WoW’s Celestial Steed creates divisive UproarBy: Amanda Orneck posted at Apr 15, 2010 4:16 pm
Today Blizzard released two new items to their online store. Both ingame items are for use within World of Warcraft, and immediately players flocked to the site to be one of the first to get their hands on these little vanity items. The first item released was a pet, Lil’ XT, a miniaturized version of one of the bosses in Ulduar. Ironically enough, the weekly dungeon boss quest on my server was to kill XT, which means you could theoretically fight the boss while having his mini pet out. Creepy and cool at the same time.
The second item released was the Celestial Steed. Now this is a scalable mount, which means that characters level 20 and up can use it, and it flies at whatever speed your fastest flying mount is if you’re of appropriate level to take to the skies. A few weeks ago images of this star-filled beauty were discovered in the game’s patch files, and speculation went wild. Most of us assumed that this would be a mount that would drop in Uldum. That, however was not the case.
Instead players logged on today to see a post in the news screen letting them know for the low price of $25.00 they could instantly own the Celestial Steed for every character on one account. Now this isn’t the first time that Blizzard has released ingame items that could be bought online. While they have a couple pets available in their own store, the most famous of the purchasable mounts actually comes from a rare card in the WoW Trading Game. The Spectral Tiger mount sold for a record $2000.00 USD on eBay when it first came out, and today is still selling for upwards of $800.00 USD. Why does the Spectral Tiger commands so much real world money? Simply put, because it’s so rare. In order to get one without eBay you would have to either be incredibly lucky or buy thousands of dollars’ worth of cards from the TCG. Neither are very likely for the everyman who plays World of Warcraft. But if you have a tax refund check or some money stashed away from a Christmas bonus (hey, not in my house, but it could happen) then it might be worth it for the dedicated gamer to buy their way to one of the rarest mounts in the game.
The Celestial Steed is in a small way like that. No, the mount isn’t rare, not by any means. In fact, right now I float over a Dalaran filled to the brim with little floaty horsies. But it is purchasable, which means that if you have the cash and the patience to wait in an online queue for upwards of four hours to obtain one then you too can fly around with the stars at your command. Personally I received the mount as a gift, but I probably would have purchased it myself simply because I am a collector. I love getting mounts and pets. I’m a little slow at it if you look up my character’s achievements, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. The minute I saw this mount in action I wanted it. It is now my third mount that has 310% flight speed, which is a huge advantage in getting around.
Not everyone sees this mount the way I see it. Much of the talk in the trade chat around my server, much of the grumbling I saw on other sites and on Facebook, complained about the commercialization of ingame items. ‘They’re destroying the game for profit,’ naysayers proclaim. ‘I can’t believe they’re just letting people buy their way through the game,’ others complain. The heated debate has been raging for hours now, and there’s not hint at it stopping any time soon. Maybe it will peter off when the 50,000 person queues in the Blizzard store lessen.
Honestly, online games are here to make a profit, and this particular item is selling like hotcakes. Rumor has it that in the first four hours sales of the Celestial Steed netted Blizzard $4.4 million dollars. That’s a lot of cash. Other games sell ingame currency, weapons and armor, just about everything. The microtransaction model used with most Free-to-Play MMOs is hugely successful because people who have the money but not the time can play the game without having to grind for items and equipment. Blizzard has taken a hard stance on selling progression, and has said more than once they intend to only sell vanity items – those items that will not help you progress, level, gain experience or down bosses. Why then are people so angry that they are selling a mount?
Initially I was confused about this. Blizzard has been selling pets for months now, but the minute a mount becomes available, the people start to riot. Perhaps WoW players are perceiving this mount as a way to buy your way through the game, even though it isn’t. But I don’t really think that’s it. I love WoW and for the most part I love its players, but sometimes they can be elitist jerks. What it really comes down to is status, and those with rare mounts and items don’t want their status taken away from them. There’s a reason people are always hovering in Dalaran with the Ashes of A’lar or Mimiron’s Head: They think they are somehow better than others because they won a rare item, and they want other people to know it. It’s sad, really.
Opinions are flying all around Azeroth about the Celestial Steeds flying all around Northrend. Personally I think people are unhappy that everyone can get something they perceive as special, that the royalty of WoW will be taken down a peg now that the serfs can fly on a cool winged horse. But what do you think? Is the Celestial Steed an affront to gamer kind, or simply a charming thank you to the fans of the game? Should we be able to buy even the cool looking items, or should all the mounts be attainable only ingame?