Stolen Pixels #187: Operators Are Standing By

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Apr 20, 2010

Filed under: Column 40 comments

Yesterday I asked “how long is WoW?” I asked that question as a result of making this comic.


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40 thoughts on “Stolen Pixels #187: Operators Are Standing By

  1. NotYetMeasured says:

    I don’t play graphical MMORPGs as a competition, but for those that do, I would think this would be a big turn-off. It’s essentially gold-selling, and while I agree that the devs doing it is slightly better than a third party doing it, it’s still awfully shady IMO.

  2. Nathon says:

    No, it does not obviate the need to get other mounts, ever. It’s only got 310% flying speed (normal is 280%) if you already have another 310% flying speed mount. Also, since they reduced the prices of things so much and gold has been devalued so much in the game, saving to buy a mount is nothing like the chore it used to be. I leveled a character to 80 without any professions and without doing many quests (using the dungeon finder) and he had plenty of cash for upgrading spells and buying mounts and riding training.

    Furthermore, the expensive bit (in WoW gold) is the training, not the mounts themselves. It costs 5,000 gold to learn how to ride a 280% flying speed mount (affected by reputations, but more than 4,000) but the mount itself can be obtained from one of the monsters with a 100% drop rate or for something like 200 gold from a vendor.

    1. OEP says:

      The 5000 training cost is not affected by reputation.

  3. neothoron says:

    Don’t worry about the mounts money sink disappearing – the price of mounts has lowered considerably, that particular money sink has been moved to the “mounting skill” – the Celestial Mount will at most save you 161g per character.

    And I’d rather compare the profits from the Celestial Horse to the profits of an Expansion pack.
    10 million accounts – if each one pays 60$ for the expansion, that accounts to $600 million. An expansion means hundreds of models for armors, mounts, monsters – designing at least a dozen of areas and dungeons – and whatever else that I can’t fathom.
    That horse was only one model, and it still brought more than $2 million. That’s 0,3% of the income of an expansion, and I’d be surprised if it accounted for more than 0,1% of the effort.
    That’s the problem I have – the profit/effort ratio is so good, It will be hard for Blizzard to resist doing more and more microtransactions.

    1. Dev Null says:

      True, but either the microtransactions will start to have less-and-less effect as time goes on, or else collecting My Little Pony’s was apparently what their customer base wanted all along. I’m guessing they’ll keep turning them out, but the demand for them will wear off as the novelty does, and they’ll still have to make new games and expansions in order to have a fresh sold-gold toilet to crap in each time.

      When they get to the point of selling better gear for cash than you can easily get from questing / vendors / drops, then they’ve sold out; til then they’re just supplying the market for shiny baubles.

      1. wererogue says:

        “collecting My Little Pony's”[sic]

        See, that’s why this doesn’t bother me – people will play easily twice that for a figurine of Solid Snake, and that’s even *more* useless, and about the same amount of effort (albeit with more wasted raw materials.)

  4. Kdansky says:

    It will not remove the money sinks. Because those people who buy such a mount already have dozens of mounts, and will continue to collect more, stupidly trying to A: show off their e-peen which nobody cares about and B: satisfy their hunger for more useless crap.

    If you are one of these people: Do not stand back and take a look at yourself, because you might be shocked at what you see and regret it. Reflection hurts.

    1. Kris says:

      Wow, that’s harsh.

      I am gathering mounts sometimes because well, it gives me something to do. Play the game and so on.

      Problem is that some people who do buy that mount will not go for the other mounts because that sparkly pony looks “SO GOOOD!!!!!!” and after a while they will get tired of sitting around on their shiny mounts and start telling that there is nothing to do in the game.

      Would have been nicer if this mount was achievable for weeks of solo play or something.

  5. I get the impression that this mount is pretty, has a unique skin, and scales with you, broadly.

    My expectation is that it would be better than the base, but worse than the good. That seems to be where it is with 310%. That’s perfect, imho. It’s a convenience mount. Every time you hit a new tier, you have something ready. You don’t have to grind rep just to get the slightly better. You have to grind rep to get the really good ones, but until then, you’ve got your pretty sparkly pony. The best analogy I saw was “I’d pay $25 for a WoW accessory, this one just happens to be in game only.” Hell, I just paid almost $25 for a custom Star Wars mousepad – that’s well within my “frivolous fun” range.

    Also, I can’t stand phrases like that used in the beginning of the Escapist article. A quarter hundo? Come on. $25 is 3 characters, and doesn’t make you sound like some Jim Rome/ESPN Commentator/Faux-Street-Kid Wannabe. I heard someone on the radio say “A finski” for $5. It drives me nuts.

  6. Hal says:

    Thankfully, Blizzard has maintained that they will never sell anything that would give an in-game advantage, such as gear, spells, etc. Hopefully, they stick to their guns.

    Still, $25 certainly doesn’t feel like a MICROtransaction. And I worry that the cooler items will end up as purchases rather than in-game rewards. Well, the ones that I have any reasonable chance of procuring, at any rate.

    1. Tizzy says:

      Same here on the MICRO thing… That’s like my lunch money for a whole week!

  7. Mr_Wizard says:

    I have actually been saying something like this was necessary. Levels are just a vestige from PnP. I see good reasons for that level of abstraction there, but in the world of MMO’s is just another layer of obstacles for new players to join in. There are already plenty of walls that separate players without the bloody leveling get in the way.

    “You’re new? Well that means that I have more money, knowledge of the mechanics, a larger network of friends, and better equipment than you. Also, I have this entirely arbitrary number that does little more than measure the amount of time I have been playing giving me an exponentially greater level of power than you. You want to play with me? Sorry, the designers have arbitrarily decided that new and old players cannot play together due to the mechanics of leveling. You’ll have to find someone else who has all the same disadvantages as you, but hasn’t yet been scared away by the empty newbie zones.

    Oh and by the way, our factions are at war, forgot to mention greater knowledge of the lore. *SLASHSLASHSLASH* “

    1. Pickly says:

      I generally agree with this.

      One of the things I like about guild Wars (Can you tell I like guild Wars, with me mentioning it in all these MMO threads? :) ) is that I can get some “retirement ready characters” relatively quickly, and it is a heck of a lot of fun, since I can explore different parts of the game quite easily, try out builds, etc., without having to worry about unlocking this or doing that. (Though it still took a good amount of time to build up the characters, since I have a lot, and “relatively quickly” for an MMO still takes awhile.)

  8. Zukhramm says:

    I feel WoW has always been going in the wrong direction regarding moutns. Very few color variations of the same mount to chose from, where even buying a mount from another race but on the same faction requires quite a big effort, and the only mounts breaking the mold are very exclusive rare drops or reputation rewards. This is just more of that, only even worse.

    MMORPGs are probably the genre of games where selling in game items is or will be the most common, yet it’s the one I feel it’s the least apropriate.

  9. Galenor says:

    “That would be 80,000 people who would never have to quest or save in-game money for a mount for any character they own, ever. That would remove one of the larger money sinks in the game and make a good number of quests obsolete.”

    That’s sorta true. However, I remember back when I played WoW, I looked at the effort needed for a super-awesome-speed flying mount, and never really bothered with it. While it does remove the need for a time sink, it’s very effective at getting money from those who didn’t want to do the damn thing anyway!

    1. OEP says:

      Except they do need to save the gold since you need to train riding skill, which costs a lot more than the mounts do.

      Think of it this way. Blizzard has said they will only offer cosmetic items as purchasable items. Things like non-combat pets or the sparklyhorse. The horsie is basically just a skin that you purchase for your mount.

  10. Henebry says:

    I like the link allowing a frustrated spouse or parent to “gift” the retirement-ready character.

  11. SteveDJ says:

    Just a question – there’s a lot of empty whitespace below the order information in the comic. Am I missing something? Did something not load? Or did you intentionally leave several hundred blank pixels in the lower half of the strip? :(

    1. Shamus says:

      I did leave a big blank space. The Escapist copyright looked goofy when it was next to the comic content, and I was worried it might confuse or ruin the joke. Looking at it on the site now that it’s live, I was probably worried about nothing. But on my local staging page (which is just the comic and text) the copyright seemed to jump out at me.

  12. Lambach says:

    Wait a minute, you’re saying that Blizzard is literally selling an “Amazing Horse”?
    I’m having trouble parsing an opinion out of the mixed emotions there.

  13. Sam says:

    Am I the only one who thought about Robot Unicorn Attack upon seeing the design for the space horse?

    1. Jarenth says:

      Well, not anymore. Now if I ever buy that mount I’ll have that song stuck in my head all the time.

    2. Daf says:

      A friend of mine (who bought the mount, and whose GMotD was “anyone caught flying the mount will be /gkicked”) was telling me about it. Robot Unicorn Attack was the first thing I thought of.

  14. Jarenth says:

    So you sparked that whole ‘How long is WoW’ multi-hundred-comment discussion just to justify one line about the length of WoW in your comic?

    Now that’s dedication.

  15. SolkaTruesilver says:

    I really find funny people on the Escapist’s forum:

    “Now, that’d be the cheap way of getting to the endgame”

    I got thinking: “Since when 800$ is CHEAP?”

    1. krellen says:

      Compared to two years of life? That’s pretty cheap.

      1. Daf says:

        If we’re counting subs, hardware upgrades, a portion of my ADSL bill, and time I could have spent at work getting paid, I’m sure I spent way more than $800 on my WoW account over the five years I played.

  16. Moridin says:

    “Yesterday I asked “how long is WoW?” ”

    So now you’re a time traveler?

    1. Daf says:

      We all travel forwards through time.

      1. Moridin says:

        Yeah, but Shamus appears to be going too fast. This post went online 20th. The previous 17th.

  17. Neil Polenske says:

    Your comments regarding how much Blizzard takes in monthly actually got me to pondering just how much does it cost for them to sustain this game? Off the bat, I’m figuring the largest chunk o change goes to server bills, then upkeep, and a continuous game development cycle that concievably will not end.

    1. Tizzy says:

      Makes me wonder also how many people they need to do all this.

    2. Gresman says:

      Here are just a few numbers concerning their servers and staff and the game itself. If I remember correctly: as of September 2009 around 4000 people were working on World of Warcraft.

      And here is a link:

  18. Funny, but that is about what it would cost to buy an account with a character like that.

    He misses the point on the mounts and pets though. There are people who collect pets and mounts. Scores of them.

    There are people who love specific kinds of things. My ten year old daughter was delighted beyond words when I got her a sparkly pony for her account for her gnomes and blood elves. Mostly she just explores WoW.

    Makes her happy. I’m good with that.

    1. theNater says:

      “There are people who collect pets and mounts. Scores of them.”

      That’s me! I’m at 70 mounts so far.

      Kinda stalled there, though. I want the 8000g mammoth, but I burn out if I try to rake in too much money in too short a period.

  19. neminem says:

    So, disregarding the whole mount thing, which I think is dumb, but whatever makes them money… and also disregarding the selling actually useful stuff, which hopefully they’ll continue to not do like they say they won’t…

    Your comic states that once you have all the best possible gear, the game is over, there’s nothing more to do. I would state the exact opposite: once you have all the best gear, you’re optimally positioned to do all the most *interesting* stuff, being hard modes of whatever dungeon is currently hardest. Raiding is where it gets interesting, and while it would certainly be cheap of them to sell “get an alt to raiding-level faster” chips (like, say, MapleStory does, and it’s a load of crap), I applaud them every time they make it faster for everyone, because leveling is not the game. Getting raid gear is part of the game, but only because the better gear you have, the more you can do.

    I’m not buying that mount ever, for the record. I buy all kinds of shiny stuff that *is* optimal for playing the game the best in KoL with real money, but that’s because a. the game itself is free, that’s entirely how they make their living, and b. they’re not moneygrubbing – everything you can buy with cash, you can buy with in-game currency from someone else who bought it with cash to sell in-game. WoW’s system is a very different one.

    1. Deoxy says:

      Your comic states that once you have all the best possible gear, the game is over, there's nothing more to do. I would state the exact opposite: once you have all the best gear, you're optimally positioned to do all the most *interesting* stuff, being hard modes of whatever dungeon is currently hardest.

      You apparently missed the point of the joke – ALL of that is already done. Every bit of equipment. Every achievement. Every mount. Every EVERYTHING.

      That’s what makes it funny – pointing out that all the work people are doing to get everything… if they ever finished it, what would they do?

      (Well, that and “and find out what your family is up to these days.” I just about hurt myself laughing so hard. At work. Seriously, man, WARN us before you do something that funny, eh? :-) )

  20. Ramsus says:

    Interestingly while it seems sort of abhorrent to me that they do things like that, it’s the kind of thing I wish free (or “free”) MMOs did more often. Too many of them out there that I would play (or at least give a shot) essentially tell me that I can’t actually enjoy the game the way it’s truly meant to be enjoyed without giving them money for quests/items/etc. When it’s just meaningless baubles that’s actually encouraging to me because it says “Hey, we made this game that’s supposed to be fun and we’d like people to play it. If you like it enough to give us money we will reward you in a way that doesn’t punish everyone else.” Selling stuff essential to gameplay however comes across as “We made this game as an excuse to have you give us money and we really don’t care all that much if it’s fun.”

    I suppose the reason it seems off to me for WoW is because you’re already paying them anyway. New shiny stuff should just be included, or a reward for having played the game a long time or something else, but really shouldn’t cost extra money for essentially nothing as that devalues the stuff you already paid money for.

  21. Kdansky says:

    I finally found the blogpost I wanted to link for this discussion:

    1. Best thing about that post are the comments disagreeing with him as having totally missed the point ;)

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