February’s typically a quiet month for content, even with the radical changes that now exist in game (read this MMO Games article for more.) So, it came as something of a surprise on Monday when a feed regular linked the following:
The panic and amazement this created was immediate and damning: in game gold could now buy you Overwatch loot boxes, Hearthstone card packs or even Heroes skins, and that was HUGE. Many questioned the timing of the event but honestly, if you believe this wasn’t pre-meditated, you don’t grasp the Company’s operating mechanics at all:
Things got very scary in the US and for a point yesterday in the EU, 15 quid would buy you close to 200k gold, making the 1 million gold mount a steal for a mere £75 (or thereabouts) However, as of this morning, the market has understandably crashed, and I’m reliably informed you’ll only get 75,000g in the US for your $15 outlay. It’s like they say: buy low, sell high. Everything has a shelf life, and this is no different. The reason why ActiBlizz are as good as they undoubtedly are at this stuff is that on their Irvine campus it is now the job of dedicated individuals to use numbers to predict outcomes. We’re now in a place where if you choose to grind gold, it can pay for ANYTHING electronic that is provided in any game… but why stop there?
Yeah, Barbie is back, because it can only be a matter of time before you can make gold to buy electronic Blizzard merchandise in the mould of custom sprays for Overwatch, limited edition skins for Heroes… and the list goes on. Right now, however, the restrictions on your Battle.net balance are fairly specific:
There is, I suspect, some quite complex legalities at play over virtual currency here (not a lawyer, if anyone is who’s reading and can enlighten me I’d be grateful.) However, now the restriction’s been removed for the balance in Azeroth, we know that in-game services will follow. One assumes that were a ‘virtual’ gear store created that expanded on the current list of mounts and pets, there’d be a market: it wouldn’t necessarily have to offer ‘unique’ items either (like the Transmog helm set.) A constant stream of crossover items in the mould of the Hearthsteed or indeed the new Flamey Panther of Cashin from Heroes could be just the beginning. I’m still confident we’ll see a ‘Mount of the Month’ Club spring up, or access granted to ‘exclusive’ content in some form or other, because it is apparent that even with paying a monthly sub, some people can’t give this Company enough of their cash.
Now we’ll get to see just how far that relationship is prepared to go.
By providing players with massive fortunes the chance now to turn it into real money (albeit only spendable on other Company games) this becomes the ultimate gold sink, and the hope must be that those who sit on the largest piles of cash either decide to spend it on the increasing number of high value Warcraft based items or cash out elsewhere. Certainly, if I were a farmer I’d have been flipping tokens in the last 48 hours, and as my interest isn’t to show off a massive pile of virtual cash, I’d have found a way to use that balance to my advantage. It’s also a very attractive carrot to all those people playing Overwatch or Hearthstone without the virtual currency required to purchase items to buy yet more in-game items in order to finish skin collections or to gather cards to shard for dust in order to custom build decks. As long as the cash remains in ActiBlizz’s coffers?
Yet again, I saw some Free 2 Play evangelists pop up yesterday, confident that this meant you’d see the sub dropped sooner rather than later. I hate to break it to you people, but this is not some kind of flag on the field, and I really seriously doubt that the sub model is going to change any time soon. As long as players are prepared to mortgage their Grandparents and drop thousand of dollars on plushies of cute virtual birbs, a smart corporation is not going to deprive itself of extra cash in the coffers. F2P is what happens when your property is dying and you’re cutting staff and corners. Warcraft is more popular now than it has ever been, and I really don’t see that diminishing any time soon. In fact, with the complaints I’m now hearing about 7.2 raid testing so soon after 7.1.5 Mythic completion? The only way is up.
Time to stop moaning and start farming.