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.