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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
    Nick Coghlan (profile), 21 Apr 2010 @ 9:50pm


    I don't see anything in the article complaining about what Blizzard did in this case - just pointing to the rather loud discussion it caused amongst the more vocal part of the player base.

    Personally, I don't see any reason for Blizzard to ever stop the sales of these mounts or the in-game pets from the pet store. People don't buy them for the rarity (after all, most people that can afford a $15 a month subscription are going to be able to put together $10 or $25 for a cosmetic item they really want), they buy them because they think they're pretty.

    This is actually something Blizzard have been doing for quite a while through the trading card game - the Spectral Tiger is the one that sells for the most, but there are other cards in that game which provide loot codes for various novelty items (such as a toy train set, or a flying rocket mount). As with the pet store items that followed them, these are all purely cosmetic items - they don't help you level or get better gear or defeat other players in PvP in any way.

    Blizzard are well aware of the line between acceptable items and those which affect the competitive aspects of the game (raiding achievements and PvP combat), and recognise their customers would have great cause for complaint if people could legitimately buy their way to an in-game advantage over other players.

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