By Bixyl Shuftan
While World of Warcraft players have been busy with the Battle of the Barrens and other places, earlier this month there was some news
that Blizzard would be testing out something never done before in the
game - allowing players to gain experience faster by using real money purchases.
The buying of game items, or "micro-transactions," are not
new to gaming, or even to WoW. Some smaller Internet games such as Evony
allow players to purchase a variety of buffs, better equipment, etc. As
these purchases give the buyer an advantage over free players, they are
sometimes called "Pay to Win" games. Larger MMOs have tended to avoid
such offers, not wanting to give loyal players who've gamed a long time
the impression someone can just buy their way to the top and avoid the
time and hard work in getting there. Instead some, WoW included, offer
the sale of items that do not affect gameplay, such as mounts and pets.
Summer 2011, Eve Online players protested plans to allow the purchase of items that would affect gameplay, and eventually the company
relented. "It's one thing to add non-game items and make money off
that," one reader wrote, "It's another entirely to screw up the whole
game mechanics so that veteran players who've worked a year to get where
they are get bumped by some snotnosed kid who's using Daddy's credit
card to buy his way to the top."
Earlier this month, Blizzard
forum moderators admitted to plans to "exploring" options after it was
discovered there were plans for items to be sold at an "in game store,"
such as an "Enduring Elixir of Wisdom" that gave a 100% experience
boost. The store will reportedly be only on Asian servers at first, and the item is described as currently only on test servers and only available to players level 85 or more.
The response from the players was mostly negative, "The item
itself is mostly harmless … the problem is that it opens doors to (the)
'Pay to Win' model. And we already pay the game and a monthy fee just to
skip that." Some stated they would leave the game, or feared others
would if the In Game Store was released. Some stated they wouldn't mind
the option to level other characters this way once a player had brought
one up to the maximum Level 90 anyway.
This comes soon after
some less than happy news for World of Warcraft. In May, Blizzard stated they had lost more than a million players in the first three months of the year, from 9.6 million n January 2013 to 8.3 million in March. While most of the losses were from Asia
(where the in-game store will be tested), some Western gamers left as
well. This continues a long-term drop from it's peak of 12 million in
the company admitted further decline was likely, "we expect to have
fewer subscribers at year end than we do today." The reasons for the
drop, players were leaving for cheaper games, notably those playable on
mobile devices. The video game industry, in addition to virtual words
such as Second Life, has been facing increased competition from
handhelds such as tablets, iPods, and others.
At the time,
Blizzard stated they would be investing more in WoW, with more
storylines and features. Since then, the Darkspear Rebellion was
introduced. But that even the largest of MMOs would resort to "dabbling
in the darkest gold-producing alchemy of them all" of microtransactions
allowing those with deeper pockets an edge over conventional players,
this could be taken as a sign that even the people behind World of
Warcraft are wondering if it won't be long before they no longer
dominate online gaming.
Sources: Gamasutra, BBC News, Rock Paper Shotgun, Blizzard Forums,