We all pay to play WoW, and it ain't cheap! Initially purchasing the game is approx. $80 if you want all of the expansions. Then $15 per month. I've been doing this for years, so I obviously think it's worth it (or I just have no self-control and/or I'm plain stupid). In any case, I'd rather spend money on WoW than spend $60 on a new PS3 or Xbox game that I'll beat in a month and never play again. You'd think with the amount of money that Blizz is making from the game alone, it would be enough. I guess not. It's apparently never enough.
I got the idea for this post from Miss Medicina. I started to comment and realized I have way too much to say on the topic. Basically, the question is: At what point does providing in-game product for out-of-game money cross the line? Well, let me give you some history... and I mean WAY back.
In the early 1990s, this guy in Philadelphia created this online text-based game called Medievia. Well, he arguably lifted the base code from someone else. The base code goes back to DIKU or Circle or any other number of MUD (multi-user dungeon) engines at the time. MUDs were the predecessors of MMORPGs. Anyway, the original creators (some guys in finland or something) of the base code said anyone could use it to make their own MUD with two rules: 1) they had to be given credit for creating the base code on the login screen; and 2) you couldn't charge players. Well, within a short time, this guy broke rule 1 outright, then found a way around rule 2. Here was his work around: DONATIONS. Now, there was nothing wrong with charging for donations as far as those Finnish guys were concerned, but this Philly guy was selling in-game "donation" items. And here's the real kicker. These items were BiS. And I don't mean they were a little bit better, I mean A LOT. So much so, that if you didn't "donate" you couldn't compete with those players who had. Then he started adding more donation items. Then he added item deterioration, which gave a 1 year lifespan to most of the donation items. Then he made it so you could "donate" to get certain OP in-game items that could be sold for mucho dinero. In other words, it was out of hand. If you want to read some good flames about this guy, just google medievia.
So, this brings us to WoW.
Paid Transfer: At first, I think the only thing that was available was paid server transfers. I can't argue that this isn't a good thing. What if you want to move to a server that RL friend is on, but you don't want to reroll? This just makes it more enjoyable. Also, if you're on a low population server, or on a server with a time zone that doesn't fit your schedule, you can move. But there were rules! You could not go from a PvE server to a PvP server. This stopped players from leveling without worry of getting killed by the opposite faction, then after they had gathered enough epic gear to transfer to a PvP server and rape people. While this is just a minor advantage, Blizz didn't allow it. Now, there's no restrictions on this.
Faction Change: Not only can you transfer, but you can change factions. So, you can level up on a server as one faction, then switch to the other. Initially, you had to change servers too, so you couldn't have a Horde and Alliance on the same PvP server. Not any more. Now we have to see on trade chat or pst someone logging on their opposing faction toon to berate you for killing their main. Ugh. Thanks, Blizz.
Name/Sex Change: Really, I have no problem with this. If you get bored with your name or gender, feel free to pay to change it. It doesn't affect me unless you're on my friends list and I go "who the hell is that?"
Race Change: Now you can level up human, get 10% bonus to your rep which makes the grinding for rep rewards easier, then switch race (or faction) to get the new racial. I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to abuse this. Thanks, Blizz.
TCG/Pets: Really, I could care less about this. As long as you don't actually get something that truly has an effect on in-game performance, who cares how many pets/mounts you have? Just because someone has a different graphic for their mount doesn't make it better. And sub "nerd points" for "achievement points". As long as they are worth nothing that actually affects game play, who cares? Now, you may be an achievement whore who spends a good portion of your time racking up those nerd points. Here's the deal though: achievement points reflect YOUR achievements. They track what YOU have done. If someone else has more, it doesn't affect your ability to get more; it just means they have been at it longer (or have no life). And yes, sometimes it could mean that they bought a ton of pets or trading cards.
Invite-a-Friend (or whatever it's called): Oh, now this is the most suspect of all. If you invite a friend to play WoW, your account and your friend's account become linked. (feel free to correct me on what follows) When you group together, you get triple exp up to 60. Your friend can also "give" you levels up to 59. Here's what I see people doing. Inviting their imaginary friend (themselves), and create an account. Dual-box and level characters up to 30, then "give" levels to their character up to 59. Then transfer the character to their account. Even if they used it legitimately, this is WAY too much. I mean, how hard is it to level now anyway? Blizz already doubled xp from quests and kills up to level 30 and then increased it up to level 60. If you wanted to level your friend up fast without having a linked account, you could just speed run them through dungeons with your 80. This feature is perfect for people who want to sell toons. Besides, if you just rush your friend through the first 60 levels, how are they going to learn to play the game or enjoy all of the earlier content?
Mobile AH: PVD has a great post about this here. A question I have is will this feature be available while you're logged in? If so, what's to stop you from using your iphone (or whatever mobile device) to sell stuff on the AH from anywhere in the world? Full bags? Don't wanna port back to a city? No problem! And the idea that Blizz will be charging for this through "premium service"? This is a big game changer. And I'm sure gold-farmers are salivating over this as I type. With a ton of restrictions (such as you must be logged out for a minimum of 30 minutes before it's available) and free access, this could be a neat little addition. But the potential for abuse otherwise is insane.
Mobile Mail: On PVD's comments, "what's my main again" made mention of mobile mail access. This would be a nice feature to add. I'm not talking about being able to send items, but receiving mail would be nice (though not wholly useful). Also, being able to send an in-game note through the mail would be useful, but not game changing.
Final Thoughts: One other thing WMMA brings up in his comment is the "players want this" argument. Who cares what players want? Ok, that's too harsh. Blizz should care what players want. The problem is that some players want the game to be easy. Ok, most. These people are too lazy to start their own orange. Just because players want something doesn't mean they should get it. When parents give their child everything they ask for, we call the kid spoiled. And spoiled is a bad thing. It seems Blizz is finding more and more ways to spoil the kiddies. I guess all it takes to get free stuff nowadays is QQ'ing, stomping your feet, or holding your breath.