Over the past few hours, I have come to the realization that I have purchased a $25 imaginary space horse. To be honest, I do not regret my horse purchase. I do not have horse remorse. What I have gleaned, however, is a keen understanding of the nature of video games moving forward, in particular the massively multiplayer genre.
World of Warcraft is not new to the world of microtransactions, or in this case, macrotransactions. I do not believe anyone considers $25 to be a microtransaction, which seems like a healthy bit of cash. A few thoughts came to my mind. First, we now have the Blizzard price list for all sorts of purchased add-on content and the range of money we will be shelling out in the future. Pets are $10; mounts are $25. The celestial horse's success yesterday proved beyond a doubt that the $25 pricetag was not a deterrent for many purchasers, as the queue pushed over 100,000 people at times in the U.S. store alone. Early sales were estimated to be in the 400,000 area, with more climbing steadily. This horse is a hit.
My second thought was how drastically the dynamic has changed for Blizzard and why, potentially, it has changed. This past year showed a stagnation in the number of accounts created for World of Warcraft, leaving Blizzard with the same number to tell shareholders at their next meeting a year later. With new ways to monetize the player base other than the number of accounts, Blizzard has essentially given shareholders the go on holding onto increasingly valuable Activision Blizzard stock and to expect wonderful new profit generators. New ways to monetize existing subscriber bases are always being explored, and the Celestial Steed has cemented the pet and mount store as one of the absolutely critical endeavors.
This is only the beginning for macrotransactions in World of Warcraft. As long as the items up for sale do not give another player an advantage and stay purely cosmetic (with the exception of the race change, which has the potential to alter balance), I am confident Blizzard will provide some compelling additions to the already mind-blowingly successful pet and mount store.
What do you think about the Celestial Steed and what it represents? $25 seems to be a sweet spot if the sales are to be believed, but what do you think?