The allure of role-playing games is embarking on a mysterious adventure, weaving through labyrinthine environments, conquering armies of fearsome creatures and returning with spectacular items, which help symbolize the quest. It’s the fundamental attraction of all RPGs, and one game has tarnished that appeal.
In Blizzard Entertainment’s “World of Warcraft,” players travel on mounts, and some mounts are very rare: They drop only from raid bosses, who have week-long re-spawn timers; others drop from easier dungeons that require perseverance; but all have brilliant models, and all represent the hardships the players endured to acquire the mounts. Players ride those fiery birds, undead steeds and robot heads as triumphant badges. They put in the work, and they beat the odds against them. But their hard work was diminished with the release of the game’s fourth expansion, “Mists of Pandaria,” which introduced the black market auction house.
The black market auction house is managed by a non-player character who auctions the rare mounts (among other items) to players for gold. For players who always wanted those mounts, they now have an easier avenue to obtain them. What about the players who earned them the old-fashioned way? Never again will their mounts have the meaning they once had because players can simply buy them. On a long-term scale, the number of each rare mount will balloon, and when many people have the same item, the item loses its value.
Worse yet, when players buy the rare mounts, they are still awarded the achievement. There is no way for players to differentiate between who earned their rare mounts and who bought them. The game should remove the achievement from players who bought their mounts. Besides, Blizzard sells other mounts for real currency, and everybody who sees those mounts knows those players bought them from Blizzard’s store. Why do they want to dilute difficult accomplishments by muddying the medium of acquisition? The lone bright spot on this pox is the black market auction house does not sell mounts that have been removed from the game, so the oldest players with the oldest mounts keep their artifacts intact.
Earning gold in “World of Warcraft” has never been difficult, but earning these rare mounts was among a crowning achievement for some players. The black market auction house is a blunder by a titanic company grasping for fresh ideas, and this one lessens everything RPGs stand for. It pits the will to discovery and conquer against the will to farm and buy.