The subject of this post is a part of a well-known joke, as much as one can call a bloody, mush of hamburger on the ground in the barest form of a beaten horse a joke. The joke goes that vacationers go to paradise and bring back as a small token of affection a gift to the chumps left behind in the form of a t-shirt emblazoned with “My parents / kids / ex-friends / I went to [paradise] and all I got was this t-shirt.” Transcending the joke, the t-shirt acts as an achievement notification to others. Clearly, someone went to the place on the t-shirt, and now the foreign object is being worn for all to see. MMOs have a similar article in the form of exclusive appearance items.
These are well known in MMOs in the form of exclusive companion miniature pets from conventions or an exclusive cloak gained from contests. One that is in the forefront of my mind are the Guild Wars festival hats (now with costume slot). Last weekend was the 2010 Dragon Festival complete with a brand new Sinister Dragon Mask. When worn about town in Guild Wars, it signifies for the world around, in the manner of the aforesaid t-shirt, that the player was out and about at the 2010 Dragon Festival.
The debate springs up in that players that went off to the Bahamas for the U.S. holiday will never be able to receive the Sinister Dragon Mask. Players that did not pre-order Guild Wars Factions will never be able to wear a Tengu Mask. And, with new festival hats for each of the five years of Halloween and Wintersday, it is very easy to have missed out on a favorite. Those that missed out ask for something like Guild Wars costumes that can be purchased any time. Those with the specific festival hats, appreciably, want them to maintain their exclusivity. This debate springs up like clockwork nearly every Guild Wars festival.
A huge part of their charm is the fact they are exclusive. I love pulling my Pumpkin Crown, the first ever festival hat in Guild Wars, out among the crowds during the Halloween festivities. I don’t care if no one notices or appreciates my account’s age, wearing the Pumpkin Crown is nostalgic for me. If everybody could purchase the simple festival hat for a couple bucks, it is unlikely that the Festival Hat Maker would ever create another Pumpkin Crown for me again. The charm would be lost. Instead of “hard earned” unlockables, nearly all of the festival hats would become mere notches in some invisible belt.
I do not have every available notch in my festival hat. I believe I am missing 4-6 hats. At the very least, I know I missed the festival hat payday of Wintersday 2006 with four festival hats dropping instead of the usual two. It’s a double sting because it has the single Wintersday hat (out of 12) that I want for my head-banging necro – the Great Horns of Grenth. As far as I know, I will never get it.
It’s so easy, though, ArenaNet! Just put the Great Horns of Grenth up for sale at the in-game store for $5, and I can guarantee at least one sale. You won’t have to pay for any artist time. Oh, how a boy can dream.
In reality, the slope is way too slippery. Festival hats seem like a good candidate for monetization because they are so widely available. Players can nearly view them as an item available to all. Yet, there is no good way to determine how much exclusivity can be sacrificed. What about birthday miniatures? Everybody can get a 5-year pet eventually. How about an ultra-rare item skin with a drop rate zeros below the decimal place? All the societal leech did was spend a month of straight grinding to get it. There is no good way to determine how much exclusivity could be sacrificed to the microtransaction gods before the golden goose gets gibbed.
The best way, in my humble opinion, is to sell similar items. The items should have shades of the same exclusivity of the original item, even if any perceived exclusivity would be false. If anything this would increase the exclusivity of the original. I wouldn’t mind a Guild Wars Festival Hats pack with a new take on some of the greatest hits (with a Great Horns of Grenth knockoff). I’m sure there is a market for a Green Murloc Egg in World of Warcraft, and I am looking forward to see what buyable cosmetic items will be available in F2P Lord of the Rings Online. Just leave my Cloak of the Dark Halls alone.
gift horse in the mouth