One More Reason to Hate the Sparkle Pony

Most of you have probably seen that Blizzard are planning on releasing a new mount to their online store soon, the Winged Lion. This has come pretty much exactly one year since the Celestial Steed (or Sparkle Pony, as it shall be known for the rest of this article) was released, which seems to suggest that Blizzard are happy releasing a new mount per year. Now, there are plenty of arguments out there for whether the mounts are worth the money or not, and I’m not going to go into them today, as I think its a decision that each person should make for themselves.

However, I do believe that the strategy Blizzard are using when it comes to the online store is harmful to the game and the player base, even if it does make them the most money. Follow me after the cut as I analyse why it would be better for us if Blizzard changed their strategy, and why at the moment I wouldn’t buy any new mount that they bring out, regardless of how cool it looks.

Now, to start off lets go back to when the Sparkle Pony was released. It was a simpler time, when raid PUGs still roamed every server, everyone still walked around in full epics, and trolls in trade chat were… well, the same as they are now actually, but I’m getting side-tracked here. Last year, the model had been datamined by MMO champion, and there was a lot of speculation as to where people would be able to get it. One day whilst looking over WoW.com, I saw that the mount had been released on the Blizzard store for real money. I hopped on over to see how much it was, and spent about 5 minutes deciding on whether or not I thought the mount was worth £15.

I went back and forth on the model, as part of me liked the Algalon style graphic but another part of me hated the way it kicked its legs while it flew (flying horses should look like the HH mount, and not the Sparkle Pony/Invincible model, IMO), but in the end I decided that I couldn’t warrant spending more than a months worth of game time money on a mount that I would rarely use. My mind made up, I logged into the game onto my warrior and appeared at the Dalaran flight point where I had logged off, and I was… blinded.

There were sparkle ponies everywhere. And I don’t just mean a few flying around me on the flight path, I mean there wasn’t a single place in Dalaran you could stand where you couldn’t see one. At that moment I was incredibly glad I didn’t buy one, simply because there’s no point in having a mount that is so common that you could get bored with seeing it even if you’re not using it. That point sounds more complicated than it is, so let me explain with an example – when I first got the Raven Lord mount, I was ecstatic. When I first started mount collecting, I went on to Wowwiki and brought up a list of the different mounts that existed in game, and made a note of all the coolest ones, and I decided that the raven Lord was the coolest ground mount in game.

It was also still pretty rare at the time (and still is, though slightly less so) so I rarely saw anyone else on it whilst riding around on mine, and it was the only ground mount I used for months. Eventually, however, as great as it looked, I just needed a change from the same mount I’d been using so much. The problem with the sparkle pony was that the stretch of time for a mount to get boring went from months to a couple of days, because even if you weren’t mounted you could see it around you, and if you were on yours, there was likely to be 5 others nearby.

And I know I’m not the only one that felt like this, because after about a week the mount stopped showing up. Certain big names in the WoW community ridiculing the mount was probably part of the reason, but I still think the main factor in people no longer using a mount they spent £15 on only a week after they got it was simply because they were already sick of it. The problem? The exact same thing will happen with the Winged Lion. And the next mount, and the next, and the next…

By spreading out their releases of mounts, Blizzard ensures that they make as much money as possible, because each time they release it, there is a lot of hype surrounding it, a lot of build-up, and consumers simply have the choice of buying it or not buying it, and a lot of people will choose the former. However, this will lead to the same burnout that the sparkle pony caused, because everyone will have one and everyone will get sick of it very quickly – no matter how cool you think it looks now.

The solution? Well, in the long run Blizzard would probably make a bit less money, so chances of it happening are pretty slim (and no I’m not just being cynical, Blizzard is a business and should be concerned with making money), but the solution I would suggest is releasing 5 mounts in the store at once. This would do a lot of things. First off, it would cost Blizzard a fair amount more in development time, but I think this would be offset by the large amount of people that would undoubtedly buy all 5 mounts. Secondly, it would definitely persuade some people (such as myself) that the mounts are more worth buying, because there’s a broader range of new mounts that have just been released and while a lot of people will have them, most of the time you’ll see one of the other 4 that you didn’t buy, so it doesn’t effect how quickly you get sick of your mount. Also, the people that did buy all 5 can’t use all 5 at once, so the amount of use they got from the new mounts would be much higher than just one new one.

Thirdly, and here’s the kicker, when Blizzard decided to release another new mount(s), people would be less inclined to buy them than they were before. Why? Because chances are that there are still 4 mounts on the store they still haven’t bought, so news of another one won’t be as exciting as before. This won’t happen in all cases, and I expect that if Blizzard did release new mounts in sets of 5, the amount of money they would make would still be very close to what they are now (or possibly more, if people work out that they get sick of Blizzard store mounts very quickly, and so they aren’t worth the money anymore). They could reduce development time and increase profits by making the 5 mounts vaguely similar, and adding different effects and colours (think Black war bear, polar bear, amani war bear) although I think just having the same mount with 5 different shades of armor like some have suggested wouldn’t be enough to reduce the burnout that happens at the moment.

In conclusion, I’d suggest not buying the new mount from the store. If my theory is correct, the mount will appear everywhere you look for the first couple days after its release, and you’ll be sick of it quickly. You might as well get sick of it while being £15 richer. There have been rumours that some of the cost of the mount will be donated to charity, most likely to the Tsunami appeal in Japan. While this hasn’t been confirmed at all, if it does happen to be true, I will still stick to my guns and not buy this mount, and still suggest that others don’t buy it. You WILL get sick of the mount quickly, and if you want to donate money to charity, you should just do it directly, not just when it gives you a benefit too. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing if Blizzard does donate some of the proceeds (it would be great), just that it shouldn’t be the reason you buy it.

/end rant

P.S. Just want to say quickly that I’m not happy that I haven’t been keeping this blog more up-to-date, and so I’m intending to set myself on more of a schedule so that I’ll have a new post out every week. Once I decide which day that will be, I’ll let you know.

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