…Was This T-Shirt

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.

–Ravious
gift horse in the mouth

9 thoughts on “…Was This T-Shirt”

  1. Make every fluff item attainable through normal means in their time (while the offer lasts) and after they expire… festival is over, seasonal quest no longer available, etc… sell it to whoever wants to buy it for a buck or two.

    Everybody wins.

  2. The only title I use anymore in LotRO is “Master of Forgotten Lore,” which could only be earned by completing a limited time event quest related to Eregion’s Ring Lore.

    You had to complete the quest sixteen times to get that title. But you could only do the quest once a day, and once it had been completed X times, the quest locked down. I was one of the last 50 people on Gladden to turn in. When the daily unlocked sometime around midnight, I was waiting at the NPC in Aughaire. I raced out to a place in Angmar I knew quest item droppers spawned, chopped a bunch of them down, then flew back to turn in my sixteenth batch. Less than ten minutes later, the quest was gone forever.

    That final, tense run to unlock the title is one of my strongest LotRO memories. While I certainly grok the desire to buy retired limited-time unlockables, I still feel that cheapening the distinction of having them for those who were there “in the day” isn’t worth it. Having an item or title that can no longer be gained is – in most games – the only way one can truly distinguish oneself from an endless sea of mostly-identical heroes.

    Imponderable: what do you suppose the reaction would be if CCP started selling in-game Gold Magnates in their online store? It’s not an exceptionally useful ship, but only one (later destroyed by PC pirates) was ever handed out by the devs as a contest prize.

  3. I think selling knockoff version of whatever item we are talking about would be a good solution. Give the item a slightly different shade, or less of a glow, or whatever, and people could still come close to getting the look they are after, without completely ruining the exclusivity of the original item.

  4. For that matter, just mark the things as “The Hat of Whatever (replica)” and have it look exactly the same. That way everyone who cares about exclusivity can say “Here, see how it’s an original. I was THERE!” and everyone who wants it for the looks can be satisfied, too.

  5. I still run around from time to time in my werewolf mask. It just looks cool when you are an assassin.

  6. I like the items to stay exclusive. It is the main reason all my cool collectible items in Warhammer lost all its cool factor. When Mythic had their billing issue the solution was to offer the items that used to be exclusive to players who helped on the test server, or recruited players to the game. Now it all means nothing since every Tom, Dick, and Harry have the same items.

  7. THIS WON’T END WELL! The slope is indeed slippery.

    Solution: Don’t sell hats and/or don’t buy hats.

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