Another slope the alarmists warn about is the “now they are selling content that should be given to everyone” argument. First off, games already have expansions where they charge you $50 for content. And yeah, while the steed here is half the price of an expansion for probably 1/1000th the content, the steed isn’t required to play the game. So, the idea that they would just “give” people a sparkly pony is inane. At best it would be a feature of the next expansion.
I’m actually a fan of cash shop games. Not because I like buying things, but because I like playing for free. See, Puzzle Pirates is awesome because I can do everything I want in the game and never pay a single dime to do it, all because someone else is dropping their dimes on doubloons which they sell to me for pieces of eight. Yes, I do have to play harder to earn the PoE to make that trade, but it also doesn’t cost me any money to play, and I enjoy playing. Another player is rewarding me for playing more than they are willing to play.
Now, I don’t expect Blizzard to give up their money hats and reduce their subscription rate, but what this has done is show (again) that a subscription game can have a shop that sells vanity items. Most new games can’t compete with World of Warcraft on a polish and content size level at this point. Any game with a $15 monthly sub automatically has to compare to WoW, but if a game were to launch that looked interesting with a $4.95 a month subscription and a vanity item cash shop, I’d absolutely be willing to give it a shot and willing to accept that it won’t be at WoW’s level. I’m paying a third less for it!
And guess what? All those “free” content updates people say are going to vanish? They aren’t free! You pay a monthly fee for them! The only reason that you get them “free” (really, the word should be “included” but much like using the word “social” to describe games which aren’t, that ship has sailed) is that the subscription fee is making enough profit that they don’t feel a need to charge you extra to cover the development of that small bit of content. If the game was making less money, you’d get less “free” things.
While we are on the topic of “free” content… if a game releases a completely optional non-impacting piece of “content” like the pets or the sparkle pony of WoW and earns a nice chunk of cash on something that was probably a couple weeks work of a small team at worst (or just a few days of one person at best), it actually allows them to design more “free” content.
As with the post from two days ago, there is a ghost of a slippery slope here, but were aren’t there yet. Wake me when Blizzard puts gear or a new dungeon in the cash shop. You know, real content, not vanity items.