Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thoughts On the Guardian Cub - Part 1

I've given this a few days' worth of thought, have read through a chunk (but not all) of the comments/ideas/opinions on the forums, but I'm still somewhat on the fence about the Guardian Cub. I'm not 100% against the sale of the pet, but I do agree that there are things that do need to be addressed and reconsidered.

From what I can see, there are two major issues with this upcoming pet: the price/usability and what the release of this companion will mean for the game and its economy as a whole.

Before I go into my views on the matter, here's a refresher of what this new pet is all about:
- Purchasable from the official Blizzard PetStore for $10 (USD) OR for a gold amount in-game (gold prices will vary, depending on server economy).

- After brief (likely 1 hour) cooldown period, it is tradable and therefore sellable on the AH.

- Bind on equip, meaning it only has ONE use per item (multiple toons will require multiple purchases of the item).
Now that that's out of the way, on with the opinions! Note: All thoughts and views on the matter are solely my own and may not necessarily reflect the opinions of any community, organization or affiliation I may be apart of.

As mentioned earlier, there seems to be two large elephants in the room with this pet: the price/usability and the impact this pet will have on the game direction. Part one will cover the former, while a separate post will cover the latter.

The Cost In Relation to the Use
The general consensus so far seems to be that the price for this single-use pet is unacceptable. It's currently set to be sold for the same amount as its fellow PetStore companions (minus the Wind Rider Cub and Gryphon Hatchling). Keep in mind that after one payment of $10, the other companions will be sent to all current and FUTURE characters on a single WoW account. In comparison, to acquire the Guardian Cub for more than one toon will require multiple payments of $10.

So at $10 for a pet, if you have ten characters on one server, all previously released PetStore mini-pets will be sent to each toon for about $1 each. Apply the same equation for the Guardian Cub, and it will cost you $100 just to have this baby on all characters on one server. And guess what? If you decide to delete one of those toons and create a new one, be ready to spend another $10 to replace that cub.

Honestly, at face value, the above sounds RIDICULOUS. For a one time use item that will not be offered to all current/future toons, the real life currency price is outrageous. I understand change is sometimes necessary, but in relation to how the other pets are priced, this is like comparing a pebble with a mountain.

Spending money for a single-use item isn't new to WoW. The loot cards from the TCG work in a similar fashion in that one loot code equals one item (or stack of said item) for only one character. However, loot codes are quite pricey (in most cases), and many are unwilling to spend that much money. The PetStore was a way to make codes available to a wider audience.

I was under the impression that the PetStore was a creation to help find middle-ground for those willing to spend real life money on companion pets, but not the hundreds of dollars that many of the TCG pets go for on Ebay. Rather than spending a lot, players can spend less, and it's also a direct way for Blizzard to reap a profit from selling pet codes. This store and its host of pets is a unique way where both the consumer and the producer/seller can win. The introduction of the Guardian Cub as it is though, throws this all off balance as seen in the example listed above.

I understand and appreciate that Blizzard needs to make a profit and cover costs revolving and involving the technical aspect of this companion, but still. This price tag makes it VERY hard to argue that this company isn't just attempting to milk the cash cow.

I suppose the justification for this price is because the item will be tradable in-game, therefore people stand to make an in-game profit on this pet. It's the first PetStore item that players can sell for in-game gold; pretty much a Blizzard sanctioned (legal) way of buying gold.

To counter this though, suggestions about having two versions of this companion for sale have popped up. One being a single-use Bind on Equip item for $2-$5, and another an account wide Bind on Pick Up $10 version of the pet. Having two options will give the player the choice of spending more, keeping the companion for their account only, having it sent to all current and future toons, but being UNable to trade/make money off of the pet. OR the player can choose to spend less real life cash for a one-time-use yet tradable/sellable item that they can profit (in-game) from.

I can definitely see this as being a great solution to the cost vs use issue, but part of me fears that it's too late to make such a large change to this pet. I'm no expert on the technical side of how a gaming business operates, but I'm betting that there's a whole lot of planning, coding, and hierarchical mumbo-jumbo involved. Part of me highly doubts that Blizzard would be able to push two versions of the pet out in time for its release.

It's arguable that players don't even need to spend real life money in order to buy this companion, and because of the pet's tradable nature players could instead just spend gold in-game. That was the original intent of this pet in the first place; to give people the option of paying real money for it or gold.

Even then, let's look at a hypothetical situation. Say the Guardian Cub sells for about 5,000 gold on the AH. To supply all toons on a single server, you would have to spend 50,000 gold. Granted, the cost of the pet in-game will vary and will likely drop as more and more people sell it (and ultimately undercut each other). Not to mention that acquiring gold isn't as tough as it used to be. Still, many could argue that they just don't have the time or the resources to gather such a high amount of in-game currency to spend on the Guardian Cub.

I really don't see the price of this companion dropping below a few hundred to a few thousand gold, even with all the sale competition. Why? Because most people can't and/or won't choose to spend their real life currency on such a gamble. $10 may not seem like much to some people, but to others, it could mean choosing between paying for a few pets for a few toons or paying for another month's worth of game time. Plus, as many have pointed out already, if they're looking to make some "quick" gold, rather than selling an item that costs extra money out of their pocket (buying legal gold), players could simply do a few dailies instead and net a guaranteed amount.

So again, even the in-game price to stock up a player's characters with this companion would be quite high in nearly all scenarios.

This doesn't leave people with many options, does it? Spend a lot of real life money or spend a lot of in-game currency, and both options may not even be feasible for many players. Blizzard is really limiting the availability of this pet, and for a company that is striving to keep things open, fair and available to most... so far the Guardian Cub seems counterproductive.

Set aside numbers and prices for a moment. The idea of a single-use item when all others before it have been account wide just FEELS like you're being cheated. I've said this time and time again: people don't like to feel as if something is being taken away from them. Change happens, but sudden change is hard to swallow and accept. Gradual and small implementations are usually the best way to integrate change without causing an uprising of protests and objections. Maybe Blizzard sees this is as one of many small implementations for a new way of handling future PetStore companion loot codes, but for pet collectors... again, this is like going from a pebble to a mountain. A huge leap, one that's exceptionally unsatisfactory.

I normally give Blizzard the benefit of the doubt in most situations. This mini-pet's current price is something I'm having trouble accepting, though. My recommendation would be to drop the amount down to say $5 for each Guardian Cub. Blizzard would still stand to make a profit, and players would feel less cheated when it comes to the price vs use. If Blizzard can manage to pump out two versions of this pet, more power to them! It would definitely satisfy many people in the collecting community as well as those that support the Blizzard sanctioned gold buying.

Part 2 of my views and opinion on this matter to come in the next post. This is a complicated and tough subject to discuss thoroughly, plus it still may be too soon to form solid views. For now, this is where I stand on the issue.


  1. I personally feel this is the first step towards Blizzard debating on making WoW free to play. They know people will come back if it's free, but they need to find their micro transaction niche that will keep them rolling in money without affecting the gameplay. No matter how easy gold is to make, I know plenty of lazy people that can't be bothered to do dailies or a gathering profession. Heck, I haven't had anything to spend my gold on in months.

    This is just my speculation, of course. It in no way reflects on's views.

  2. @Doobjanka: I don't think it's a matter of "if" these days, but a matter of "when". With so many other games and MMO's starting to follow the free-to-play + microtransaction model, I don't see WoW keeping up unless they also adapt to that style or similar model.

    It doesn't bother me so much that they are considering it (they do have a business to run in the end), but it just feels like too big of a leap too soon. It's really hard to not feel like something is being yanked out from under you when reading about the Guardian Cub's planned release.


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