The Right Sort Of Microtransaction
The other week I purchased the paid faction change service from Blizzard for one of my World of Warcraft characters. As a few friends of mine started playing the game on the Alliance side, I decided to move my level 30 Warrior from Horde over to Alliance, going from my second favourite race, Undead, to my all time favourite race, Draenei, in the process. The entire thing cost me £20/€23/$32 and allowed me to choose a new Alliance race, gender and name.
The ability to change faction is only one of the paid services that Blizzard offers now and, along with purchasable pets, must give them a nice little source of microtransaction revenue. I’m assuming “microtransaction” is the right term here cause RMT is often associated with the illegal purchase of gold but, honest to God, I really have no idea. Whoever coined these phrases should be forced to continually write letters into the Oxford English Dictionary until they eventually relent and publish a concrete definition for us all to refer to. If nothing else, it would avoid awkward moments like this. Anyway, I digress.
I’ve gotta say that I’m very happy with the faction change service. The whole process was incredibly slick and painless and totally worth the money. Why? Simple maths. I earn 20 bucks in less than two hours work at my job yet my level 30 Warrior had a total play time of over 24 hours. Thus buying the transfer was basically the most economical thing for me to do.
Of course, some would argue that this sort of service should be free and, heck, well it would be nice but it’s not exactly on our list of “required” MMORPG features is it? Players can’t change side in game and thus Blizzard has established this service as being an additional “extra” for the game, something that’s outside of their pre-established remit. SOE, on the other hand, allows characters to change faction in Everquest 2 via quests so if they started charging for it, all hell would undoubtedly break loose. Of course they also provide free character recustomization whereas Blizzard charge for it so that it’s either a missed opportunity for the former or a rip-off from the latter.
But to the come to the point of my title, this is exactly the sort of the microtransaction that I don’t mind. In fact, I downright quite like it. It’s totally outside of the gameworld (and by that I mean it doesn’t affect other players or at least is very low impact) and completely optional. Players don’t expect to be able to shift faction in WoW and thus it doesn’t influence them much on a daily basis.
It also does what all good sort of microtransaction should and that is provide flexibility and choice. Of course, it’s still freedom within the walls of Blizzard but it’s better than nothing and I don’t mind paying for it.
P.S. Want an example of the wrong sort of microtransaction? Well, I was going to point out pretty much everything about Free Realms but that blasted Pandaren Monk keeps forcing its way to the front of my mind. £9/€10/$15 for a chubby little furball that occasional bows and makes odd noises? And I paid for it? I’m such a twat.
P.P.S. My wife doesn’t know about this and I’m not going to tell her. Everytime she catches me with my wallet out in front of the keyboard, my life flashes before my eyes. She thinks “virtual” goods of any sort are a complete waste of money and I think she’d probably be less mad if she caught me buying porn instead. And no, I’m not dumb enough to test that theory.