See this little guy? Isn’t he adorable? He’s Mini KT, the Littlest Lich – and he can be yours for the low low price of $10 USD. That’s right, I said $10 DOLLARS, not 10 gold, and he’s not the only pet you can get in-game for that amount of money.
Remember back when we noticed that interesting new pets were appearing in the source files of the game? I was intrigued by the http://azeroth.metblogs.com/2009/09/15/video-pandaren-monk-non-combat-pet/">Pandaren Monk pet, but mmogah.com also noticed a https://www.mmogah.com2009/09/19/patch-3-2-2-ptr-core-hound-pup-probably-shouldnt-look-this-cut/">Core Hound Pup along with Lil KT up there a while back on the PTRs. Speculation ran rampant that they were potentially collector’s edition pets for Cataclysm, but now we know their true purpose: Blizzard will sell them in-game, through their http://us.blizzard.com/store">Blizzard Store online, and likely through Battle.net at some point.
If you drop the ten bucks on the Pandaren Monk, half of that purchase will go to the Make-A-Wish foundation, which is a pretty good reason to spring for it.
In any event though, this is Blizzard’s first dabblings in micro-transactions in World of Warcraft, and it’s gotten more than a few people pretty riled up. Many other MMOs that have gone before WoW (and likely those that will come after) that used micro-transactions to get more real money out of the players who are subscribed, and most free MMOs use micro-transactions to get money out of players who can sign up and play for free, but if they want the best gear or a custom avatar or better graphics, they have to shell out a little cash.
The argument on both sides of this is immense, loud, and pretty empassioned: some people herald micro-transactions as the end of World of Warcraft entirely, both as a popular game and as a professional, high-quality one, labeling micro-transactions as the mark of MMOs that are on the decline. The other side sees this as another fantastic way that players who are willing to pay for it can customize their characters, and look forward to other potential options like special RP clothes, custom avatar appearances, and more.
Personally I can see the logic of both sides of the equation, but I have to call attention to the fact that Blizzard has essentially already given players what they want for real money in-game in the form of faction changes, race changes, server transfers, and so on. Even appearance changes (which cost in-game money, not real money) came at player behest. I’m completely on-board with the thought that only MMOs that need money or are moving to a “free to play” model currently make heavy use of micro-transactions, but World of Warcraft certainly isn’t there, and it’s certainly not on the decline.
So the moral of the story? If you don’t want to spend real money for an in-game pet, don’t buy one. If there are enough people who agree with you, it’ll be unpopular and Blizzard will shut it down. If on the other hand there’s a demand for it and people love the idea, it’ll grow in popularity and more items will likely be added to the store. In any event, it’s likely not the end of World of Warcraft as we know it – that’s going to happen in Cataclysm.