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I Love Microtransactions in MMOs

Blizzard decided to enter the world of microtransactions today and launched 2 mini-pets (non-combat) in the Blizzard Store: the Pandaren Monk and Lil' K.T. And suddenly the Internet exploded with a mix of cheers and anger, the comments at being just a sample of the mixed reactions.

First of all, this is not a first. Every WoW box has a Collector's Edition that gives cool extra stuff, including an exclusive in-game pet (I wish I had the original ones). It takes more $$$ to buy this. Second, Blizzard has had loot cards in the Upper Deck Trading Card Game for 2 years now, and you can technically say these are microtransactions since you can pay real money to get in-game rewards. The worst part is your odds of getting a loot card are very low so the cost of these virtual rewards, whether you buy a lot of cards or buy the loot cards on eBay, are much higher than the $10 these pets cost ($5 on the pandaren goes to charity). Third, the loot codes Blizzard gives to Blizzcon attendees and buyers of the Blizzcon stream on the Internet or DirecTV also count as real money for in-game stuff. Murloc custome, Blizzcon Bear Mount, Murloc Marine mini-pet, these would cost you $40-100 each, and the last 2 did not even involve going to Blizzcon at all. Sure, you get a nice Blizzcon stream, but I know a lot of people who bought the stream just to get the pet and did not watch the lovely Kat Hunter during those 2 days of fun.

Why do people hate microtransactions? My opinion on this is there are 2 things that divide all MMO players: free time to play, and real world money. This creates 4 types of players:

  1. Players with lots of free time, but limited financial resources. I think most hardcore gamers and raiders fall in this category. Or kids. Yes, I'm sure there are very professionally accomplished hardcore raiders out there, but you're not the norm.
  2. Players with limited free time, but with more money on hand. This is where I fit in. Accomplished professionals who like to play MMOs are usually in this category. I'm definitely not loaded, but I pretty well off.
  3. Players with lots of free time and lots of money. Lucky people. Aside from Curt Schilling, I have no idea who that would be. But whoever they are, I envy them.
  4. Players with limited free time and little money. I feel sorry for them. They love their game, can barely pay for it, and might have to work hard just to make ends meet. The game is probably a great escape for them, if only they could play it more.

I'm willing to bet that players who hate microtransactions fall in categories #1 and #4. I can see why #4 would hate it. They already struggle to get anything in game due to limited play time, and now this is something else they cannot get. Sorry guys, I hear you and your complaints are legitimate. #1 is probably the majority of the complainers. They spend such an insane amount of time in game that they need to justify it. If they can get rewards others cannot because they can't invest the time, they feel like their time sink was worth it. They can typically get anything they want in game. But now that you dangle something in front of them they cannot get, they complain. I find them purely selfish.

We all know time is money. Why is it socially accepted in MMOs to get everything when you sink the time, but yet not accepted to sink your time into a career and then spend the money you earned in your game? These people are basically frustrated because they see richer people than them with better rewards in real life, and the MMO is the virtual world where they can be king, and forget that they are at the bottom of the financial totem pole in real life. If they see richer people get an advantage, real or cosmetic, in their MMO, they cry foul!

Yes, I'm an elitist in real life, but I worked real hard for my career. I had great opportunities, I made sacrifices, i took risks, and it paid off. That investment should not end when I log into WoW. I think microtransactions are cool, as long as they are for cool cosmetic items that do not give paying players an unfair advantage. Otherwise, if real battle gear and epics would be purchasable with microtransactions, then at least Blizzard or the MMO developer need to make sure the same items can also be obtainable in game via "free means", such as questing, raiding or the good ole RNG.

For now, enjoy a few screenshots of my main, Shalansay the Feral Druid, accompanied by my new buddies: Lil' K.T. and the Pandaren Monk. I think I'm only 1-2 pets away from the 75-pet achievement now Stick out tongue

Published Wednesday, November 04, 2009 10:02 PM by ActiveNick


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# re: I Love Microtransactions in MMOs@ Tuesday, November 10, 2009 2:32 PM

That's some great rationalization, really. I was initially miffed (mostly because I wanted KT like the fury of a thousand suns), but then someone compared it to the TCG pets and it made a lot more sense.