The sadness of pet collectors

I’m always interested in finding people who play MMOs in a very different way from the way I do, so I was intrigued to read comments on the official forums by pet collectors who felt that the Blizzard Store was ruining their game by selling minipets. There is a fantastic site for WoW pet collectors at warcraftpets.com — and even on the front page, they mention that they are catering to hardcore pet collectors as well as ‘people who just want a new pet.’

I’m impressed because that specific site has pretty much created the entire pet collecting minigame. You can register your collection, compare it with other people, see who else is collecting on your realm. Why it doesn’t have a proper forum I have no idea.

(I also wonder why these guys don’t play EQ2 because it’s the most collector-friendly MMO I’ve ever seen.)

Just as background, there are lots of novelty non-combat minipets available in WoW. Some can be bought cheaply from an in game vendor, some are given as rewards for quests, achievements, or for being logged in on an anniversary week. Others are rare drops which can later be sold for high prices on the auction house. And you can also buy them with real cash — not just in the pet shop, but buying rare CCGs with minipets attached, buying collectors editions of the various expansion packs, and so on.

I’m quite surprised that so little of this pet collecting minigame has ever been incorporated into WoW formally. Sure, the pets are there, but the tools to locate, compare, and brag about them really are not. There are a few achievements involved but otherwise, the pets are just thrown in willy-nilly. I’m sure that for the collectors that is part of the appeal. Because there’s no real rhyme or reason to it, collecting a lot of pets shows that you know how to research the game.

Also, there are no mini pets which drop in raid instances. Pet collecting absolutely can be done solo — there’s one pet in a 5 man instance but all the rest are not. This is a type of gaming which lends itself to soloing or even casual play.

So why would adding buyable pets change that? It doesn’t. There has been a notion that cool or interesting pets should be more difficult to collect but that’s rather down to personal taste. There’s also a notion that it’s cooler to be seen with rarer pets, but with such a wide range to choose from, it should be easy to pick one that no one else likes. What the cash shop changes is that now it’s likely that cute pets might be very easy to get in game. You don’t even need to visit the local pet vendor.  And I think that is what is messing with people’s heads.

To non pet collectors, it’s a non issue. Pay cash for cute pet, job done. But for pet collectors, it’s more of an adjustment. Should they even include the buyable pets in their pet count, because there is no difficulty involved?

And for the rest of us, we can ponder whether or not Collector is a different style of play from Achiever (I think it is), and the happy coincidence that led “ok, lets throw in some more minipets'” to becoming a fun game for the minipet collectors.

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29 thoughts on “The sadness of pet collectors

  1. Can we get a phoenix pet? ;p

    Isn’t there a parrot from deadmines? Not sure if it’s exclusively from there, but thought it might have been.

  2. There are pets which can/could only be obtained with a raid.

    Vampiric Batling
    http://www.wowhead.com/?item=38658

    Mojo
    http://www.wowhead.com/?item=33993

    What I also found interesting is the arrogance of other players.

    “It’s $ 10 for a pet with no stats. Don’t buy it if you don’t like it. As long as they don’t sell armor everything is fine.”

    Only, WoW is not about armor. WoW is about how you would like to play the game. The above sentence which is present in each forum where the pet topic comes up translates to the following:

    “As long as Blizzard is not going to charge extra for the way *I* like to play the game, it’s not a problem.”

    Your article is spot on.

  3. The only catch is that the two cash store pets are hands down better than any other pet in the game – cooler concepts, nicer graphics and animation, etc. I’ve got something like 80 pets at the moment, and I don’t see why I’d ever use any of the others if I had either of the two pet shop versions.

    Also note that the midsummer Fire Festival boss, Ahune, drops a group-only pet. I feel like there’s another group pet somewhere, but I’ve forgotten the details so maybe I’m just thinking of the Squashling.

    • I think this really comes down to taste. I think the Olympic chinese dragon is cooler than either of them, and my argent squire can now access the bank/mail so is more generally useful.

      But they do have cool custom animations and are fun to look at.

  4. @Arb: The parrot in question is trade-able, and it’s also a low enough level dungeon that you can solo the place for the pet. It will be interesting to see whether Magister’s Terrace is soloable at 85, I’ve never tried it at 80.

  5. I have done the quest chains to get the Sprite Darter Hatchling, the Worg Pup and the Spider. I also had a deal with a horde player to get the silver tabby cat that only horde players could attain. Horde players have to make similar deals to get the Westfall Chicken.

    So yeah, there is some memories and collector’s pride attached to these critters. :)

    Interestingly, the idea to buy these two pets puts a lot of people off – but the CE edition minipets did not bother them too much.

    I personally just think they opened Pandora’s Box, it always starts out innocent and unproblematic. It is good that people talk a lot about it. I do not want to become micro-transactions to become rather macro or even not so optional to play the game or parts of it.

    • What I get out of this is that players build their game around the original game, so emergent type behaviour builds up over time. Any time any change is made, it’s pretty much impossible to make sure no one is adversely affected, even if it is a change that is a really good thing in general.

      I mean, look at how shifting to 25 man raids affected the 40 man raid guilds for example. And something as small as selling minipets changes things for the pet collectors too.

      • I think that’s correct.

        But it has nothing to do with that, does it? Charging RL money for virtual content is quite something different then changing the raid size.

        And, btw:

        Why don’t they charge $10 for hard modes? They develop hard modes for a minority of the players. Why don’t they pay for the work they demand?

        Why don’t they charge $10 to form an arena team?

        Why don’t they charge $10 extra for a 5 man dungeon subscription? They had to invest quite some work to resolve the “additional instances can not be launched” problem.

        Why don’t they charge $10 for armor designs? You get a token drop from Icecrown and then login to the web page, pay $10 and select your design of choice. Otherwise it looks like your starter gear.

      • They charge RL money for virtual content every time they release an expansion pack. They’ve charged RL money for pets before too (like with the collector’s editions). They’ve charged arena players for access to tournament realms also.

        And really, changing the raid size probably affected at least as many players as charging for virtual pets. So in terms of disturbing people’s play I think it’s comparable. (Non raiders think raids are irrelevant, non pet collections think pets are just fluff.) It is interesting that they don’t plan to charge for content, but I don’t think you could get away with that in a subscription game.

        I know what you mean, and I think charging for armour designs would be quite popular. I also think that selling a real cuddly toy alongside the virtual pet would generate an avalanche of sales (I think they even mentioned that they were thinking about that).

      • They change the raid stuff all the time. The reduction from 40 to 25 is the most visible because it can be explained in numbers but it doesn’t really have an impact on the raid itself, I think.

        They change a lot more.

        Naxx 60 needed way more tanks / raid members then todays instances, IIRC.

        They removed things like.
        * Hybrids need to heal.
        * Mages are considered the best DD and have to outdamage other classes. (yes, that was a lvl 60 goal)
        * Only warriors are viable tanks.

        These 3 things had probably a much bigger influence on raids then the size.

        They added batch gear which had a huge impact. It removed the leetnes from epics.

        They greatly increased the amount of items that drop in raids.

        2 T2 head from Ony for 40 people.
        2 T2 lookalike head from Ony for 10 people.

        But that’s fighting over details. I agree that BoJ had a bigger impact on the game than $10 pets :)

        The tournament realm, didn’t you also get the chance to win IRL money? I was under the impression that this fee is used to pay the prize.

        And yes, comparing the $30 you pay for WotLK with $10 for just one pet is not really favouring the pet. :-p

    • There is another difference with the CE pets. You have to pay for them before you get the game. As soon as you see them, in game, it’s too late. At that point you’ve already bought the normal version.

      I didn’t like the CE pets and I hated the idea of TCG mounts and pets.

      But then, I also hate the idea of removing rewards or titels. Like the Naxx dragons. That just forces you to play the game in the speed they tell you which removes an important part of the “WORLD” of warcraft.

      In my opinion, the game should allow you at any time to do anything and restrict nothing just because you prefer to take a break or play more slowly or not spend RL money.

  6. I think they would do better with RMT pets or other “content” if there was some gameplay involved. Pay $10, get a code for a small instance in some out of the way place. Maybe do a couple quests and rescue or tame the new pet. A little searching would be necessary. Would have to be level appropriate, etc. And there could be really hard ones with significant challenges or grouping required.

    Might lessen the stigma a bit.

  7. I don’t play WoW but if I did … I’d probably be a pet collector. It sounds kind of cool.

    I play WAR and there are a few pets — gettable via special offers and events. I have one that spawns a pet wolf. The collectible things in WAR are titles, achievements, tactics, and pocket items. There’s a bunch. The other big thing is Tome Unlocks within the Tome of Knowledge.

    Reading this article now explains why many in WAR who play/played WoW talk about pets. I always thought they were referencing classes that have pets they control and can use to attack (i.e., White Lions, Squig Herders).

    From an outsider’s perspective, if I’m reading folks correctly, there are only two pets available for purchase this way? Are these pets gettable in game via some quest or as a rare drop? If this is the only way to get them I don’t see the problem. If they want them and they are not available in any other way … they should save their pennies.

  8. I find the claim that Blizzard has always been selling pets bogus. Green Armadillo made that same claim too.

    Most cars are sold with a radio. No one claims GM or Tata is in the radio business. There is a real distinction between something that’s sold as a package or a bundle (like a CE edition or the TCG) and something that is sold direct. This is the first time Blizzard has ever sold pets directly.

    Now, some people might not find the switch from direct to indirect troubling. But that’s different than claiming that there has been no switch.

  9. Just because you mentioned EQ2, I’d have to say that I think the EQ2 pets are superior to the WoW ones because they are far more interactive. Plus there’s nothing quite like having a house full of monkeys :)

  10. I’m curious myself if there is any link between mmo pet collecting and growing up playing offline pet collecting games like Pokemon. What alway surprises me is that MMO pets when collected generally aren’t useful in gameplay terms, and aren’t even linked to pet jobs. I plsy pet jobs quite often, but I myself can’t see collecting vanity pets.

    Collector is a different style. I used to collect useless NM drops in FFXI just out of boredom, despite being able to buy a better item for 20k at the AH.

  11. I agree that Collector is different from Achiever. They both fit under a similar umbrella (since collecting is acquisition and display, a mix of Achiever/Socializer), but the playstyle they engender is different enough to make them distinct.

    I’ll also second Dblade with the Pokemon rumination. It seems a hoarding gene is pretty common in humans, and Pokemon scratched that itch nicely. It’s natural that would carry over into MMOs.

  12. Pingback: Gotta Show ‘Em All « Tish Tosh Tesh

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