The representative who asked for feedback on the item and price-point probably caused herself internal hemorrhaging by stating, "This is not a joke." The fans responded, "Of course, and the sky is made out of blue cheese." At the very least, it allowed the more creative players to come up with humorous expressions of incredulity. The fun finally came to an end when the studio announced that the "experimental" price point was a failure.
Of course, this is by far not the first time a game studio's attempted to sell a ridiculous item, an item with a ridiculous price point, or both combined. If you sell it, after all, the rubes will come.
So in the spirit of a $50 hobby horse that costs something like $20 in real life to acquire, here are 10 completely ridiculous items that we've seen in MMO cash shops.
A few months ago we had Champions Online's new executive producer on Massively Speaking, and he got me all excited by mentioning that the game now included "freeform" (vs. pre-built) character slots for free-to-play. That's all that was holding me back, I thought!
And then I found out that said freeform slot would set me back a President Grant. There's nothing quite like having cold water thrown on one's face when one is getting excited about returning to a game, is there?
Fifty dollars? Seriously? When you're charging a full game's price for a partial -- partial! -- unlock of the standard subscription content, one must take serious pause. I have no issues with the studio charging for this, but everyone I've talked to agrees that it would be much more reasonable in the $15 to $25 bracket. For $50, I could buy myself a toy horse in Middle-earth or, you know, groceries.
2. EVE Online: Monocle
It was "the day that EVE Online died." It sparked so much controversy that the studio had to issue an official response (or three) to the playerbase. And it was something that the Monopoly Guy wears on a regular basis.
Yup, I'm talking about last year's monoclegate fiasco, in which CCP decided that common sense had no place in pricing a round circle on a digital character's puss, and thereby put a monocle for sale in the store at $68. The uber-rich might have found a symbol for character status, but the majority of the players weren't having it.
It certainly was fun imagining how these players logged off to try to explain to family and friends how ludicrous this was. "So... you're upset because of expensive pretend glasses?" "Monocles!" "Two monocles make a pair of glasses, mate. Let's get you a beer and reintroduce some reality to your system."
Quickly dubbed the "sparklepony," this mount caused no end of controversy when it first appeared in World of Warcraft. Not only was it one of the first items that Blizzard put in its cash shop, but the $25 price tag made not just a few people gasp and mutter outrageously. I know, it's kind of funny to think that we used to live in a time when a $25 virtual mount was "outrageous." We were a lot more innocent back then.
4. Guild Wars 2: Cow Finisher
I was going to go with Guild Wars 2's completely lore-appropriate and totally useful boxing gloves, but a friend convinced me that I would be sorely remiss to ignore the fact that you can purchase a cow to drop on a friend's head. I mean, of course you can. Sure, this is a limited-use item that can be used only in PvP, but still, there's no insult more dire than a bombarding bovine.
Quick: How much would you pay for a few squares? If you said, "$20, Alex," then I might have to backhand you out of disbelief. Yet that's exactly what Ultima Online asked its players to pay for the aptly titled "Set of three raised garden beds."
I guess if you were a big-time gardener, this might have had appeal, but seriously, those are some ugly looking squares. Maybe it's a hemp garden?
6. Star Wars: The Old Republic: Quickbars
To say that BioWare went into the deep end of the crazy pool over its free-to-play structuring is putting it lightly. I mean, these are the people who thought it was a good idea to restrict free players from skipping cutscenes and had to have an entire test server tell them that they were out of their gourds before that notion got yanked.
So color us not surprised that the studio had no compunctions about disabling part of its user interface and charging players to "fix" it? Sure, the studio backed off a little on this idea, but the fact remains that SWTOR is one of the few games that charges players for hotbars. Bravo!
In the grand tradition of April Fools Day in MMOs, Paragon Studios posted a whole bunch of ridiculous cash store items a while back. Quite amusing, we thought, and after we had our jollies, we thought that would be the end of it. But it turned out that the Liger vanity pet was such a popular joke that the team actually put it into the game. Because nothing is more timely than plucking bad jokes from Napoleon Dynamite.
8. Allods Online: Six-slot backpack upgrade
When it first launched, Allods Online's cash shop instantly became the model of What Not To Do, Ever, Ever, Ever for the entire industry. Among several bad offenders was the innocuous-sounding backpack upgrade, which transformed an 18-slot backpack into a 24-slot one. The problem was the price: a stunning $20 for these six additional inventory slots.
Well, players weren't having that and decided to pitch a fit, so gPotato had to address the situation again and again and again, and popular opinion goes that it soured a lot of folks on the launch of the game.
Was that worth $20? Probably not.
If you asked the average Joe or Jane on the street what the heck "inner armor" was, you'd probably be in for a day of contradicting speculation. That's to be expected, as Vindictus decided to give the strangest name to lingerie in the history of the universe. It's an added layer of combat and first date security, as the armor protects your genitals while the rest of you gets pounded into a bloody pulp.
From the description page: "The slim lining and careful detailing is racy yet elegant." Heck yes it is.
10. EverQuest II: Player wings
"Hey Brad, you look different somehow..."
"Oh you noticed? I'm growing a goatee. Stylish, yes?"
"That's not it. It's the, you know..."
"Spit it out, man!"
"The GIANT 25-FOOT WINGSPAN SPROUTING FROM YOUR SHOULDERBLADES YOU NIGHTMARE DEMON FREAK! Back, spawn of Satan! To hell with thee, never to return!"
"Don't mock me! A wizard cursed me and I purchased these from the marketplace without giving it a lot of forethought. Now I have to wear them or else I'll have wasted all my money!"
"I am so not carpooling with you, dude."
Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at email@example.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.