Blizzard announced today that they are going to be selling a pet for real money that can be traded (BOE). I just wanted to take a few minutes to comment on this latest offering from the Blizzard Store and what it may mean to the future of World of Warcraft. Read on for more.
How To Boil a Frog
Folksy wisdom says that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water it will immediately jump out. That makes sense. I'd do the same thing. Boiling water is hot. If the frog did jump out I'd guess it would survive albeit with some burns.
They say that if you place a frog in a pot of room temperature water however and ever so slowly turn the burner higher and higher the frog will simply sit there until it gets too hot and simply dies. Supposedly this is because the frog "gets used to" the change in the water so slowly over time that it doesn't even think to jump out. By the time it may realize it is too hot it may already be too late.
How To Boil a Murloc
I believe Blizzard has been doing the exact same thing to the World of Warcraft players over the last 3-4 years. If Blizzard had immediately changed World of Warcraft into a "free-to-play game or added "for pay" items in 2006 or 2007 I think players would have been up in arms.
Blizzard knew this and so instead they have been slowly adding "for pay" items and services into the game. They have been increasing the temperature of the water all of us World of Warcraft players are living in one degree at a time. They have been getting us "used to" the idea of paying for additional items over and above our monthly subscription price.
It started with paid server transfers, paid name changes, paid re-customizations, paid race changes, paid server changes, paid faction changes, paid BOP pets, paid BOP mounts and now paid BOE pets. Notice a trend there? Paid. Paid. Paid.
Blizzard is hoping that by introducing these services and items ever so slowly they will be able to get the players to the point that they will accept more and more paid services and items. Where this will eventually end is something I do not know.
The recent announcement that Blizzard will be having a real-currency auction house in Diablo III came as quite a surprise to many players. Many others said that Blizzard would do the same for World of Warcraft. I'm not sure it will get that far but there is something distinctly different about this last addition to the Blizzard Store.
Mixing Real-Money With World of Warcaft
One thing that the latest BOE Blizzard Store pet does is give the impression that Blizzard is (in a round about way) signaling to the players of World of Warcraft that they are ok with you taking real-world money and giving it to them for an item that you can then sell for on the auction house for in-game gold.
Do you see what I'm getting at? With this announcement Blizzard is essentially (again not directly) allowing for selling of in-game gold for real-world money. How else are we supposed to take it?
Here is a quote from the Blizzard announcement that states it much more clearly.
Q: Could I put the Guardian Cub up on the auction house to try to make some gold if I wanted to?
While our goal is to offer players alternative ways to add a Pet Store pet to their collection, we’re ok with it if some players choose to use the Guardian Cub as a safe and secure way to try to acquire a little extra in-game gold without turning to third-party gold-selling services. However, please keep in mind that there's never any guarantee that someone will purchase what you put up for sale in the auction house, or how much they'll pay for it. Also, it’s important to note that we take a firm stance against buying gold from outside sources because in most cases, the gold these companies offer has been stolen from compromised accounts. (You can read more about our stance here.) While some players might be able to acquire some extra gold by putting the Guardian Cub in the auction house, that’s preferable to players contributing to the gold-selling “black market” and account theft.
So Blizzard is pretty much OK with you becoming a "gold-buyer" as long as they are the ones getting the benefit of the money. As long as they are the ones selling you gold (however indirectly) through other players.
What's Gold Worth Today?
This pet will also provide a sort of "exchange rate" for what the World of Warcraft population values in-game gold for on any server at any given time. This pet is stated to be $10 USD. If you took the average price for the pet from a site like The Undermine Journal and divided it by the real=money price of the pet you would get an approximate value for what those involved in buy and selling the pets think World of Warcraft gold is worth in real-world money.
For example if I saw one of these BOE pets selling for 10,000 gold on my server I could surmise that people on the server selling the pets think that World of Warcraft gold is worth 1000 gold to $1. This is the sort of thing that could be tracked and an overall average of an "unofficial" real-money/gold exchange rate could be calculated.
Just to give you an idea on how this could essentially work out as "official" "unofficial" gold-selling by blizzard is say that I move to a new server but I have no gold. I could look up what these pets are selling for on The Undermine Journal. Say that it shows they are selling for (again) around 10,000 gold. If I wanted to risk it I could then purchase a Blizzard Store BOE pet with $10 of my real-world money. I then list this on the auction house and let's say it sells. Voilà! I've just (essentially) purchased 10,000 World of Warcraft gold from Blizzard for $10.
I hope you can see how this pet is different than any other pet that Blizzard has sold so far. I'm not going to sit here and tell you what to think about the recent changes. If you are for or against RMT (real-money transfer) is a matter of opinion. I just wanted you to be aware that Blizzard is continuing to move more and more towards RMT in World of Warcraft.
Will this be the "end of World of Warcraft"? I highly doubt it but make no mistake that if these pets (and their ability to be used as proxies for unofficial gold-buying) are popular with the player-base we should expect to see more and more of this type of thing until perhaps we'll reach a point where Blizzard will simply sell gold and items directly on the Blizzard store.
If you think it can't happen just know that in Diablo III a person with a lot of money will have the privileged of outfitting their characters with very powerful gear for far less effort than someone who obtains them the "old-fashioned" way by finding them as drops.
It's getting hot in here. Someone open a window.
Update 1: As was noted in a WoW Insider comment this pet is actually less of a deal than the older pets. This BOE pet can only be used on one character per $10 whereas the old BOP pets (Moonkin etc.) were given to all characters on your battle.net account for $10.
Less value for the same money makes a strong case that Blizzard is selling these specifically as a test to target people wanting to re-sell them for gold as well as a way to "sneak" RMT into World of Warcraft.
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