About a month ago, community manager, Bashiok, had announced a list of things that Blizzard has planned for Draenor in 2015. While it was to no surprise to find the next raid, Blackrock Foundry, on the list, the few other meager announcements were rendered moot due to one little item; an alternative method to acquire WoW game-time. Not only that, but it is, as it was said in the blue post, “…for the purpose of exchanging them in-game with other players for gold.” Now, isn’t that a doozey. Obviously, Blizzard is still toying with the idea as nothing concrete has yet to come about since the announcement, but it has caused quite a stir in the WoW community, and many wonder what sort of future lies ahead for the MMO giant.
The Pay-to-Win Scenario
In the original post, it is stated that the game-time tokens would be purchasable by a player and available for sale, indicating that some other currency will be used to purchase said tokens before selling them in-game. One can imagine it to be a transaction with real money as it would make far less sense to have it initially purchasable with gold and then sell it for gold, defeating the intended purpose of having “…an option for acquiring gold from other players through a legit and secure system,” as well as having a way for wealthy players dispose of their surplus gold. This makes people believe that it legitimises what gold sellers have done for so long – paying to win, or, at the very least, paying to gear. Players with far too much cash can simply opt to purchase these game time tokens and sell them to players who have far too much gold on their hands. This gold can then be used to purchase Bind-on-Equip (BoE) epics through the auction house, many of which are Best-in-Slot (BiS) or, at least extremely good. Of course, by the time this feature is implemented (if at all considered), we’d have a new raid tier to farm for, and the BoE’s may be far different from what we have now in the Highmaul tier. But if progression continues on this path in the future tiers, we may very well see this scenario happening.
Because of these reasons, players surmise that Blizzard may effectively nerf the power of BoEs to counteract the gold problem they themselves have cause or even removing the entire system a few months into its life. There is a lot of worry that many items will lose immediate value and cause more harm than good, pointed especially at the possible inflation it could do to the economy. It is often argued how easy or hard it is to earn gold in WoW, but one thing is certain, nobody likes losing money, no matter how wealthy they are. A very valid reason, no doubt, especially if one worked so hard to obtain their wealth.
It’s a bit too early to invoke the Diablo 3 Real Money Auction House debacle (though some already are), but some are speculating that a system like this will inevitably lead to something very similar. However, it’s in my opinion that they shouldn’t be compared in such a way due to how vastly different item management is treated in both games. Diablo 3 does not make use of WoW’s item binding concept and the items could be freely traded. In WoW, however, it is the soulbound items are what really matter, especially more so in this expansion due to the 3 item limit for crafted equippables, as well as other crafted gear never truly reaching the highest item level available for this tier in Highmaul. Sure, other Highmaul items of the highest item level can be found and sold on the AH, but a few measly pieces couldn’t possibly be game-changing for a single character.
There isn’t any way that Bind-on-Pickup (BoP) items can be paid for outside of buying runs to carry a player through the raid. Even in that scenario, it’s been happening way before this concept ever came up and it just seems unlikely that the token system would increase this practice. In a game like WoW, with its type of item system, it’s almost impossible to have a true pay-to-win scenario, though, admittedly, some of the ways BoEs are obtained, especially through gold, gives an edge in raiding, and to some degree, PvP, due to the easier entry into it caused by the removal of the PvP stat.
Gold Seller’s Paradise
One other gripe people have with this possible implementation is that, as stated earlier, legitimises what gold sellers have been doing for years. Some claim that it would not stifle the selling/scamming by 3rd parties, but may prove only to increase it and the risk involved. It becomes far more profitable to engage in such acts due to the legal nature of the transactions of game-time tokens for gold, and it may become quite a risky venture just to buy from a player due to the risk involved in the items being stolen, thus, presenting problems of account security and legitimacy. The argument isn’t all that fleshed out yet, but it is a good reason to say nay to this possible implementation.
As one forum user put it, if you found people spamming trade chat about selling game-time for gold, you know that it’s almost always a scam, but if this gets implemented, there may be no way of telling any longer. There are a lot of risks involved in a scheme such as this and we, as a community, can continue to churn out allegations of disaster, but, again, nothing is set in stone. Surely, it is open to all sorts of abuse much like anything else in the entire game. From something innocuous like farming buggy, instant-respawn swamplighters for bodyguard rep, to blatant botting, nothing is really safe from abuse. Again, it is implementation that is the key to resolving all doubts, and no matter how much thought is put into it, there will be ways to game the system.
Been Waiting a Long Time For This
But it isn’t all gloom and doom. People just tend to forget the good that these things can do and think of the worst far more than they should. I remember a few months ago, still in the whimsical lands of Pandaria, a guildie of mine asked a lot about how Real Money Trading (RMT) worked and how rates are. When we asked him if he was planning to purchase any, to our surprise, he didn’t and instead wanted to sell the gold he could make. He wanted to use whatever gold he could sell so that he could keep purchasing his monthly subscription to WoW. He was about to embark on something against WoW’s EULA just to be able to keep playing. I couldn’t blame him; he wasn’t too well off at the time but still loved playing the game. Left with little recourse, he resorted to what he thought would be best for him. With this little announcement, it makes it entirely much more possible, plausible, and, most importantly, legal, to do what he did.
This announcement is something a lot of people are excited for because it gives people another option to continue playing, as well as managing Blizzard’s goal of getting money to circulate in the economy. It gives players with a little too much cash to purchase game-time tokens to sell to those with a little too much gold, both benefiting greatly from the transaction. Certainly, in the recent years, it hasn’t gotten easier to maintain our gaming hobbies nor has it gotten easier to maintain even our own regular lifestyles. This possible implementation may and will enhance our quality of life greatly and makes for easier access to the game. In my opinion, not only will it help out existing players, but it will also help attract newer players into the realm of Azeroth, because this sort of scheme will make WoW far more affordable.
Money is Time and only it will tell
This little statement caused so much ruckus and the implications are grand. Everyone’s a bit touchy about the topic of currency due to the massive and unavoidable goldsinks that are Garrisons, as well as other expenses along the way through Draenor. Implementing a game-time-for-gold system is a step in an entirely new direction. Many would claim that Blizzard may be gearing up for a free-to-play option, others figure it to simply be embracing the end of the subscription MMO, while others, who aren’t so positive, find it as just another way for Blizzard to grub up more money from the game-time token sales. Whatever their reason, this element within the game would fit quite well and will definitely help out players who are having difficulties with in-game currency as well as financially in real life. I, for one, am all for this idea and quite hopeful that it does make it live, disregarding all the sorts of problems that may arise from it. How it may be abused will depend solely on how it is implemented and how it can be good or bad for the game is something we’ll just have to wait and see, if it even makes it out live in the first place.Related: Column, Subscription, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday