Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Can the pony steal our game?

No, I really don't write about the pony.

I write about the fear that driven lot of people to whine about it: the business success of the pony will make Blizzard focus on ponies and not on actual content.

This idea is coming from the complete ignorance how luxury works. Their "utility" is to show off and not being more useful than higher quality common items. This means that only small fraction of their price goes to the actual production of the item, the huge majority is either profit or marketing costs, to maintain the high social standing of the item (and its owners).

I'm sure that the success of the pony will bring new fluff items to the WoW store, like more pets, mounts, enchanting scrolls that has the same effect as the normal ones plus they make your weapon look like Frostmourne and so on. However they don't cost Blizzard much. The pony is just a palomino model with gryphon wings copy&pasted on it (land with a gryphon next to one and see yourself) and Algalon's skin placed on it. I don't think it cost Blizzard more than 10-20 developer hours.

Even most rationals fall for the social trick that makes luxury industry running: "the luxury item is actually BiS". No. It's just another high quality stuff with some gold, jewelry and an outrageous price tag. Just visit a street drag race! You won't see many Lamborghinies and Ferraris, especially not among the winners. They are rather custom-tuned Japanese cars that anyone can buy (granted, not the cheapest models, but still).

So no, the pony won't steal our game. It will make our game better funded. It's the first step towards the best pricing model:
  • In "all pay $25" model the casual subsidize the hardcore
  • In the microtransactions model the hardcore subsidize the casual
  • In the new "subscription + pay for fluff" model the stupid social subsidize the rational
Can it move forward to "BiS sold for $" model? I don't think so, since it would make large majority of the players leave as they feel uncompetitive against "rich kids". It's possible that XP scrolls, starter items (ilvl 200-219 epics) will be sold for $ one day. But that does not change the game either.

41 comments:

Vordan said...

I think I really dont complain that people have it, its just the graphics are so bad it looks like a mystical donkey (short body). I have to look at these donkies every time I log into the game. No wonder I hear the term That Retarded Horse flying around.

Ladron de la Noche said...

Perhaps I'm just a dumb social, but I don't understand why paying for enhanced aesthetics makes someone stupid. Does the enjoyment of aesthetic beauty stem from stupidity?

Gevlon said...

@Ladron: short answer: yes
long answer: http://greedygoblin.blogspot.com/2008/12/theory-of-leisure-class-3.html

Kaaterina said...

Gevlon answered that in a previous post.

Why do you need to OWN one to enjoy its aestetics? Half of Dalaran is on it.

Go watch one for 30 mins.

I really don't think that when you go to an art museum you have the compulsion to take all the paintings home.

Zazkadin said...

If people pay $1000 for the "I am rich" app on the IPhone, $25 for a horse that can even fly is a steal!

The fact that people buy it is the proof there is a demand and thus that is a successfull business opportunity seized by Blizzard. A true goblin will approve of mutually satisfying business deals.

Zazkadin said...

"I really don't think that when you go to an art museum you have the compulsion to take all the paintings home."

Sometimes i do :) But that's not the point. If i want to enjoy them when i want, where i want, i have to own them. By that line of thought, you don't have to play the game to enjoy it. You can see the videos on YouTube. It's cheaper.

Inquisitor said...

Paid race changes were a far bigger threat, since it meant the ultra-competitive sort of PvPer (who claim to care a great deal about fairness, although they seem only to shout about aspects that are to their benefit) had the ability to swap racials, with actual tangible benefit.

Even that's a shortcut to the top, rather than raising the bar, of course - but they got away with it.

Anonymous said...

"It's possible that XP scrolls, starter items (ilvl 200-219 epics) will be sold for $ one day. But that does not change the game either."

Yes it does.

That is the thing that everybody fears. The day WoW turns into a Korean Cash Shop.

The very day that Blizzard decides to go down that route, is the day the game dies. The game will be pointless to play, because you will have to pay cash to stay competitive. Don't think it will happen? Look at Maple Story. Look at Ragnarok. Look at every other Korean grindfest. You're a smart man. Do you think that Blizzard's product is somehow special? That it will somehow do what the other games could not, and SUCCEED in ripping you off?

HINT: The answer is no.

I understand that morons will pay for it. Activision made, what, eleventy-billion dollars off that 15 dollar map-pack that was maps from a previous game copy-pasted into the new game. Logically, it is a sound business decision. Then again, so is laying off all your factory workers and getting a bunch of malnourished Chinese children and throwing them in a sweatshop, paying them pennies. Is it "wrong", in the business sense? No. But it's still straight up, undeniably evil.

Kaaterina said...

@Zazkadin

You're comparing an experience which you must pay to have (playing) to an experience you can have while playing (not paying more).

Anonymous said...

I could care less about a pixel pony. What drives me crazy is that people are more than willing to spend $25 on this pony, but refuse to pay $7 for an authenticator. The authenticator also gets you a Core Hound Pup which in my opinion is annoying as hell, but I won't get hacked so the pup can rott with whelpling and penguin.

The point of this is to show everyone that the reason we make so much gold in this game is not because we are smart it's only because we are remotely smarter than the average idiot that buys our goods.

Okrane S. said...

I seriously have troubles understanding this perspective of entitlement towards this activity (WoW) towards which everyone is displaying a sort of parental affection.

The title of your post is the problem, Gevlon.
"Can the pony steal our game?". Since when is it our game?? It's not mine anyway...

Its just another product on the market. Its blizzards bussiness and they can do whatever they please with it. And I am completely agnostic about all these metamorphoses of the game. If its newest incarnation is still enjoyable for me I'll keep subscribing, if not...

We're all consumers here. If we dislike something we should go consume something else.

Kaaterina said...

Umh.

While I'm flattered that someone thought to reply in my stead, please don't. Especially using my name.

(I'm a little shocked, tbh.)


Anyway, the XP scrolls are already in-game in the form of RAF.

Inquisitor said...

"I could care less"

It's "i couldn't care less". If you could care less, you could care less meaning that it could less important than actually is.

Inquisitor said...

What's with people registering accounts with other people's names?! Get your own, ffs! Gevlon, you tolerate this kind of actions? I can't use my name because some muron though it would be funny impersonating me?

Anonymous said...

@Gevlon: Based on Blizzard/Activision's jumping into the RMT business with the mounts and pets. Do you see a time when Blizzard/Activision decides to start selling gold as a way to fill the coffers?

Based on their lackluster efforts in trying to stop the gold sellers. I can only speculate that they are just keeping them around until they decide to enter the market themselves.

Kro said...

Gevlon said: It will make our game better funded.

Not exactly. It will make Blizzard better funded and you implicitly assume that this money (or at least "most of this money") will be allocated to the game that brought this income. It might be a correct or incorrect assumption, but just like money streams towards governments, we cannot decide how the government will allocate those funds. We can only analyse the past government behaviour and assume continuity of behaviour for predicting the future moves.

Gevlon said...

@Inquisitor: register a google account. That case your name will be a link like the first commenters, showing that you're real. Now I can't see which one is "real" so unless the post itself is spam or troll I have no reason to delete it.

@Kro: completely wrong. Even if Blizzard takes every cent from the pony and pays profit, it supports the game since Blizzard will be more motivated to keep it running. Nobody wants to lose the cash cow.

Bobbins said...

Blizzard making more money does not mean the game will be better or funded better. Keeping 'a cash cow' going seems like the end of the line.

Trying to squeeze every last cent from things does not make things better. Look at the film industry repeating films/content trying to squeeze every last cent from a film's fans.

Inquisitor said...

Great. I need a Google account to be real. This is madness.

Anyway, just another thought: if instead of the shinny horse you could pay $10 to, let's say, access the neutral AH from Orgrimmar AH, would you pay for it?

Anonymous said...

As long as the microtransactions are fluff I don't really care about them. When I found out that the new flying horsey was a $25 transaction I wasn't impressed.

I think its a good addition though. some micro transactions are good. my wife started playing so I transfered a couple characters to her account and bought a race change for one of them. This way she doesn't have to start from scratch. I doubt she'd play if she had to go from 1-80 with no money. I just wish she hadn't picked my tailor. oh well she is making money on bags.

Klepsacovic said...

I don't doubt that the pony is easy to make. It takes almost no time away from real development. In theory the high efficiency of it could mean more funding for real development. Except that's assuming that Blizzard won't be pushed to "focus on its strengths", meaning focus on those activities which generate the most revenue for the least investment. As players we might think their strength is making a good game, but to management and investors, their strength is ponies.

Going into the practicality of luxury doesn't explain why Blizzard won't change their approach to WoW. They clearly already have changed before, with accessibility opening up raiding to a wider audience, increasing subscription numbers; they are clearly willing to change their designs to bring in more profits. The risk is how much they'll change.

tyra said...

@Kaaterina:
"I really don't think that when you go to an art museum you have the compulsion to take all the paintings home."

If that was an option without considerable effort into theft, i damn well might. ( there are a few, but i have eclectic tastes.)

@Okrane:
I haven't found a game that can compete with wow in depth, in a format i like. Maybe i'll find one, but if i found one out there i liked better, i'd be there already. Also, you will find an increaslingly higher amount of people who don't feel "at home" in wow. These are the people who felt the game was tailor made for them in Vanilla and BC, but they don't fit the new mind set. It's an unsettling feeling.

Gevlon, actually i assumed the steed was a reskin of the new mount off lich king. I haven't bothered to really check, but two wing horses... Also, they'll only keep the RMT in check if they understand they need to keep a good game. So far historically, most games have failed at trying the new RMT thing. Hopefully, it being blizzard, they get a better handle on it. Then there's the fear that maybe it's Activision doing the push into RMT, and they (in most gamers eyes) don't have squeeky clean reputation for doing things right blizzard has earned.
Also, people are mad because normally in the past, they believe the shiney pony would've been added to an achievement (see all the algalon/VoA speculation). By making it RMT, it's out of reach for some of them, and that's a totally new concept for some people in the game. You can't grind for it. You can't improve your gameplay and earn it. You can only spend money on it. it's a huge shift for the 'no lifers', 'socials' (ones without credit cards. Never before has something been unobtainable by anything other than tedious grinding, or getting better at the game.
Like Okrane pointed out, people think of WoW in the possesive "our game". But this RMT horse wasn't made for us! and some people don't realize the game isn't tailor made for them, it's just marketed that way. Some people found that out when wrath launched. Some are just finding it out now.

Hugmenot said...

@Gevlon
You may want to read A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin and then reconsider your position on aesthetics.

I don't care about the pony and other frivolous items but I am hoping Blizzard continue to sell them with the hope part of their profits subsidize content.

I would not care either if Blizzard sold heirloom-type items to new players. I would not care if Blizzard sold pre-made level 55-75 characters. I like leveling toons but accept others do not.

The only thing I would consider buying is access to a LFG tool which does not force you to have a full group before teleporting to a dungeon.

I like 2- and especially 3-manning level appropriate dungeons and running raids with unusual and undermanned.

Tonus said...

I think that this is part of a larger strategy on Blizzard's part of creating the ideal subscriber base. Making the game more accessible might anger the more hard core players, but it also brings in more subscriptions (and keeps casual players from canceling). Offering up fluff for real cash might offend some, but it attracts the people who would be willing to pay for that fluff.

Why not build a player base that will play longer and buy your fluff items? Hard core players are more demanding, more critical, less likely to spend extra cash, and they exist in much smaller numbers than your average (or below average) Joe. Blizzard is designing a game for that casual player with cash to burn. And now that they have pretty much no threats to their market position, they have no reason not to go full steam ahead.

The only reason that I assume they will continue to try to give the appearance of not dumping the more demanding players is so that the outcry on the web won't be so loud. But there is a very large market out there, and if tapping that market pisses off a few purists, I don't think it will bother them very much at all.

As for squeezing every last penny out of the product, I think that they still have a long way to go. The day that they offer to sell gold or gear for real cash, you'll know that they are winding down and simply draining the game. I figure at that point most of us will be playing WOWv2...

csdx said...

@Kaaterina:
"I really don't think that when you go to an art museum you have the compulsion to take all the paintings home."

Yes most people do, it's just people understand the costs (millions of dollars) is not worth the benefit (being able to see it without going to the museum). But for some people it's worth it, hence the private collections, and people buying the stupid pony/

Anonymous said...

The horse is a reskinned hippogryph.

Did you think they put a walking animation on that thing for nothing?

Andru said...

To be honest, the sooner people realise that it's not 'our' game and it's 'a' game, the better.

I've had severe trouble understanding this in in the 1990's when I was playing MUDs. I spend months fuming over the changes a MUD took, just because it was 'my' MUD.

Once I realised that I could let go of the feeling of 'belonging' to a game, it made it way easier to enjoy ANY game I was playing, without getting upset over changes that do not affect me.

I'll be sad if I ever have to leave my character behind, but not sad enough to eat up whatever crap Activision will supposedly feed me in the future.

Right now, there's no online competitor to WoW. I have some hopes for SW:TOR and GW2.

Activison are trying hard to keep the 'our' feeling in WoW. Unfortunately for them, they can't please everyone all the time. The question is how long they can wave the carrot.

The pony plays a very big part in all this. You buy the pony, it's YOUR pony. Not your character's pony, YOUR pony. Since it's YOUR pony, how can you willingly abandon it, you heartless fiend! The other game might be better, but YOUR pony will cry! You don't want YOUR pony to cry, do you?

/Kotick mode off

Alex Cresswell said...

I find it amusing at all the people who spend money on stupid and useless things like mounts. Since I already have a 310% speed mount, it is utterly useless for me.
On the actual design of the mount, I wouldn't be surprised if one of the animators made it 'for fun' and his boss saw it and said hey let's see if we can put that up for sale?

Anonymous said...

I agree that one day we'll see items such as the current heroic badge BoA items one day for pay. Gear that you can pass around to alts (maybe), looks cool and gives an XP bonus but is not bis. I was thinking about what the next step beyond useless junk is, and that seems to be it. Eventually the cool pets won't seem as cool and Blizz will need to offer something better.

They won't start the "pay for best item or equivalent" routine until they drop down to around LoTR numbers.

dragonassasin said...

It begs the question Gelvon what do you think of the Touring rocket mount which comes with a passenger seat and costs $50 (if you go through the effort to get it your self)It has some use beyond aesthetics, not much extra use, but a scaling passenger mount for all my toons. That's kind of useful especially when cataclysm breaks and me and my friend level together (i have a 310 he doesn't, but with the mount he will be flying at the same speed as me... as a passenger).

Khaas said...

"Can it move forward to "BiS sold for $" model? I don't think so, since it would make large majority of the players leave as they feel uncompetitive against "rich kids". It's possible that XP scrolls, starter items (ilvl 200-219 epics) will be sold for $ one day. But that does not change the game either."

This reminds me of the "Legends" server on EverQuest. Pay to play on a premium server where rare expensive loot is handed out like candy, literally GMs come on and hand out loot to people...it also meant that when a top guild moved there they had all of the bosses to themselves, so they ruled the place. But since no unique content was given to this "premium" server, people started leaving. There's probably a lesson there.

Anonymous said...

Nobody who plays WoW is rational. Wasting US$540 over three years instead of having $8000 when they retire is not rational.

Someone who spends $565 over three years is about 2% less rational than the $540 person.

Although obviously someone who spends $540 with an annual $10,000 annual salary on WoW is much much less rational than someone who spends $565 of their $200,000.

I find it silly for kids spending 1.8% of their income on WoW and receiving no rational benefit from it complaining about the someone who is spending 0.09% of their income on WoW spending an additional .0125%. Who is making the bigger financial mistake?

Andru said...

@ Anonymous

Sorry.

Your math is ridiculously stupid.

WoW is a leisure time activity.

Care to do the math for how many PC games you can buy with 540 dollars and how much gameplay time that buys you? How many cinema tickets?

For all intents and purposes, you can calculate how much A BEER costs every Friday for 5 years and see what value you get.

Stop trying to rationalize wasteful spending. Anyone who spends 540$ gets SOMETHING. Ie. gameplay time.

What does the person who spends extra 25$ gets?

Your math is not how a rational would think, it's a clear example of rationalized social behaviour.

Fizzle said...

I bought the mount for an entirely different reason. Ease of Use and gold savings. While leveling a character quickly, I can just use the same mount through level 20 to northrend. That's 200-300g savings per character. Saves bar-space as well.

Is it worth 25$? To me, for the above, yes. But I doubt many people go through as many 1-80 grinds as I do.

(22 characters in the past 12 months to 80 due to server changes/friends moving servers/crafting alts.)

Call it buying gold if you want, I call it paying for convenience, and if I save even one hour per character or more, it's definitely worth it.

Zazkadin said...

I see two post by my name above. The second one was not written by me. Either someone copied my name or there was an error?

Andru said...

@Fizzle.


No it's not.

No discounts included, the cost for all mounts is precisely 161 gold per character, not '200-300 gold'.

This means that, for 22 characters, you would have paid 161*22=3542 gold. Or 7.14$/1000 gold. Which is... a terrible, TERRIBLE rate of $/gold even at the most expensive goldselling merchant.

Of course, the horse is legal, while goldbuying is illegal. On top of that, you leveled 22 characters ALREADY. Unless you're going to level another 22 in the forseeable future, those were ALREADY sunken costs, which, as you well know, unrecoverable.

But consider that the average WoW player will not EVER see 22 level 80s. Where is the value then?

Andru said...

@ Zazkadin

Yes, someone was stealing people's names for comments on this particular article. Among them Kaaterina(me) and Inquisitor complained about it.

Sounds like someone has a weird sense of humor, or likes to troll. Gevlon said he can do nothing, so I guess it's better to register a googke account.

Bristal said...

The move to RMT's clearly impacts the Blizzard brand, and brand loyalty. Our opinion of them is enormously important to future revenue. Any changes are a business risk.

Blizzard's job is to find the sweetspot between making some fast cash from the RMT model, and maintaining the perceived "fairness" and traditions of the game, especially as a competitive activity, to maintain and grow baseline earnings.

Overshooting that sweetspot has sent many a brand into the toilet.

Owners of sports teams typically start selling off their best players to make some revenue when they anticipate some "building years" ahead.

Is Blizzard selling off WoW to the casuals to raise revenue for the next generation MMO? Or is it just testing the waters for a new business strategy since it really has little competition?

Anonymous said...

@Andru

A logical, rational person would not play any leisure game that costs money. (Short term losses don't count for a profitable poker player.) If they drank beer instead of tap water, then it certainly would not be purchased at a bar when the same could be bought for less at the hypermart. Why would a rational pay for a cinema ticket when television is free?

If the person who spent $540 could afford it and got enjoyment that was worth more to them than the money - i.e., there was not something they would enjoy more for $540, then they might feel it was money well spent. Same for the person who spent $565

But clearly the cheapest, most economical decision is to not only not purchase a mount but to cancel all your MMO subscriptions.

Fizzle said...

@Andru
Actually, on the server I'm on, 7$/1000 is a steal.

And again, the primary reason is still ease of use, the gold saving is just icing.

Andru said...

@ Last Anonymous

Sorry, your point does not make sense. Leisure activities are NOT interchangeable.

You can't just say:

"Oh, I wanted to watch this new action movie in 3D at cinema, but it costs money so I'll just go and watch a TV soap opera instead. Yeah, this will have the same 'fun' for me."

You're just bringing in ridiculous arguments because you want to rationalize. The beer in hypermarket = beer in bar. WoW =/ collecting stamps.

Fair point, for a purely objective perspective, leisure time IS wasted time. However, accepting the inevitability of need for leisure time was proven by psychological studies since the 19th century.

But the horse does not fit under 'leisure time'. You can't just say, 'My horse is fun.' Seriously, that reason does not make sense.

@Fizzle

What do you mean by 'ease of use?' The other horses are sold right near the riding trainer. You can't mean that it would save you a lot of time.

The only thing that I might accept is that he doubles as a flying mount. So ok, fair point, you save one action bar place. Though, paying $25 for one free action button?

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