Give Me A Convincing Argument And I’ll Stop, Honest

I has pony! Or, well, not me. I'd never play a Night Elf male to level 80. Brrrrr.

Oh no! This piece of juicy drama is not getting away from me. I know you’re all fed up reading about the Celestial Steed, so instead of beating that old dead horse (pun very much intended) I will keep this quick.

A few points on the discussion about the sparkly pony in World of Warcraft:

- The people that are sceptical, in a sane way, will not be persuaded to like the sparkly horse by being told to “deal with it” or “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it”. Those are not very good arguments, since they have nothing to do with the matter at hand. I’d go to as far as to say that they are not arguments at all. They are dismissals.
- The people that are sceptical, in a sane way, are usually grown up and have enough disposable income to buy the horse themselves. They are usually not jealous of the people that spent $25 dollars on it.
- The people that are sceptical, in a sane way, are usually worried about what kind of message this sends to the developers. Or, in this case, the publisher who is happy to charge outrageous prices for content already.

I’m not angry at the people buying the horse, but I’m not convinced this is a good move for the consumer either. I think the pricing is outrageous and don’t believe that the hundred of thousands of people that thought it is alright to pay $25 for it make the whole thing alright. I don’t think the pricing of the Stimulus Package is warranted either, but obviously the 2,5 million people who downloaded it during the first week thought so.

That’s where I believe the standard for future DLC from Acti Blizzard was set, by the way. If people will pay 1200 Microsoft Points for 5 maps (two of which are re-used from the first game), then why wouldn’t they pay $25 for a sparkly horsie? Obviously, they would. (Would I pay $25 for a proto drake? I’d rather not think about that, considering the amount of time I spent hunting for the Time-Lost Proto Drake.)

D&D Online

Here's what I think of your offer wall! Haiiaaah!

Neither will I ever apologize for thinking that Turbine made a mistake when they introduced the offer wall and only being glad that they took it away. Too many scams have been perpetrated through such offers, enough for me to believe that no serious business should get themselves involved with it. I don’t care how much money is being generated, or that a lot of people like the system. Being told that it’s the future, without any more tangible proof why I am wrong, will not convince me otherwise.

Zynga made a similar mistake during GDC. Instead of trying to explain why their game actually had something to offer, or explain in a good way why other devs could learn real and tangible lessons in gamedesign and not only new ways to milk the audience for more money, they just alienated themselves even further from the people who already hate them. And probably made even more people dislike them in the process.

Oh yeah!

Oh yeah!

The sparkly pony is just another move towards a future that I’m not sure that I like. Should I shut up about that because it seems like that future will win over one I’d prefer? Hardly. There might be great changes coming, I don’t doubt that they will. But I want more proper arguments why these changes will be good for the consumer before I accept them as a good thing. So far, I have yet to see one apologetic reason that has me convinced. Until then, I will remain sceptical and critical – of the F2P genre (which I really weren’t, until Allods and the rise of social gaming gave me another perspective on things), of the offer walls, of any sparkly ponies being sold for $25.

I am only happy to be proven wrong, though. There’s a comment section below, feel free to use it to convince me why I am not making any sense. Please, give me an argument that will blow my little ship out of the water. I’m inviting you to do so!

And while Activision Blizzard keep overcharging for their content, and offer walls keep generating income for the companies that use them, I will sit here hoping for someone to actually give them some competition by simple virtue of being less outrageous. Modern Warfare 2 has Battlefield Bad Company 2, which might give Acti a run for their Call of Duty-money in the future. Now we just need someone to show the consumer (and the industry) that you can deliver a great MMO (or social game), and show the industry that you can make a lot of money, by being much more reasonable when it comes to pricing.

Next up on DFTM: A happy post! Enough with the grumbling, let’s hold hands and be happy.

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20 comments

  1. Scopique says:

    The solution, I think, boils down to your CoD-BBC comment: Any time a sparklepony arrives, or an offer wall goes up (and doesn’t come back down), it creates an opportunity for a competetor to offer something that learns from that. They then look like the “good guys” who aren’t trying to pull wool over eyes and gouge players.

    (In reality, they might not be ACTUAL good guys, because they’ll just find another way to gouge :D )

    • Petter says:

      Ha ha, of course not. That’s why I added in the “less outrageous” part. It’s tricky, but being seen as the “good guys” is great business sense! :)

      After all, BFBC2 comes from EA. EA is hardly known for being the “good guys”. These days, with Activision being what they are, they suddenly look a lot less outrageous and evil (this despite the whole Playfish-thing).

  2. Longasc says:

    I am not going to disagree. Because I agree. ;)

    The many different business models that come up right now have something in common: They declare a lot of stuff to be optional – for cash.

    I think nobody has a problem if we pay extra for extra spicy red peppers on a pizza. But if this extra thingie then costs about as much as the whole pizza, something is fishy. :P

    If I use the prices used for various extra costumes (GW), sparkly horses (WoW), various DLC’s (Fallout 3, Dragon Age, etc.), then I must say we can only be thankful that companies do not charge us a year’s wage for the basic game.

    But what do we get? One horse. Rather little content to play, a few items. Often quite buggy, and never to be fixed (some DLCs). For premium prices.

    How about selling all of this in a regular expansion for the usual prices? But instead of doing so, they use all tricks of the trade to make people buy that overpriced crap. This is not a good development.

    I dare to say, how greedy Activision-Blizzard can be will be seen if Starcraft II is out and they will start selling optional maps over Battle.net. And maybe allow no user made maps and so on… :>

  3. Spinks says:

    I think people right now are buying into a lot of business models that don’t benefit them. Look at the apple eco-system for example, a closed (and censored) market can’t be good for the customer in the long term. And look at the way facebook, google, et al are trying to carve out their own walled gardens.

    I mean, when even mashable.com says that it’s not in users interests to let facebook lock up their social graph and yet we all know that zillions of users will happily throw all their info into facebook willingly … well, I think we’re going to have problems.

  4. br3ntbr0 says:

    I totally agree with you Petter. I think we can sum this up with an old saying that says, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” I expect ActiBlizz to do this kind of thing, corporations have one goal – to make money. If the gaming landscape is going to change and be filled with all sorts of this kind of stuff, blame every person that buys this mount for that future.

  5. [...] in a post sparkly ponyoclypse virtual world, and the blogging community has weighed in. Many are still beating this dead horse, as I am, but I think it is a pretty important topic that speaks to the future of gaming. The [...]

  6. Jason says:

    While I doubt that Blizzard will do such a thing, if the sale of sparkly ponies results in lower subscription fees, I’m all for it, because I have no interest in sparkly ponies.

    In the long run, I’m hoping that the model shifts so that the “standard” monthly fee drops to $10 or less a month, and the game is also supported through the sales of vanity items.

    • Arkenor says:

      But it won’t lead to lower subscription fees. What it leads to is you getting less for your subscription fee, as they move away from doing free content updates. Why would they waste perfectly good content when they can sell it to you as an extra? That sparkle pony could have been a quest reward, or something you got during an event. Instead, it is now charged at twice your monthly fee.

      • Spinks says:

        It would never have been something that anyone except the really hardcore got though, if they’d done it like that.

      • Jason says:

        Depends on what you consider to be content… to me, the sparkle pony isn’t content. It’s a skin for content. The riding skill and the existing mounts, both of which you must own in order to make use of the Celestial Steed, are the content.

  7. pitrelli says:

    Ok firstly good post, its certainly got me thinking and perhaps distancing myself from the ‘choice’ and ‘not needed’ arguement to an extent although I do think this comes into play, specifically ‘not needed’ in regards to the item in question won’t cause any disadvantage to someone who doesnt purchase it (bar saving a few hundred gold I guess on mounts). If they started to add things like epic armor or the sword of a thousand truths then I think people may have a change of opinion (I have an inkling we will see BoA items in the RMT shop at some point).

    Lets not beat about the bush here though blizzard are a company and a business and are there to make money and clear profits. For them to ignore this kind of opportunity in my opinion would be folly and lets face it- it probably will make other developers sit up and take notice (they have probably made more in two days of pony sales than some MMOs make in months) however is this such a bad thing?

    Or is it the fact blizzard (viewed as ‘the daddy’) have did it?

    With the new generation of MMOs on the horizon do people expect these to cost the same? To be priced the same as a 3 – 5 year old game? With new technology comes expense and also dev and running costs etc etc. I wont pretend I’m a financial wizard but at present I think I get a pretty sweet deal out of any of my MMO subs. They represent an insane amount of enoyment for what I feel is relatively low cost.

    Lets take a look at the subscription costs for a minute, I’ve played WoW for about 5 years and the price of my subscription has stayed the same throughout. This shouldnt be overlooked in my opinion, its probably one of the only things in 5 years that hasn’t been subject to inflation. Perhaps this new introduction of RMT in regards to vanity items is to not only line their pockets but also keep the core game at an affordable level and to make up the deficit on the ever stagnating sub price?! again not sure dont know how much it costs to run WoW.

    Lets face it what would be the reaction on them increasing subs by $5-10 ?! Alot worse than the reaction to the sparkly pony I would guess.

    I’ll clarify that I do not think $25 dollars for a sparkly horse shows good value for money myself, however I would defend my fellow gamers to the right to evaluate and decide on how they wish to spend their money.

    As for other companys/devs following in Blizzards footsteps? I think thats one for them to decide, its not for Blizzard to apologise or refuse to enter a market purely on opposition views. Its a free for all out there.

    Choice still comes back in for me as well, people can choose not to buy the mount and they can choose not to support the company (unsubscribing not buying expansions /other games). Anyway just my opinions smattered into a big blob.

    sorry for the essay ;) be gentle on my spelling typed this in a rush :P

  8. Saylah says:

    I also think this is a slippery slope for a subscription based MMO. I don’t have a problem with micro-transactions in sub MMOs, I have a problem with the price and how quickly millions of players jumped in line to buy it. I think the $ amount set the precedent that bothers me.

    I’ve read blog posts crucifying F2P games for $10 ponies but WOW gets a free pass on a $25 re-skin of existing mounts. That irks me too but it’s not my money. I’d spend $25 for lots of things in WOW but not a mount re-skin. I’ve paid $50 numerous times shuffling characters around accounts and servers. I’ve paid for class changes. I’d give them $25 in a heartbeat for the epic flying mount all in – meaning I never had the patience to farm the gold back in the day for a single character to have one. But I wouldn’t give them $25 to re-skin something I’ve already earned even if the re-skin is across all chars. It’s not new or additional functionality, so for me, it’s not worth the price.

    And while I defend everyone’s right to spend the money if they so choose, I do worry about $ amount precedent that has now been set in a subscription based MMO. This is the only thing that bothers me about it.

    • pitrelli says:

      Well I myself crucified Allods online purely because its cash shop gave the gamer no choice, if you wanted to be competitive you had to spend money and alot of it, hell they even implememented patches to force even more onus on the use of the cash shop. This is why I think you need to be careful in placing the ‘sparkly pony’ into a category such as this. In Allods case it differed from consumable items such as perfumes to permanent fixtures ala bags.

    • Saylah says:

      Typing comments over lunch for the loss… I’ve paid for RACE changes. I wish I could have paid for class changes. :-)

  9. Mojeaux says:

    Great post. Does a good job of countering the dismissing retorts thrown up there by the defenders of all things Blizzard. Had this been any other game, as one commenter put it, all hell would have broke loose.

    • pitrelli says:

      zzzzzzzzzzzzz
      ‘dismissing retorts’ ? Dismissing to yourself perhaps, others share the views and believe its credible so who is to really say these arent valid? Each person can look at things in different ways and with that gives diversity and their own opinion. Simply rubbishing others thoughts on it doesnt make you right.

      I’m not a defender of all things blizzard. Hell check my blog I’ve slagged off blizzard as much as I’ve praised them. End of the day this pony situation ‘IN MY OPINION’ isnt a big deal. *shrug* or perhaps your just scared Aion might do the same for some special wings……. oh wait they just did it to sell some magazines ;)

      • Mojeaux says:

        “The people that are sceptical, in a sane way, will not be persuaded to like the sparkly horse by being told to “deal with it” or “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it”. Those are not very good arguments, since they have nothing to do with the matter at hand. I’d go to as far as to say that they are not arguments at all. They are dismissals.”

        I was referring to this paragraph in the original post. See where he says that “he would go as far as to say that they are not arguments at all. They are dismissals.”?

        Methinks either your ego or paranoia are getting the best of you since you think that my posts are in any way referring to you.

      • pitrelli says:

        ego? Lol Nope the fact you had a go at me on three other blogs might be the case……… perhaps

  10. I don’t like the smell of the future either but I think it’s going to be unavoidable. Games developers know players have the cash to spend and that (most) of them are willing to spend it. The horse has bolted from barn door (or whatever the expression is) and there’s no closing this pandora’s box now. We’re going to be getting added value content up the wazoo now forever on.

    • Mojeaux says:

      @ Gordon – Agreed. And I don’t like the smell of it either.

      @ Pitrelli – get over it you big girl (to borrow one of your terms)

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