Every now and then I get stuck on a mission. Some idea pops into my head that I have to chase down until I achieve it. Several days ago one of these ideas formed around the Wildstar Mystery Box. The idea is pretty simple, buy a boxed edition of Wildstar, get an in game item. Collect all three of the in game items and you get an exclusive title. Only one item per box though, and what you get is random. The good news is of course that you can sell the items and trade them with friends.
Earlier in that same day the rumors started churning as retailers were rumored to be removing boxed copies of Wildstar from their shelves. These two elements seemed to point towards the game heading in the direction of a payment model shift from subscription to some form of “buy to play”, “free to play” or other “freemium” model. Critics were quick to call this an act of desperation, but my immediate thoughts were along a slightly different trajectory.
Here in the United States retailers have a significant amount of control over the products placed on their shelves. Big box juggernauts like Wal-mart and Target often times put in clauses in their distribution contacts that require manufacturers to purchase back “dead stock”, or copies of movies, music and games that cannot be sold by other means.
While a store wide pull of games might work for EB Games Australia which has around 380 stores, this is not at all a reasonable proposal for Wal-mart that has almost 12,000 stores all of which at one time likely carried copies of Wildstar. I feel like this idea of rewarding players with a month of subscription time and a shot at an extremely rare in game item for helping Carbine remove this “dead stock” to be a stroke of sheer brilliance.
I do more than my fair amount of aimless wandering over my lunch hour, in part because I feel it is useful to leave the confines of the office. Without really meaning to I end up doing a patrol of several retailers within driving distance of my workplace. While I very rarely purchase physical copies of games, there is a certain amount of nostalgia that comes from strolling down the game aisle and seeing what they happen to have in stock. I took note that most of the stores I have visited lately have had the same three for four copies of Wildstar for months. As such I thought it might be interesting to take an informal survey to see if the news of this promotion had any effect on these dead copies of the game still on the market.
Like I said I sometimes get a mission stuck in my head, which was the case with this one. Over the last several days I have visited three Wal-mart locations, three Target locations, and two Best Buys. While this is hardly scientific or adequately representative of a larger population, it does show that at least some effect was had in my vicinity. Each of the Wal-mart and Target locations had two to three spare copies when I was last there, but this week were all completely sold out.
I do not frequent Best Buy as often, but between the two locations I visited only one had any copies in stock. To me at least it seems like this idea is working, and someone is out there snapping up these copies to retrieve for digital goodies. While this might be the early signs of a free to play conversion, it seems like there is still some interest in the game among the loyal fans. If their goal is to sell the remaining stock rather than having to buy back dead stock then, at least from my experience they seem to be doing a good job.
Curiously enough I also have been keeping tabs on the price through online retailers. Before the announcement boxed copies of Wildstar were going for roughly $20 on Amazon.com. At the time of writing this article the price through Amazon.com has climbed to $38, and sealed copies are selling for between $20 and $60 on ebay as well. I am curious if this latest promotion had any effect on our own readers. Did you snap up an extra copy of Wildstar Standard edition in hopes of cashing in for an in game item? Are there still plentiful copies of Wildstar in the stores around you? If this works as it seems to be working this might have been a brilliant master stroke on the part of a company that has been visibly struggling to gain stable footing in this deeply competitive MMO landscape.Related: Carbine Studios, NCSoft, Real Life, Wildstar