Spiral Situation

For about two weeks, Wizard101 players were tantalized by a countdown clock on the patch screen. We quickly deduced that the “something special coming to The Spiral” would arrive on April 1: anyone with a speck of common sense realized it would be something at least slightly humorous.

It was not until the lid was ripped off the surprise that the community realized the limited range of some players’ sense of humor. The big announcement was the arrival of a new pet in the Crowns Shop (i.e. cash shop): KingsIsle’s iteration of that fabled fad of the 1970s, the Pet Rock.

Wizard101 blogs and forums exploded with feedback, much of it negative. The community claimed that the pet was a rip-off, merely a way for KingsIsle to (gasp!) make money, and unworthy of the anticipation generated by the countdown clock.

I repeat: players with a calendar and the ability to read knew all along the big reveal would take place on April Fools’ Day.

So why all the harshing on the Wizard101 Pet Rock? The IRL cost was no more than six dollars. I bought one, solely for research purposes of course, and I can attest that it’s cute as the dickens. It bounces and spins as it travels alongside a wizard, giving a glimpse of adorable convex eyes every so often.

I did a few “hatches” (a game-within-a-game feature that I’ll blog on in the very near future) and found that when hatching with a common pet available for a relatively small amount of in-game currency, the other player wound up with their own Pet Rock. Hatches with an expensive crowns-shop pet, rare boss drop pet, or advanced hybrid pet resulted in the other party adding a similar pet to their collection – not a Pet Rock. Was this KingsIsle’s way of making the Pet Rock readily accessible to players without paying IRL cash? We’ll never know.

The Pet Rock, when equipped, adds a card to the player’s deck that is of fair value, if for no other reason that a player of the lowest levels can use the spell (Fortify) that otherwise is only trainable at level 50 (ten levels from the current cap of 60). In terms of spells and talents that manifest with training (also discussed in depth in a near-future blog entry), nothing remarkable has emerged to date. However, it’s much too soon to predict what talents it may develop through hatching hybrid versions. It may well develop the most-coveted pet talent, dubbed “Spritely”, in short order.

Two days before the Pet Rock was introduced, KingsIsle rolled out “Mount Week”, an unprecedented giveaway of new, rare, and hard-to-obtain mounts. Some of the mounts being given away this week aren’t yet available in game (not even through the cash shop). Some are available only via the cash shop, and some are available for in-game currency but require quite a stash (read: lots of grinding for drops to sell). Off the top of my head, I can think of seven official fan sites that were each given 15 mounts to award to players through contests and simple giveaways. While this was clearly a marketing move, it was also rather generous of KingsIsle and should balance the shouts of greedy foul play made by bloggers and players.

The Pet Rock has left the Crowns Shop already, but will be present in The Spiral for the life of the game. Let’s hope that for April Fools’ 2012, KingsIsle hits a home run, or at the very least the community has a collectively improved sense of humor.

Spiral Situation is a bi-weekly blog. Perideaux has multiple high-level characters in Wizard101. She’s not the President of the KingsIsle fan club, but she promises to be fair and acknowledge when KingsIsle does something right. Now she’s off to give her Pet Rock, Pebbles, a sheen-enhancing hot-oil massage.