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This weekend, gamers discovered evidence that World of Warcraft will be implementing an in-game store that allows players to buy items with real-world money. Today Blizzard explained why they're pursuing microtransactions for the MMORPG.
For the past few years, Blizzard has sold in-game pets and mounts through an online store. The new in-game shop will allow players to make these purchases within WoW.
"We think everyone would appreciate the convenience of being able to make such purchases without having to leave the game, and ultimately that’s our long-term goal for the system, though there’s quite a bit of work involved in retrofitting those existing items into the new system," Blizzard community manager Micah "Bashiok" Whipple said on the Battle.net forums.
If the microtransactions were just limited to pets and mounts, there'd be no controversy. However, the data unearthed over the holiday weekend suggested that Blizzard would begin selling an item called Enduring Elixir of Wisdom as well. This elixir would double the amount of experience points that players gain from killing monsters and completing quests, making it much quicker to level up.
Whipple didn't deny that they're considering selling XP boosts and other "convenience items." However, they're not planning them for the West just yet.
"First, we’ll be testing the in-game store with some new kinds of items we’re looking into introducing (in Asian regions, at the outset) based on player feedback: specifically, an experience buff to assist with the leveling process, as well as an alternate way to acquire Lesser Charms of Good Fortune."
As I said last week, an XP-boosting elixir doesn't make me very concerned. Leveling in WoW is more of a test of your free time rather than your skill. If someone wants to spend money to shorten that ordeal, I've got no problem with that. It's something that even the 40-hours-a-week crowd would even consider doing.
Buying Lesser Charms of Good Fortune is a bit different. Charms are items ordinarily acquired by completing daily quests or killing high-level monsters. These charms can be used to get bonus rolls on loot from raid bosses. Someone with a healthy supply of charms, in other words, has a better chance of getting new gear for their character. You're not directly buying new loot for cash but someone who shells out money would probably gear up faster than someone who doesn't spend any money and doesn't do their dailies. It's not a clear cut case of "Pay To Win" but I can imagine some complaints.
While convenience items like the XP-boosting elixir will be introduced in Asia first, Whipple mentioned that players elsewhere in the world have been asking for them as well.
"We’ve had a lot of requests from players in different regions for convenience-oriented items such as these, and as with other new ideas we’ve introduced as WoW has evolved—including Pet Store pets, mounts, and more—your feedback plays a hugely important part in determining what we add to the game."
The possibility remains, then, that Blizzard could begin selling these items in all territories. That doesn't seem too far-fetched, considering how popular microtransaction-driven games have become here in the West. In the meantime, if you're really opposed to the possibility of people buying in-game perks, you'd best let Blizzard know it.