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Blizzard Endorses the Transfer of Capital to the Proletariat October 11, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, EverQuest II, World of Warcraft.
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Blizzard announced yesterday that their newest and cutest companion pet will not be bound to your account when you buy it from the Blizzard Store for $10.

This means you can turn around and sell it at the auction house for GOLD!!!

I can make you rich! Maybe...

Ostensibly, the reason for this is that Blizzard wants to allow people without the real world fiscal means (or the stubbornness to refuse to play the cash shop game) to be able to purchase the pet in-game… and to stop people scamming with bogus pet codes.

Since the introduction of the Pet Store, many players have been asking for ways to get the companions we offer there without having to spend real-world cash. By making the Guardian Cub tradable (much like the BoE mounts from the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game), players interested in the new pet will have fun, alternative in-game ways to get one. In addition to trading the pet, players can give the Guardian Cub as a gift to another character for a special occasion; guild leaders can use them to reward members for a job well done; and so on. We also hope this change will help reduce the number of incidents of scamming via trading for invalid pet codes.

Of course, for some in the community, this was a huge, “AHA, GOTCHA!” moment!  The RMT alarms have been sounded!

Unfortunately, if this is Blizzard breaking down the doors and letting RMT run rampant, they aren’t doing a very good job of it.

In the continuum of cash shop MMOs, with LOTRO at one end, where Turbine (last I checked) doesn’t let you buy anything that can be resold on the auction house, and Rune of Magic where, the last time I played, you could simply list RMT currency for sale at the auction house for people to buy with the in-game only currency, this is a lot closer to the LOTRO end of the spectrum.

The first blush comparison is with PLEX, CCP’s own cash shop item that is the root of many a quickly realized stellar fortune.  Both can be purchased for cash, both can be sold in the marketplace for in-game currency.

However, PLEX is a consumable.  The market for PLEX is insatiable it seems, and the market price has slowly risen since it was introduced about two years back.

Companion pets, on the other hand, are… well… forever.  You buy one and there it is, you have one.  Blizzard has made the guardian cub a per character pet, as opposed to previous pets, which were per account, which meant once you bought one ALL of your characters, including any made going forward, had one.  This might increase demand some.  There will always be somebody rich in gold who will want one on every character.

But Blizzard has made the cub less attractive for people to buy outright for themselves… which pet would you spend $10 on, the one all of your characters get, or the one that only a single character gets… so I would guess that most people who are going to buy a cub are going to do so with the intent of reselling it, thus increasing the supply in the market.

It almost makes me wish I was still subscribed to WoW, just so I could go in and watch the behavior of this new guardian cub economy. (Somebody please do this?  Gevlon?  Anybody?  I want a “Cub Watch” economic report.)

As a method to reduce fraud and to allow people access to companion pets via in-game currency, this seems like a reasonable, if unambitious plan.

As a sword in the heart of gold sellers, this will probably be a non-event.  The in-game economy is too small on most servers to absorb many guardian cubs, especially on the downtrodden half of some servers, like the Horde side of Eldre’Thalas.

Frankly, EverQuest II Extended has a more open path to go from cash shop to in-game currency, and barely anybody screams about that.  You can buy rare crafting materials for Station Cash and turn around and sell them on the market if you need some platinum quickly.  Common thread – consumable.

When Blizzard is really serious about putting gold sellers out of business, they will follow CCP’s lead and put sellable game time in the in-game economy.  That will close the loop and cut the gold sellers out.

Addendum: Blizzard, surprised as usual that anybody is upset about something they did, had this to say when accused of endorsing RMT with the new guardian cub:

TCG Loot card mounts like the Spectral Tiger have been BoE for a long time now (since patch 3.2), and that was and continues to be well-received, and as far as we’ve been able to tell hasn’t had any adverse impact to the game or economy – despite them selling for sometimes astronomical amounts of gold.

It’s potentially worth noting that no new gold is being introduced into the game’s economy with those mounts or the new Guardian Cub pet.

Our goal with the Guardian Cub is to provide alternative ways for players who don’t want to spend real money to add these pets to their collection. Even though this has been available a while now with the TCG mounts, this is obviously a new kind of way to deliver Pet Store pets, and we’re definitely interested to hear your feedback and ultimately see how this will play out.

Which is pretty much what they said in their original message.  So they either think you cannot read (a pretty safe bet in quite a few cases) or they are demonstrating how to stay on message.

Comments»

1. Mallika - October 11, 2011

I have to laugh when I think about how so many people kept saying, “Blizzard would never do something like that, oh no!”

I also have to roll my eyes at all the people who have commented on Massively’s article about this, saying, “So what? No big deal” when it’s Blizzard, but other companies who do the same thing are *gasp* evil greedy corporations.

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2. Forbes hates accessibility « Hardcore Casual - October 11, 2011

[...] other ‘brain off’ news, you know Blizzard has stopped monitoring the interns running WoW when they can’t even copy/paste PLEX correctly into their game. I get that most of the stuff CCP is doing is “impossible” for Blizzard, but [...]

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3. saucelah - October 11, 2011

I haven’t played WoW in eons either, but with that unlimited free trial Blizzard is so proud of, if you actually want to monitor that item on the AH you could create a new account and go in at level 1.

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4. MMOcrunch - October 11, 2011

This first pet is just a test as the FAQ stated that future pets might follow suit, so the cub economy might turn into a full pet economy.

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5. bhagpuss - October 11, 2011

You can’t currently resell the SC-bought rare crafting raws in EQ2X. They are now Heirloom (Bind to Account in other words). You can still use them to get stuff made by other players by using the Consignment system, but you can’t trade them. Whether this is a permanent change hasn’t been confirmed. It was supposedly done to prevent an exploit, I believe.

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6. Wilhelm Arcturus - October 11, 2011

@MMOcrunch – The problem is that the pet based economy is not viable in the long term for a couple of reasons.

One reason is that you have to keep cranking out pets as market saturation hits for current pets. But even that has risk. Sure, there will always be somebody out there ready to buy when it becomes pet-of-the-month club, but interest will diminish.

The second is that each faction on every server has a different level of saturation. Alliance on Hyjal has a very robust economy, or did when I last looked, and so could probably absorb dozens of such pets. Horde on Eldre’Thalas is probably good for two dozen before the market crashes. That is just going to make people complain about something new. And while it might eventually bring about a unified, cross faction, one market per server economy (which I think it should, since there are server factions that really suffer from a bad AH), it will still lead to haves and have nots based solely on the server on which they chose to play.

So they may keep doing this, but it will never be to thwart gold sellers and create a stable way to convert dollars to gold. The pet economy is a false economy. They will do it to sell a few more pets and save support a few (or maybe more than a few) calls about “Somebody gave me a fake pet code.”

@saucelah – I suppose I could… but I am not THAT interested. I want somebody else to track the cub price index. I’m lazy like that.

@Bhagpuss – The one item I didn’t caveat with “last time I checked.” I knew they took out the mastercrafted armor, but didn’t know they changed the rares as well.

You can look at the market and find what standard crafting material is commanding a high price, buy a stack of that with Station Cash, and still make a few plat. The conversion from one currency to another still has an outlet.

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7. TheRemedy - October 11, 2011

I’ve said this before, but Blizzard has always been alright with rmt. Those gold farmers are still subscribers, and there are a lot of them. The real money auction house in Diablo 3, is also proof that Blizzard isn’t against rmt.

The only thing they’ve ever had a problem with is the amount of customer service they have to have to deal with account hacking.

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8. Aufero - October 11, 2011

The AH market for these is so limited (pet collectors with spare gold buy maybe 10 cross-faction pets a week per server, in my experience playing that market) that I can’t see this as anything but the most timid possible toe-dip in the RMT pool.

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9. Green Armadillo - October 11, 2011

ROM hasn’t allowed auctioning of “Diamonds” (the cash store currency) for over a year, because it was too easy for gold sellers – use a stolen credit card to buy diamonds, sell the diamonds on the AH for gold, sell the gold to buyers, and then in all liklihood charge the buyer’s credit card again to buy diamonds to get gold for the next customer.

It’s worth noting that they’re not opposed on principle to players buying diamonds to sell for gold, just to any arrangement where they are left holding the bag for fraudulent charges. Players have been free to buy diamonds and “gift” items to people who will hopefully send the promised gold in exchange, provided the diamonds were paid for via a vendor that was prepared to assume liability for the cash transaction. This meant that you had to physically go to a physical store to buy gift cards if you wanted to buy “tradeable” diamonds for a number of months until they could find a new payment provider.

Meanwhile, there continues to be a non-functional diamond tab on the auction house. Ah well.

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10. Wilhelm Arcturus - October 11, 2011

@GA – Interesting. I haven’t been back to ROM in a long time. I cannot bring myself to go through their horrible patcher again.

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11. Tesh - October 12, 2011

A Blizzard equivalent of PLEX time sales would be very interesting. Can I make it happen by saying “they will never do that”?

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12. WoW gold for Dollars? The Kitten Standard edition — MMO Melting Pot - October 13, 2011

[...] to). Because it ultimately doesn’t matter.”The Ancient Gaming Noob thinks the kitten story is a complete non-event – “The in-game economy is too small on most servers to absorb many guardian cubs, especially on [...]

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13. The Daily Quest: Oh no no no no no no no | gQuit's WoWPress - October 14, 2011

[...] The Ancient Gaming Noob takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the situation and other examples of RMT in gaming. [...]

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14. Anonymous - February 6, 2012

They’re right about one thing. They aren’t selling gold. Blizzard would do anything but sell gold. They’ll sell you things which can be traded for gold, but they don’t want to “add” gold into the economy. They want all gold generation to come from slow-ass grinding. Hence all the focus on anti-botting, despite bott-farming actually being of immense benefit to the entire playerbase in terms of reducing the costs of gearing up.
Case in point. If you get scammed by someone trying to sell a petstore pet. Blizzard will take the money away from the scammer. They can trace the flow of currency just fine and remove it, but they’ll cite section B(vii) of the terms of use for why they won’t restore anything back to you. It’s a catch-all clause which basically says “you were dumb enough to get suckered, and we’re not going to help you”. It didn’t use to be that way. Net effect, they remove gold from the economy. It would “cost” them nothing to let you have the pets back, but they’re happier to piss on paying customers.

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