Earlier today Activision-Blizzard released a new in-game item for it's mega-hit MMO, World of Warcraft. This time out, it was the Celestial Mount and it was the first "usable" virtual pet that the company has sold (your character can ride it). They priced it at a whopping $25.
As soon as the Celestial Mount was announced the gaming community fractured. On one side of the fence were the naysayers decrying Activision-Blizzard for pricing the thing so ridiculously high and thereby setting a bad precedent. On the other side of the fence were the people queuing up to buy it. And I mean that literally; there was apparently so much demand for this item that the Blizzard servers had to throttle the purchasing of it in order to protect their e-commerce servers. Or so we are led to believe, anyway. We're also led to believe there are limited numbers of the mount available; artificial scarcity is a great way to drive demand, after all. According to a post at WoW.com (a blog devoted to World of Warcraft, not the official site), at one point the purchase queue hit 80,000 (and the post keeps being updated to bump up that number). But from reading the comments, people are reporting numbers as high as 130,000 and saying it only took about 25 minutes to get through it (even though a 7 hour wait time was being reported). This is all clearly hearsay at this point, but let's play with the numbers a bit. To be conservative we'll use a queue size of 100,000 and a real wait time of an hour. That would mean Actvision-Blizzard are hauling in $2.5 million/hour for an item that costs them pennies to produce (basically the cost of processing the user's credit card and the bandwidth it takes to download the mount) once the cost of designing and implementing the item is covered. And potentially they could be making as much as double that. Granted the numbers are based on anecdotal evidence and in any case will taper off quickly, but still not a bad day's business. So what's so special about this mount? Aside from looking cool, nothing. It isn't faster or better than other mounts in the game; it's just easier to get, and apparently World of Warcraft players are more than happy to shell out dollars in exchange for convenience. That's a message that Activision-Blizzard, and a lot of other MMO publishers, are certain to hear loud and clear. Here's the horse in action: