A few days ago, the Celestial Steed mount was made available on the Blizzard online store.
The mount, dubbed “TRH” by Totalbiscuit (short for “That Retarded Horse”), has been the talk of the WoW podcast community of late. It has been featured prominently on the Instance, Rawrcast, and the WoW Insider show, and those are only the podcasts I’ve had time to listen to this week. I see from my podcast titles alone that All Things Azeroth has something to say about it, and I’m sure that Slash 2, the Elitists, Raidwarning, and many others will have an opinion.
(Actually, the Elitists probably won’t- Tristan’s been on a Starcraft 2 bender of late.)
I don’t have any opinion about this mount. It gives a marginal in-game benefit because it is available across all characters (meaning alts won’t have to buy mounts as they level). It also costs a whopping $25 US, which seems insanely expensive to me. However, I did buy the Pandaren Monk*, so maybe I shouldn’t judge.
(*Yes, the purchase occurred after a night of drinking. And yes, I like the occasional Hong Kong-style, Chop-Socky film. And yes, it was in part because I like the /bow command. And yes, it was also because it’s funny when he goes all Bruce Lee when I’m tanking. And yes, half of my money went to charity… In fact, that pet was the perfect storm of micro transaction allure for me personally. But I’m not rationalizing spending $10 on something I’ll never actually have, I swear! No, really! *cough* Let’s move on…)
ANYWAY, lots of people do have an opinion. This Horse seems to have polarized the WoW community. I think it’s pretty obvious why- it’s a RMT (Real Money Transaction), and those get people scared. The line of thought is the slippery slope argument: that if one can buy a mount now, inevitably you can get a full set of Tier Gear later. (Just as an aside, this is silly, namely because of the potential legal headache involved.)
I didn’t think any of this was post-worthy until I was listening to the most recent episode of the WoW Insider Show, number 136. The assembled folks were talking on and on about the Horse, and about how people who thought that they should have access to the Horse in game (and without paying real money) were wrong, missing the point, etc. The analysis by Mike Sacco, Matthew Rossi, and Mat McCurley (the assembled folks on the show) was long, thorough, and, in my humble opinion, completely missing the point of frustration for much of the WoW community.
What was the point? TB got it right a few hours after the release of the horse- the point is the mount model and skin! The Horse is the same model as the coveted and extremely rare Invincible mount (attainable only by defeating the Lich King in 25-man hard mode). There isn’t even one of these mounts on every server, and if you have this mount, you demonstrate that you are legitimately one of the best WoW PvE players in the world.
Invincible is a significant lore figure (if you doubt it, read that wowwiki.com link above). So, the fact that the TRH uses the Invincible model, with an Ulduar-inspired, Algalon-style skin, is a double slap in the face. The Horse looks and feels like something that should be available in the game, something that should be extremely rare and that demonstrates mastery of the game. It should be an Algalon reward, or an Ulduar reward, or a meta-of-a-meta reward (ie: all hardmodes completed in all raid dungeons in WoTLK)… it should be something, ANYTHING, more than what it is- a cool looking mount available for $25.
Totalbiscuit understood this immediately- go to 33 seconds into the TRH video linked above (and here), and look what the text in the movie says: “Now you too can pretend that you’ve killed Algalon!” That is the entire point of frustration for the WoW community, and I can’t believe that the WoW Insider show got it as wrong as they did. The focused on RMT and slippery slope arguments, but didn’t consider that you can buy a Zhevra mount already (via Recruit-A-Friend), or that the previous pets on the Blizzard store didn’t cause anywhere near this great an outcry of frustration. The reason people are mad is because of the mount itself, and it’s a shame that the WoW Insider Show didn’t figure this out.
Edit: One last thought on TRH, since we’re here. A lot of people seem genuinely upset that Blizzard would sell a mount, as if it was against Blizz’s company honor or something. This is absolutely ridiculous- I mean, did you see how much money they made? The estimates put the the queue numbers at around 400,000 for the first day alone, netting Activision-Blizz upwards of $10 MILLION already. It would be crazy of Blizz to not make this offer- the duty of a company is to abide by the company charter and maximize shareholder value (not necessarily in that order). Did Blizzard sell out a bit with this mount? Yes, but only a little bit. If this is their “Bathtub of Heinz Baked Beans” moment, so be it. The joke is on us, because we bought the Horse.
| posted in Wow Econ Research Project