I've been meaning to write a response to criticisms of the Blizzard digital item store, most recently concerning the Cenarion Hatchling, but this week's Blog Azeroth shared topic about premium services finally got me in motion. It turned out quite long, so I'll start with the premium services discussion and follow with my older musings.
Corath asks: What are your thoughts on not only this new feature, but "premium" features being added into the game?
I consider these completely separate from other sale items, namely the pets and mounts available in the digital store. They are still subject to my general opinions on spending extra money - namely that how other people spend their money is none of your business, and scoffing at strangers' purchases makes you seem like a nosey asshole. These services are fundamentally different from companion pets and star-shitting unicorns in that they have the potential to genuinely affect gameplay. Well, aside from the mobile guild chat, which just proves what I already knew: WoW is merely a Fancy Chat. The remote auction house, however, can affect the economy of a server if a player is able to manage auctions while at work or on the train.
Dungeoning with friends...I'm still thinking about it. I know that I would love to dungeon with my Horde buddies in the US, so this feature is attractive to me. (Naturally, that means I want it for free...) It's also directly in game, making it more similar to RealID or the Dungeon Finder. Neither of those cost extra, and I think that's right. I realize that people are quick to scream "you aren't entitled to anything" and "in my day we had to level 60 times uphill, knee deep in elite silithids, wearing nothing but quest greens and less than 100g in our backpacks!" To that I say, since then, Blizzard has greatly improved the leveling and general gameplay experience at no extra cost.
I think I am entitled to whatever Blizzard decides is covered under my monthly fee, and up until now that has encompassed things like improved chat functionality and dungeon grouping. In addition to new endgame content, I also expect a continuing effort to improve other aspects of the game, since that is what they have continually provided. I don't deny their right to ask for whatever fee they want for whatever services, but I am apprehensive of what this will mean for new features. The game is wonderful now, but there is always room for improvement. I'm not sure I want to add another dollar to a separate service every time they invent a new way to wear your hair or kill a boss. Then again, due to inflation, I'm not sure I would be completely against a slight hike in monthly subscriptions. Perhaps that is too contradictory. At any rate, I'd like to see this feature accompanied by other no-charge quality of life improvements in game as well.
Digital purchases and the Cenarion Hatchling
There were some interesting comments regarding the Cenarion Hatchling pet, a $10 all-toon vanity pet. It will be sold in the Blizzard pet store from May 2 to July 31 and all proceeds will go to the American Red Cross Japan relief efforts. The first complaint, which is nitpicky yet defensible, is the amount of time it took for Blizzard to release this idea, and the obvious reuse of an old skin, rather than a new one. PR-wise, it would have looked much more charitable and supportive for Blizz to have made this deal within a week of the earthquake, when the whole world was mobilized to send support (or in the case of paranoid folks, chugging radiation pills and flipping out about minuscule amounts of radiation). Such a quick turnaround would also have excused the reused skin. Who knows why Blizz waited so long - since they make no money off the sales, this can't be a fast grab to bolster funds from lost subscriptions. Maybe they had to work out how the donations would translate to the Red Cross. The important thing, in my opinion, is that money is still needed in Japan. They are still working out how to salvage belongings, get meds to those who need them, keep people clothed, keep kids in school, get folks into temporary housing, hell, even search the ocean for the dead. The pet donations won't go to waste.
As for the skin being the same, all I can say is that personally, I've always wanted this pet so I'm glad I won't have to rely on being extremely lucky or extremely wealthy. I wouldn't object to a recolor so that it wouldn't be redundant for owners of the other one. I suppose they could have used another unreleased pet model, but I wouldn't expect them to repurpose a design, or create a whole new one. Maybe they didn't want to waste a model on something they weren't profiting from. I'll talk more about uniqueness and rarity in a few paragraphs.
Let he in a house of money make the first donation
The final criticism is the scorn heaped on folks for "needing a bribe to donate." How much of a jerk do you have to be to say this? I guess everyone who thinks this has already donated a considerable amount without so much as a thank-you in return. After payday, I nipped down to Lawson's to participate in the 万 up for Japan drive. No one knew I was participating, or checked that I really donated that much. The clerks' effusive thanks were enough to make me blush - I was just doing what I thought was necessary. But it still made me feel good to have my contribution acknowledged. When I saw the pet, I thought it was the perfect combination of guilt-free spending and exciting pet acquisition. If you bought the pet because you wanted an item rather than wanted to donate, who cares? You still donated. If you would have bought the pet with all the funds going to Blizzard, and then also not donated, you would have contributed nothing to the Red Cross. I'm okay with individual greed for vanity pets inadvertently resulting in donations, especially if that money wouldn't have been donated otherwise.
Some folks who already had the Hippogryph Hatchling loot card were incensed that their item was no longer super-rare and therefore a point of pride and bragging rights. In general, I must say that I'm a big proponent of availability over rarity. When it comes to items available for money, the only limit on how many people can have it is based on how many can afford it! If you like the item, buy it for yourself. You can't stop other people from having money to also buy it. Frankly, I think the worst thing about pet store items is that if you can't afford it, there's no other way to earn it. TCG cards cost money - whether you get lucky and find a card or buy the one you want. Luck doesn't really make you special, though, and neither does a wagonload of cash. You may have acquired a rare card, but you can't expect other people to just...not have it. It doesn't affect your game in the slightest who has or doesn't have it.
"Rarity" in raids
I think this extends to the 4.2 raid nerfs as well. The idea that outdated content (and it will be, as people buy T11 loot with JP and rush into Firelands) will be more easily conquered is apparently deeply offensive to folks who can already regularly kill the current raid bosses. The very nerve of those...those casuals! marching into BWD over half a year after its release and finally downing Magmaw, or Atramedes, or even Nefarion while you are pushing hard modes in Firelands! It's a slap in the face! While you are idling in Orgrimmar in full H T12 gear you may see someone finally getting their first raid mount. Outrageous! They should probably just delete all raids after your guild completes it, to ensure that you don't have to share any of your achievements. Except they don't belong to you. They aren't exclusive to you or your guild. If you got them all within a week of the content release, you already have your bragging rights, memories, and epic gear. When others start getting those things in 4.2, why would you even care, since you'll already be on to the next best thing? Even visiting old raids for a lark will already be trivial thanks to having current progression loot. I'm not sure who could be actively hurt by this decision, and although I hope to down all the bosses before the nerf, I'll be glad to go back and steamroll them anyway!