Thought of the Day: Sparkly horses make quarterly earnings look great

Is it a coincidence that Activision announced that quarterly earnings for Q1 2010 were ahead of expectations (I was amused by EA’s comment) on the same day that Blizzard offered a sparkly pegasus mount for sale via the wow store? Methinks they just bumped up the next quarter’s earnings rather substantially too …

This is a significant (but hardly unpredictable) move on Blizzard’s part. Special awesome mounts used to be associated with hardcore raid or arena achievements. To put one into the cash shop that is prettier, sparklier, and more awesome than the raid achievements — yup, that’s a change of direction. Of course everyone will buy one. I only wonder whether they’ll make it time limited or not.

And to those pondering the costs, I suspect it actually compares reasonably to cash shop offerings from any other sub game. It flies, it runs, it’s available to every alt on the account and all future alts too, it goes as fast as the owner’s training will allow (up to 310% if you have access to that). And it’s a sparkly flying pegasus.

And bear in mind that the only reason so many people are willing to pony up (haha, I slay me) is because they’re already invested in the game, because the rest of the gaming experience offered is so high quality. Also, the more money they make out of this type of virtual fluff, the less likely they are to raise the sub fees.

30 thoughts on “Thought of the Day: Sparkly horses make quarterly earnings look great

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t they also offer Mounts via that Trading Card Game?
    I never played that one, but I think there were some Mounts like a spectral Tiger coming from it, and the ride able Sea-Turtle was originally from the Card Game as well.

    It’s really not that surprising, because after all it’s still Merchandising. They are already selling Achievements T-Shirts with Achievementpoints, or Lichking Coffee cups and Key holder.

    • Ah yes, they did. I very rarely saw those around — aside from the rarity, there were a lot of WoW card game players who had no interest in the computer game.

      The turtle was a slow mount, and the cat didn’t fly. And they went for crazy prices on ebay just due to rarity (imagine how much money Blizzard would have made on the spectral tiger though).

      I can’t shake the mental images of Activision bruisers coming into Blizzard and saying ‘we need a quick burst of profit, at least $1million. Do whatever you need to,” and Blizzard guys sitting around staring at each other before someone gets up and writes on the whiteboard, “Sparkly flying pony?!”.

      • Sometimes I can’t get rid of the feeling, that you have a far to strong fantasy.

        Finances would never say, earn 1 Million $. They would present some Power-Point Karaoke filled with some bullshit bingo like, corporate mission, customers expectation, market demand, TVaR, synergy. Someone smart would stand up, and drawing a flying pony on a flip chart, arguing about unexploited potential on balance sheet, just to be interrupted by some Consultant “Sell the merchandising rights to Adidas!”

        Welcome to my world.

      • Haha, ok. But let’s see if they go with one high profile shop release per financial quarter (i.e. pandas at Christmas, ponies in April … wonder what July has in store?)

  2. I think most people didn’t see the ccg mounts in quite the same way.

    It was probably naivety but it really didn’t occur to me for some years to see the Spectral Tiger as a quasi-cash shop item. I simply saw the ccg as a rather fail parallel game that they needed to offer WoW loot in to make anyone play.

  3. I’m not that fond of the mount itself. I’m waiting to see someone riding against a night style background to make a final decision on it.

    It’s also, let’s be honest, not a terribly horde friendly mount, barring perhaps the Belfs. A hulking orc or rotting corpse looks more than a little out of place on the disco pony.

  4. It seems to become a trend. This is from Guild Wars:

    “Pick up your War in Kryta costumes in the Guild Wars In-Game Store and the NCsoft Store and join the battle!”

    For 8,99 EUR you get two “costumes”, basically fancy overlays replacing your armor looks.
    Blizzard’s Horse is roughly 18,47 EUR (25$), in the WoW EU shop they generously rounded up to 20 EUR.

    I can resist both offers, but I do not like this trend. The cool stuff gets reserved for the shop in future for sure.

    GW’s has its 5th anniversary at the end of the month. I think it will be an indicator for the future and GW2. Will there be cookies and quests for birthday besides the usual 5th year minipet for the char’s birthday?

    Or will they sell something that players really want exclusively in the shop?
    I am pretty sure that many players would kill for the shiny armor of the White Mantle *Knights* (not the White Mantle “Pope” armor they sell atm).

    Such offers always make money like hay, for little effort. They are going to create a two class society in the long run: Dedication and addiction to a game can now be shown in game through your collection of item store products. Creating social tensions between the haves and the have nots in zone chat. I am sure many would like a sparkly pony, too, but not for 20/25 bucks.

    Money is not that much of an issue to me, but right now we are giving companies ever more reason and incentives to keep the cool stuff for the item store.

    Sooner or later we are going to become more or less basic or premium gamers. The basic gamer has black teeth and no pony. :>

    • That’s a concern that I hear people coming up with quiet frequently, but this is just not the way, the market works.

      It’s not that your assumption is wrong, it even will be as you said, but cycles are cycles.

      We have that discussion in Risk Management everyday, and it just causes “anti-selection”. If everyone introduces “Two class” mentality, people will avoid those products and chose “one class” products.
      Even in a oligarchy, market participants will arise, using the two class system for their advantage in creating a monopoly on one class systems.

      That’s market, exposing one field will just encourage other participants to occupy that field.

      • We are in danger to turn this into a business administration and economics debate, which is not really useful. I have studied all these theories, too.

        And all these theories are not a solace for gamers that are not happy with the trend.

        It just shows that this trend will last for quite a while, I fear several YEARS. I am still waiting for the rise of the WoW replacement. Allods was once hailed as the F2P alternative, but did not make it. I do not see a WoW replacement in EVE style where everything is paid through the sub coming either. WoW clones with a slightly different business model, in this case no item shop, did not really manage to become competitors so far.

        And people actually want to play WoW at the moment. And they will still play it, the point where people get infuriated enough to quit because of item shop practices has still not been reached. Allods did a fantastic job to scare a lot of people away with their shop within the first month. Blizzard is well aware that they can really sell a pony for 25 bucks and that it will cause a shitstorm, without major consequences.

        LOTRO? Dunno, Mirkwood and adventure pack were probably the first cheap/for free drug. I still hope for a classic expansion pack to blow me away.

        So now we are in the item shop revival cycle. It is a bad time to live in. Guess the best time of my gamers life was GW three-four years ago, when the store did not even exist. Right now it is growing like a cancer. Not only in GW.

        My favorite form of “Pay for Content” still does not exist. It would be the standalone expansion for 50 bucks every half to full year. GW was close to that once.

        Right now we are in the fluff for much money period.

      • Don’t worry it is not about economical debates. I just wanted to illustrate that you do not have to surrender your hopes for a change in trend.

  5. No doubt the shop has had an impact in their earnings and the next quarters are going to be even higher with the introduction of this new mount.Unfortunately it just means we’re going to start seeing more and more of these types of products on sale.

  6. It is because some of us were forbidden by gender to have a My Little Pony when we were young. WE ARE WORKING OUT OUR ISSUES HERE!


  7. My intial reaction is that I dont like this at all.

    Thinking about it a bit more:- Well as long as what they’re selling doesnt give in-game advatage or become required to be competative (ala Allods) then wheres the harm? I would hope that a pro-portion goes into Blizz’s development pot and will give me a better game down the line.

    However the cynic in me thinks that its going right there on Activisions bottom line. Maybe I should buy shares…which leaves me back at the ‘I dont like this’. My preferd model would be a ‘one server’ world (ala Eve) where the _only_ charge is for time played. I can live with paying for major content updates but I’d prefer to pay a higher monthly sub and not have to buy more boxes every year or two but I dont see that as being viable currently.

    • “I would hope that a pro-portion goes into Blizz’s development pot and will give me a better game down the line.”

      That game may not be WoW, though. Am I the only person who wonders if part of the reason Diablo 3 is so delayed is down to Blizzard experimenting with some MMO-ish features?

      • All too true. I rather suspect that WoW’s development budget is rather low compared to its profits. If Blizz’s new MMO was a WoW replacement or even aimed squarely at me this fair game. I mean WoW cant last forever.

        However morphing DIII into a MMO-lite or developing a console based MMO is not where I would like to see them going but its not like I’m on the board.

  8. I don’t know maybe i have a different perspective on the whole thing. I look at the current wow model as a series of grinds that will make the player continue their subscribtion until the next patch of content is released. You can achieve relative success in any aspect of the game through time investment; frost badges from easy 5-mans, arena points from the daily BG, or grinding gold to buy BOE items.

    I personally love the mount collection aspect of the game. I spent weeks grinding out the netherdrakes, bug mounts in AQ, netherrays in terrok, and various pvp mounts. What it all boils down to is a time investment which in my mind = money to blizzard through subscription. I fortunatly have a great job that pays well, but not a lot of hours to play. So to me an offer like this is great. Time>money for my investment. If they had released the flying pony as a new faction grind I would have done it at the expense of something else I find more fun. It’s win/win for me. Am I looking at this wrong?

    Happy hunting,

    • We had a similar discussion over at Tesh’s where we came to the same conclusion.

      Say we two start the game together, as I do have more time to invest, I reach the Endgame faster. You don’t have the time, but would love to join me on Endgame. So why don’t let you spend the money that you would have paid for the subscription on Levelup?
      As long as no third party is involved and it’s a part of the businessmodel it is fair.

      But don’t expect too many people to agree with you, especially in forums you will still find the illusion of progress by “Skill” not time/money. I mean it’s a wonderfull concept. It tricks us into paying by giving the illusion that we are not paying for success.

      • And in the end, if it’s about playing with friends… well, maybe the core game design needs to change so that’s possible at all levels. In the meantime, you may as well monetize the demand and let players pay for convenience.

  9. To be brutally honest, the only thing stopping me from purchasing my very own sparkly pony is the demand. Walking through Dalaran last night felt like the city had succumbed to an army of Algalon horses, hell bent on the very destruction of my ‘pretty snowflake’ psyche.

    Simply put, I’d desire one in order to have a unique, hard to acquire, and awesome mount. But I will not settle for one out of three. I dread the moment a sparkly pony mount train is inadvertently spawned in the bowels of Ironforge, but I’ll be there, sporting a Palomino in stark contrast, my fragile desire for uniqueness secure.

    P.S. How many Paladins now feel there exists no excuse to not bless the class with a summonable armoured Pegasus?

      • Perhaps we may be given an in-game hair brush item to properly groom our my little pony mix’n’match kit 😉

      • Customizable stuff is always in demand. I’d hope they allow customizable gear (appearance tabs and/or dye) before customizable mounts… but both would sell well.

      • I agree, customizable gear would be huge. I love it in WAR (which I just now began) and the colour names referring to the very citadel paints I use to bedazzle my tabletop armies makes me squee.

        Having a similar system in WoW would be fantastic…but I wonder if it would inadvertently cause more work for the already swamped art department. It works in WAR somewhat because you rarely replace a piece of gear without it looking exactly like the one you’re wearing. WoW follows a more Diablo-esque style where upgrades (at least while leveling) are frequent.

        We also have to remember that Blizzard loves taking sets of old and recolouring them for future content.

        Alas, it appears I’ve totally derailed this post into oblivion.

  10. “To be brutally honest, the only thing stopping me from purchasing my very own sparkly pony is the demand. Walking through Dalaran last night felt like the city had succumbed to an army of Algalon horses,”

    Hahaha, this. If you want to show off and be a “special snowflake” sadly the cash shop purchases won’t earn you that, because they will be very prolific. It will fade a bit after day one “explosion”, but they still will be very popular.

    Why don’t I buy that mount? Because available in-game mounts satisfy me in my needs already. All I want is a mount that:

    – doesn’t get stuck in doors;
    reason why my Draenei changed Elekk for a Cat and when Voa mammoth dropped with me as ML I just handed it to people without even rolling on it myself, hate mammoths;

    – isn’t noisy;
    no Mechanostriders, no stupid DK horsey;

    – and matches my character color theme;
    I have a troll with pink hair, so I bought her a Pink Hawkstrider – oh year Raptors get stuck in Undercity lift.

    I don’t care if half the wow population has (or is able to get) the same Cat, Ram, Hawkstrider my characters use, I just want it convenient and good looking for me.

    If I was to buy a car I would look for similar parameters: get it cheap, small (better for parking and petrol costs), quiet, easy to use and in color / design I like. I wouldn’t really care if my neighbor has the same type of car or the model from competitor’s company, why would I.

    • Sadly, while I understand the logic behind your car analogy, and the intelligence in those selected parameters, I’ve spent far too long living in the US to deny the desire for giant frack off vehicles that suck petrol like a hungry babe.

      If this mount was three times it’s current size, it would slay me.

  11. I love this new direction they’re going. Originally, raids were only for the hardcore and awesome-looking mounts were only for the insanely lucky hardcore.

    Then they made the raids so that everybody could see them, but the awesome-looking mounts were still reserved for the top 1% luckiest or most hardcore players.

    Now I can have a sparkly mount that leaves a trail of stars behind it without having to be hardcore or lucky!

    But honestly, a good portion of my reasoning for buying one is that I would NEVER again have to grind rep on my draenei alts to avoid riding that stupid elephant. A pegasus made out of stars is a much more fitting mount for a holy being from outer space than a stupid elephant.

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