If you're skeptical about the number, it's no joke. At least for now. The Pet Journal on the beta is claiming that there are 500 pets (total) to collect in MoP.
While many share similar models and are simply recolored/reskinned, they are still identified as unique. Then there are the new critters with new models that are so kick ass I'm considering screenshotting or taking video of my favorites. That could take a while lol.
But I digress.
With 500 possible pets to collect, perhaps my evaluation of the future of pet collecting is off... by a few hundred or so. Will quantity still outweigh quality? 500 makes it seem that way, doesn't it? Rather than introduce a handful of special pets for collectors to seek out, it's feeling more like Blizzard is bombing us with a ton of pets. Enough to last an entire expansion?
Is that necessarily a bad thing, though?
Honestly, I'm torn. I enjoy the idea that I'll have plenty to collect and search for immediately in the expansion. The wait game, while most collectors are VERY proficient at it, is a bit of a pain. With so many wild companions ready for collecting the moment MoP is released, we'll have plenty to keep us occupied for a while, if not throughout the entire expansion.
On the other hand, with so many pets out there, what will the quality of these pets be like? Will they all have unique animations? Will there be anything remotely interesting about them other than their recolor or reskin? I can't imagine Blizzard having the resources or the time to hand out an idle animation or unique interaction for 400 vanity pets, let alone half that number.
So if not, then they just seem a bit like cheap fill-in pets that are somewhat meaningless. Granted, collecting and how people perceive it is subjective and people create their own special collections with different sentimental values attached to each pet, but still... with so many "new" companions that are just critters that happen to follow you, some might feel like they're just an empty score on a tally board.
Well, we'll see. Pet collecting is changing at its very core with Pet Battles, so maybe the focus won't be the collection anymore but the battle encounter instead.
It's a bit disheartening since I very much enjoyed the classic activity and felt like the gameplay was fine as it was, but things change I guess. In order to justify more resources being thrown at a certain area of the game, Blizzard has to make it worthwhile and see that its what the majority wants/desires and is willing to pay for. We want more/new pets. Blizzard wants to give us more/new pets. Yet there has to be a high enough interest to use their time and energy to focus on bringing us what we desire. Maybe Pet Battles was their answer to this (as well as their new cash-cow baby? lol).
But like I've always said, balance and compromise. 500 pets, many of which are not very interesting or engaging yet are readily available to ALL players? That's fine. Don't forget about including extraordinary pets in there too, both that are exclusive and non-exclusive. Want to throw in some PetStore companions? Go for it. But don't leave out those that can't afford or are unable/unwilling to spend money on a high quality pet. Blizzard has the opportunity to make a profit while appeasing the collecting community, but only if they approach this situation cautiously and carefully.
In any case, I'm anxious and eager to see what the future of pet collecting will be.