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
    Narcuru (profile), 23 Apr 2010 @ 11:16pm

    I'm kinda late to the discussion, but since I play WoW I do have some insider info regarding the celestial steed and blizzard's plans with the store.

    First, as Rose and others have mentioned the mount doesn't give you any direct in game benefits (beyond having a interesting mount (though that is up to debate as some people make fun of purchasers of the mount)). It "scales" with your known riding speed, so if you have a 310% mount (currently the fastest speed, but only obtainable through certain "difficult" means (usually achievements but also being the top groups in arena play) then it can go 310%. Most people have 280% though and consequently they get a new 280% mount. The mount also scales on the ground as well (60-100%). If you buy the mount and start a new alt character once they hit level 20 they can buy the first mount training for a 60% speed increase. They can then use the CS instead of buying a different mount. Once they hit level 40 they can buy the 100% ground mount speed training (fastest ground speed currently) and the CS will auto-adjust its speed to be 100%.

    Secondly, the code that you get from the store is theoretically transferable (I've seen many people selling codes for 10-15 thousand gold on my server), assuming of course you didn't use it already. Once it's used its useless to anyone else. Basically what happens is a person buys several of the codes, and sells them to people in game for whatever price in gold they agree to. I don't know for sure if it's legal (I don't remember their ToS exactly in this case, but they can probably just say it's like gold selling in which case it would be illegal), but people are (were) doing it. One person on my server supposedly sold 10 of those codes during the first few days of it being available. He/She spent $250 in cash but got back over 100k gold (supposedly is key they might have been scamming people by giving them used codes that were thus useless, but I hadn't heard anyone bashing them in chat)

    Finally, Blizzard has made it very, very clear they have no intentions in adding stuff to the store that will somehow make people better in game if they buy it (i.e. armor, weapons). They seem to shy away from "forcing" people to buy armor/weapon upgrades through their store becasue then you create a disparity between people who can pay and people who can't. I would assume Blizzard would lose a large portion of their subscriber base becasue of that happening.

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