Recently Blizzard introduced the first microtransactions into WoW in the form of purchasable vanity pets (a panda monk + Lil’KT). This caused a variety of reactions from the blogging community. Some were unhappy, others were unfazed. In my experience the in-game community barely noticed.
So what’s the big deal about microtransactions? A number of other games already use them to varying effect. Blizzard is just continuing its course of re-using good/accepted ideas from other games and building them into WoW.
Currently you can use real money to buy vanity pets, which have no real in-game effect. In future there is no reason to expect Blizzard would not offer other ‘upgrades’ as microtransactions. It would make sense for Blizzard to offer the purchase of high end gear as micro transactions, instant level gains and of course more vanity pets and mounts. This would mean more money for Blizzard and happier players (at least happier individual players).
Perhaps the only commodity I can see issue with is using real money transactions to buy gold. Not for any higher moral ground type reasons but for the simple reason that it encourages in-game inflation. Blizzard would have to design new and better ways of removing money from the game (money-sinks) to combat this. I can already see the QQ as prices spiral and those who cannot, or will not, purchase gold from Blizzard complaining.
Pets and mounts are easy targets. Other than keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ there isn’t any reason to own these items. Players who have these items have no real advantage, other than perhaps bragging rights, over players without them.
Purchasing high-end gear or instant levels might be more controversal, but they both seem valid and likely in my opinion. Blizzard is already trivialising the leveling process to a significant degree with the introduction of Recruit-a-friend and experience bonus heirloom items. This might be the jaded view of a player with three maximum level toons already, but if Blizzard was offering instant 80’s i’d be interested.
Purchasing high-end gear sounds bad when you first read it, but it appears to fit with the current design philosophy. The ‘bad-old-days’ of The Burning Crusade, when the elite, high end, raiders could parade in their exclusive gear are long gone. At the end of Wrath of the Lich King, as has been written about to death, gearing is very much non-exclusive. Pretty much any player with a decent amount of time and skill on their hands can get pretty much all the loot in the game. There are a few hard to obtain items, but aside from a couple of exceptions such as the legendary weapons, they have low-visibility to the general WoW populace.
So, in my opinion, we’ll see more microtransactions in WoW in the new future. The recent vanity pets tested the water, so-to-speak, and I think its more a case of Blizzard taking their time determining how to best take advantage of this revenue bonanza, rather than them debating the value of doing it.