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10.10.2011

How To Boil A Frog - Thoughts On Tradable Blizzard Store Pets


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.

Conclusion

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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9 comments:

  1. I have no doubts that Blizzard's ultimate goal will be adding a RMAH to WoW. Diablo3 started it all (at least for Blizzard products). People got used to it and the overall feeling was "yeah, I can become rich while playing a videogame".

    WoW is not allowing a gold-to-money conversion. Not yet. But if the Diablo III economy model will work as intended (and it will), I don't see how anyone will ever complain about adding real money to WoW.

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  2. I think that for the most part you have "hit the nail on the head." They are slowly making way towards a free to play and/or micro transaction format, or just a way to slowly ease us in to micro transactions on top of our subscription. EVE Online has done game time cards as an in game salable item for quite some time now and with great success. That's where I see this experiment going wrong. Like in EVE, buying game time with ingame gold I am saving my RL money. Or in reverse I am legitimately making gold off of my RL money. But with that model, the game time is a recurring thing. People always need it. Pets like this are a finite need. I might buy it for my one collector, but certainly not for all my toons....

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  3. I always heard it as boil a Chicken not frog lol regional thing? Anyway I don't see this as anything negative in this and don't doomsday it like wow is going free with micro transactions I dont think companies go that route with wow level of subs its a model of necessity for smaller sub bases. I do agree with the post though almost fully. 10k seems like a logical place to stabilize after the first week. Its good too because for those wanting to spend the money a dollar per 1000 undercuts any gold seller and any destroying of their market is positive. While it is low enough where you don't feel compelled to have to buy it on the store. Sorryfor wall of text posting from my phone.

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  4. This is certainly an interesting turn of events for Blizzard. But I disagree with the frog in the pot metaphor. They have to charge for server transfers and character changes because it requires hands on employee interaction. A Blizzard employee has to handle each of those services by hand given the nature of their servers and software.

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  5. @DiscordDave The thing that separates the Eve thing from the BOE pet is that I believe people can but game time with ISK and then sell the game time cards for real $. Sort of a "cash out" option. Whether this happens outside the Eve websites I don't know. In the case of the pet there really isn't a "cash out" option as you can't sell the pet for real $ without going against Blizz's TOS. The D3 real-currency AH doesn't have this restriction.

    @Theruling You'd eat a chicken with feathers still on? Yuck. ;D

    @Sixteentons While that may have been true you cant tell me that there is any human interaction for name changes, re-customizations or race changes. I don't believe that is an issue at all anymore. They simply are adding as many things they feel players will pay money for. I've paid more than I care to admit for these services so I'm a testament to the fact they are something people will pay for. Perhaps this is why Blizzard makes millions of dollars and I don't.

    @Sixteentons

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  6. This is not gold selling: No gold is created to give to you, you just redistribute existing gold.

    This does not give a set gold exchange: You can't turn the gold back into money and the price of the pet is tied to demand. Even though 1000 gold on certain sites might go for 1 dollar, the pet may sell for only 2k, simply because supply is high and demand is low. Same as with the TCG mounts, who often sell for more gold then they are 'worth'.

    It may be getting warm in here, but unlike frogs, we will still jump out when it gets too hot. I don't care about services like this, but will quit when we can buy gear or gold in the store.

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  7. @Lios I agree with you it's not direct gold selling but it is in direct gold selling nonetheless.

    You may not be able to buy items and gold directly but if I wanted a BOE item that cost 20K or wanted 20K to buy an item in a GDKP run (for example) and I knew these pets sold consistently for 10K then I could conceivably but two of these pets for $20 of my real money, sell them on the AH and "earn" 20K gold which I could then use to buy the item I wanted.

    Yes there are more steps involved but this type of thing is not widely available in game atm. (yes I know TCG mounts work this way but most are quite expensive and nit something a casual player would do.)

    Yes it doesn't add gold to the game (thus keeping down inflation) but even Blizzard has copped to the fact people can and will use these pets to, as they say, "acquire some extra gold" which is really code for buying gold.

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  8. @ Flux

    Some additional services (gender change, name change, server change, ...) have a cost to discourage people making changes too often. That would be a real mess, after all. A fixed cost cuts any temptation in that sense.

    Of course they started to ride the wave in advance, when other companies already decided to sell items for real money.

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  9. I"m quite happy, I just bought one of these pets off my ah last weekend for 4k, which to me is a hek of a lot better than 10 dollars or however much blizz wants for it. :)
    Though I briefly struggled with the huge temptation to relist it for 7k even though I am an avid pet collector and really wanted this one. I finally squashed my temptations to nickel and dime more gold into my pockets I don';t need and just equipped it. :)

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