Phase 3 = Profit

It seems Blizzard took their first steps into a world of microtransactions. This has been covered in tonnes of places, and my friend Vok mentions it over at Unreal Realities, but in case you've been busy tinkering with your gadgets you should know that Blizzard is offering vanity pets for cash (not in-game currency, US dollars or Euros).

I love vanity pets. I spent a month farming for the Disgusting Oozeling so that Vocah could summon it the day he was freed from the Lich King's service. I bought the Firefly from a guildie for 500g back when The Pacemakers were working up the courage to face Magtheridon. And just recently I purchased an adorable baby Murloc in a Spacemarine outfit for real Australian dollars.

Blizzard's decision to do this has got me thinking about a hypothetical situation in which they allow us to purchase in-game gold through their store. I realise that Blizzard has not announced such a move, and even if it were coming I doubt we'd see it until the expansion after Cataclysm. Back to my fantasy (or nightmare), let's take a look at the positives:
  • Third party gold-sellers and the seedy eco-system they foster, including account-theft and all forms of in-game spam, might be completely eradicated.
  • Assuming most of the highly-desired rewards (eg armor and weapons) are still earned through playing, money and time will still be no substitute for skill and dedication.
  • We would no longer have to do daily quests (or otherwise spend lots of time) to earn gold.
  • The many fixed and running costs of levelling and maintaining a character (eg skills, training, mounts, repairs, flasks) can be conveniently covered by players too busy to save in-game currency.
  • Players with real-life commitments will have one less barrier to keeping up with other players.
For good measure, here are a few negative consequences:
  • In-game inflation harms the economy, and measures introduced to combat this may be unpalatable.
  • Activision Blizzard might be tempted to offer any in-game item or perk for sale, defeating the purpose of cultivating player skill.
  • Skilled or dedicated players who are accustomed to feeling superior will resent players with real-world money.
  • Blizzard's official stance is that buying and selling gold is against the terms of service, and a sudden reversal of this policy may make them appear silly or frivolous.
  • Trading currency in this fashion may make the game illegal to play in certain countries.
I feel very uneasy about the idea of officially-sanctioned gold-buying, but there is a compelling case in its favour. The first items on each list are really the big issues. On one-hand, we have the possible end to account-hijacking and spammers luring players away from "acceptable use". On the other hand, we have a completely broken in-game economy with everything on the auction house costing millions of gold.

This topic will be an interesting one to watch. I can't wait to see what Blizzard will sell next. In case any of you wondered, I am definitely going to be picking up those pets soon, along with a few authenticators. So, are you hopping mad for vanity pets? Is the Blizzard Store your next stop? How would official Blizzard gold change your life?

PS: WoWenomics is a blog that keeps a good eye on the state of our virtual economy. There was an interesting post that shows you how to determine your gold-making skills, and I believe I ended up being an Apprentice.

1 comment:

  1. When we've got our new site up I'm going to throw some information up about the Eve-Online model. Check it out, I think it's a winner