Blizzard Sells $2 Million In Virtual Livestock In Four Hours

from the celestial-bubbles dept

From Farmville to Second Life, there's no question that if you're able to create a virtual world in which people pay real money for virtual goods, then you've got a winner on your hands. For years now, virtual sweatshops have existed to farm World of Warcraft for gold and rare items, that can then be sold for real money. For example, a "Spectral Tiger" can fetch over $800 on eBay right now. That said, Blizzard has started to capitalize a bit on this trend, and now sells virtual pets through its online store. The latest is a "Celestial Steed," which, for $25, allows players to "travel in style astride wings of pure elemental stardust." In four hours, Blizzard sold approximately $2 million in virtual livestock -- apparently Blizzard understands how to give their community good reasons to buy (which is fortunate for Blizzard, since WoW's subscriber base is rumored to have plateaued).

This sale sparked off a bit of a debate amongst the WoW community, who argue that being able to "buy your way" through the game destroys the game in favor of profit. It will be interesting to see if this sentiment grows enough to warrant a Blizzard response -- like we saw in the case of Dungeons & Dragons Online, who removed some recent changes because of overwhelming negative feedback. That said, even if the complaints remain at a dull roar, a glut of Celestial Steeds roaming the plains of Azeroth would wreak havoc on its street value. After all, even though the world is virtual, many of the same laws of economics that affect the real world also apply. Blizzard likely understands these economic concepts will and will undoubtedly stop selling the Celestial Steed at some point to maintain an artificial scarcity.

That said, the only reason such artificial scarcity works in WoW is because Blizzard has absolute control over the economy. Those that think that Blizzard's success automatically means that people will pay for infinite goods in the real world will find that it is a bad comparison to make. So, if you want to sell imaginary, flying horses, then it's best to build a virtual world over which you have total control, in which those horses have some sort of value -- but that's not trivial.

Filed Under: virtual goods, world of warcraft
Companies: blizzard


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  1. icon
    Rose M. Welch (profile), 21 Apr 2010 @ 4:41pm

    No Way Will This Destroy The Game...

    Purchasers of the Celestial Steed are NOT "able to "buy their way" through the game. The Celestial Steed does not give any in-game advantages. It can only move as fast as your current riding level.

    Blizzard not selling any advantages for real money, unless you count being able to get one mount closer to the Stable Keeper achievement. Even if you do count that, achievements don't give any in-game advantage.

    This isn't any different than the sales of the Pandaren Monk, Lil X.T., or Lil' K.T. mini-pets, which have also been quite successful.

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