'm aware that nothing I say here or anywhere else is going to reverse the trend, but I think the whole mentality that virtual collectibles are worth people's money (especially that much money) as a product in themselves is a negative one to instil in players. The fact that so many players have rolled over and accepted it does not bode well for the game industry. Yesterday we saw them vote with their pocketbooks in such a way that Blizzard is only going to continue encouraging that mindset.

Is it or isn't it worth the cost? Is it or isn't it a responsible way to spend money? I don't think that's a question that can be answered in comparison with RMT content in other games. The thing about loot cards, or the upcoming Thor pet that's coming with StarCraft II, is that they are bonuses associated with other products that purchasers own and use, be it a card game or a Blizzard art book. There's no monetary value pegged to the pets in themselves. More to the point, they're limited-edition items that are tradable on the open market. If you play the TCG but not WoW, or intend to play SC2 but not WoW, you can give the pet or mount away to your WoW-playing friend. There's no standard price for the pet or mount alone. I think in that case it's possible to conceive of the collectible as a bonus, and not as an end product in itself. (Now, I'm not saying that buying pets off eBay for $150 is responsible either; I would never do it, and I would actively advise people against doing it unless I were the one selling the item.)

Am I implying that "real" goods are a better use of real money than "virtual" goods? Yes, I am. It's hard to come up with a rock-solid theoretical foundation for why real things should be tied to real money and virtual things should be tied to virtual money, least of all one that's going to persuade people, but I'm going to trust my intuition here and speak up when I smell something fishy.
Wait wait wait. Are people actually making the argument that somehow I'm ruining their fun because I bought a mount and they didn't?

Are they really that insecure that someone with some shiny pony on the internet can hurt their feelings/stop them from enjoying their game???

I bought this thing, because it save me from ever having to buy mounts on my alts again. That in and of itself was worth it in my eyes. I don't care if everyone and their dog have it. Why should my enjoyment of the item be diminished because others have it?

It's a fluff item that does no harm to no one. Theres no reason to be all up in arms over this.
On principle, I don't think anyone should be spending anything beyond their subscription to unlock things in the game. If I'm renting access to the game, I'd better be renting access to the whole game regardless of whether I'm going to use it all or not. Industry trends are against me here, but I've never been one to bow to industry trends.

Microstake Builder is on the right track: this may not be buying gold, but it's like buying gold in that the purchaser has delegated a virtual service with real cash. In this case, it's the service of flipping a switch and unlocking your access to data that's already in the game files. Is it something that people are free to pay for? Yes, of course. It's their $25. But is it something that people should pay for? My answer is a resounding no.

When someone asks you, "Should I buy X?" you can offer two kinds of answers:

1) "Yes"/"No"
2) "It's your money, spend it however you want."

Even with we're going by relatively libertarian principles, it's a dangerous society that says the only acceptable answer is (2), and that nobody should ever recommend behaviours to anybody else. Yet I've been hearing that a lot this week. And when it comes to RMT, I sure know what I'd recommend.
Just to add on after reading some comments. Remember the value of money is subjective. To someone paying $25 for the mount is crazy, stupid, and just a waste of money.

To me it's saving me gold, albiet a small amount of gold, in game on all my current and future alts, along with giving me a one-mount-that does-it-all on all my toons. So I see that $25 dollars as not just applying to the here and now, but years down the line. When we're 2 expacs down the road this $25 will still benefit me.

THATS how I justify this purchase. If it were a single one time mount for one of my characters would I buy it? Hell no, but the way I see it this $25 bucks will give me something I will benefit from until the day the WoW servers go offline.
@ Nick.

But thats something every non-mmo gamer deals with constantly. Look at DLC for console/PC games. We pay for that content. Be it fluff items like gamertag pictures, outfits for in game characters, or full blown expansions, console/PC gamers accept and are used to paying for DLC.

As MMO players this idea of paying for extra content shocks us, because we're so used to getting everything "for free"(obviously we pay subs).

And what is this pony, if not extra DLC? It doesn't affect the game in any way, shape, or form, so why should Blizzard be able to charge for it like other companies do for their products?

"But we pay a sub!"

That we do, but it's not like we're not already getting our moneys worth for that subscription. Blizzard isn't locking off content and saying "you need to pay x amount to use it!". This is simply something extra, on the side if you will, that is seperate from what we are paying for. We pay playable content, or in other words raids, dungeons, pvp, gear, etc. (This is just how I see it anyways, or better said, Me from a console players standpoint)

Now if this were content like say dungeons, or gear then yes I'd be completely against that, because that indeed is what we pay those $15 a month for.
*why should Blizzard *NOT* be able*

I'd give my hand for an edit system here.
Just because I clarified that the mount is akin to buying gold directly from Blizzard because it provides a small but insignificant in game advantage, doesn't necessarily mean I'm condemning the practice. I'm simply telling you what is happening.

I'm like a climatologist telling you that the Earth's temperature has been warming. I take the readings, gather the data, and let you know what is happening and why I think its happening.

Predicting if this is good or bad for humanity in the long run? That's something a climatologist doesn't deal with. Impact assessment is determined by other scientists. Who knows - Maybe warmer weather is actually more beneficial than harmful to humans?

SO, maybe not having to go find the mount vendor and having all your mounts paid for is a wonderful shortcut that makes WOW more fun for those who gave cash to get this advantage.

I know I personally considered the purchase myself for this very reason - one mount available at an easy to access mailbox, rather than 2 trips to god-forsaken mulgore (one for basic ground, one for epic ground). Not to mention not paying the gold outlay for the flyer and epic flyer. And on top of that, only one hotbar button used, that I don't have to peck and hunt to swap out anymore. GG!

So, back to the analogy.... Maybe the warmer weather is nicer now, but if the temperature keeps going up, does that mean I'll be able to buy a Death-Wing Scale breastplate for $30 at the end of Cataclysm?

If you want the answer, ask an impact assessment guy -> Tobold should do! That job's right up his alley!
I like it. It looks cool. I want to get it.

I have over 100 mounts and have many rares such as the Old School Ride, Amani War Bear, and others - my real concern is not the price, the RMT, or the mount.

I like my RP and my immersion, and having everyone ride around on a constellation pony just takes a little bit of that away, for me. I don't mind the sci-fi, I'm a big fanboy of Blizzard, and everything but I do like the WoW universe and lore and mythos, and for some reason this just takes away a little bit of that for me.

I suppose it shouldn't, Lil' KT, trading card games, things of that nature never bothered me but something about seeing 50 people riding around on Invincible made from shooting stars seems like jumping the proverbial shark...
I know I personally considered the purchase myself for this very reason - one mount available at an easy to access mailbox, rather than 2 trips to god-forsaken mulgore (one for basic ground, one for epic ground). Not to mention not paying the gold outlay for the flyer and epic flyer. And on top of that, only one hotbar button used, that I don't have to peck and hunt to swap out anymore. GG!

After thinking about it for a while, I decided to buy a sparkly pony myself for the reasons you listed here. But I think I'm not going to use it on all characters, it looks nice on some, goofy on others.

At least I was able to confirm with certainty that the celestial steed does absolutely nothing if you haven't got riding skill learned, and only rides as fast as the riding skill you have. Only 280% for me, I haven't got a 310% mount.
@ Bigeyez:

I understand the basis for our disagreement a lot better now when you consider that in my console/PC experience, I've never paid for DLC fluff items and never will. Expansions are a different sort of animal altogether, and when we're talking about modular content packs I do think there's a useful distinction to be made between playable extensions of a game and digital rights to cosmetic modifications that happen to be produced in-house. The expansion model makes sense in terms of the incremental development of a game on top of a base engine.

Don't get me wrong: like I've said before, I'm grateful that Blizzard isn't monetizing modular access to dungeons or interface features or anything like that, except for major overhauls to the game. I'm just saying that it's very depressing to see such an open endorsement of nickel-and-diming the user by one of the undisputed powers in the industry. Different transactional models incentivize different behaviours. I'm of the belief that the microtransactional model, which tricks the customer into a perception of small purchases (when customers who buy into this end up spending an aggregate amount comparable to large purchases), incentivizes behaviours that encourage the industry to propagate bad design.

There's a reason game designers who invest their lives into the art of making good games have no respect for companies like Zynga (read about this year's GDC if you don't believe me). It's because grinding with your credit card isn't a game. It isn't a way to play, unlike how other ways of getting mounts (raids, arenas, BGs, rare drops, rep grinds, luck, crafting, and just about every sector of in-game activity) are ways to play. It's just spending, and nothing but spending.

When people spend $1 apiece on those Facebook icons you can use to spam people's pages as birthday gifts, do we shrug and say that everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it? Or do we stop and say, "Uh, guys, you're BUYING THE RIGHT TO POST CLIP ART"? Is it really a good idea to imply that people are only ever ripped off if they feel like they've been ripped off? I think the responsible thing to do is to say when consumption habits have gone mad.

But that's coming from someone who doesn't believe a microtransactional future is the way to go. I'm not here to say that people have to agree. I think we do agree that somewhere, we have to draw a line; we differ in where to draw it.
"I think we do agree that somewhere, we have to draw a line; we differ in where to draw it."

I completely agree. =) It's a difference of perception more then anything else. I see this as nothing more then DLC for WoW, you see the possible future trends and further implications. Nothing wrong at all with your point of view.
"And on top of that, only one hotbar button used, that I don't have to peck and hunt to swap out anymore."

Maybe I can save some people $25 by pointing out that you can easily make a macro to summon a ground or flying mount depending on whether the area is flyable!

As for Sparkle Pony, I would never buy one, but it doesn't bother me that someone would.
@ Sam

As oppossed to no life basement dwellers playing 12 hours a day having the superior shiny look so they can feel superior to those that cannot? Silly complaint.

Far from a silly complaint. Or, are you conveniently forgetting that WoW is a subscription game where you pay a fee to play as much or as little as you like?

This is what you and others are apparently forgetting with a purpose it seems. WoW has -always- been a subscription game in which you pay a monthly fee to play a game that has designed progression elements that take...GASP!...-time- to complete. I'm in the camp that knows when I'm being bilked for more money, which is why I will never partake of any type of RMT or so-called Microtransaction.

If people with more disposable money than time can have something in a game like WoW, then those who have more time than money should also be given the chance to use the in-game mechanics to earn the same item. That would be the fair thing to do, but since Blizzard did not implement the latter, then it can only be seen as a cheap monitization scheme undoubtedly influenced by the beloved Mr. Kotick.
I agree with you Tobold. As long as they are only selling fluff items I'm not going to complain. I'm also not going to buy the items, but I won't complain about them being available.

If Blizzard ever starts selling items that give an in-game advantage I will have a problem with it... but until then, let people waste money on this stuff.
So far I've only bought the Lil KT pet (largely to check if you could use the US store for EU clients.. well, you could, but not anymore) and the Celestial Pony.

Why the pony.. well.. because I like how it looks, and there's no other flying horse?

I don't really get why people get angry about it. Unless you want to buy it but can't (because your mom and dad pay for the game, or you already drank all your pocket money that month?).
Also, it's not the first time this has happened. Sure, the TCG stuff is a bit murkier (eBay and astronomical prices), but there is far less of a shitstorm about the spectral tiger mounts for example...

Of course.. what everyone says about being unique/uber/hardcore is true. Being a "unique snowflake" is part of the game for many people (I find that for myself, it is to some extent). There are and will always be those kinds of things that are 'properly' hard to get (end boss kills and their mounts, pvp stuff), but hey! Now there are also things like this that look a bit different, but are quite easy to get.. what's the harm in that?
For the people who are saying 17 pounds or $25 is nothing, would you have paid that if the sparkle pony was in some other mmorpg?

It's the same as people who buy a t-shirt not based on the actual quality of the item compared to the price, but based purely on what brand is printed on it.

It's a shift into style with no substance.

Also as an aside, there is a game advantage in that you don't need to buy a mount with game gold, so your ahead in gold. Facetious: OMG, it's like they are letting you buy gold!

No, kidding, but you are ahead in gold, so there is a game effect. You might call it minor, but you did say there was zero game effect. That's not correct (unless mounts are free these days?)
The more you accept RMT, the more companies will provide it. Don't get all huffy-puffy when the standard for MMOs is every item in-game can be purchased with real money.

I'm just glad I was able to experience MMOs in their starting days, because they've become very disengaging now with the "evolution" of the genre.

I would be all for the mounts if they could be looted from a player after killing said player.
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