Blizzard's community manager Bashiok confirmed on Tuesday that the company is indeed working on an in-game store for World of Warcraft. Right now the project is in the exploration process, and will initially be tested with new items Blizzard plans to introduce in the Asian regions.
The move makes sense given that it would be quicker and more convenient for players to purchase in-game items while still within Blizzard's virtual realm. The act of jumping out and making purchases through the website may be a turn-off for some potential customers. Still, Blizzard will need to make careful decisions about what this store will supply paying customers so that it doesn't disrupt the entire playing field.
"For players who are already interested in the in-game items we offer, such as Pet Store pets and mounts, the benefits of an in-game store are pretty clear," Bashiok said. "We think everyone would appreciate the convenience of being able to make such purchases without having to leave the game, and ultimately that’s our long-term goal for the system, though there’s quite a bit of work involved in retrofitting those existing items into the new system."
As previously stated, Blizzard will test this new in-game store with items it plans to introduce in the Asian regions. These items include an experience buff to assist with the leveling process, and an alternate way to acquire Lesser Charms of Good Fortune. Blizzard will be seeking feedback on these specific items and about what the company will ultimately stock on the in-game store's shelves.
"We’ve had a lot of requests from players in different regions for convenience-oriented items such as these, and as with other new ideas we’ve introduced as WoW has evolved—including Pet Store pets, mounts, and more—your feedback plays a hugely important part in determining what we add to the game," Bashiok added.
Right now it's too early in the development process to make any final decisions about permanently setting up shop within World of Warcraft and what it will eventually sell. But players are encouraged to browse its virtual goods anyway which for now resides on the Public Test Realm (PTR).
The explanation arrives after community manager Zarhym said last week that an in-game store was on the way. Many subscribers expressed concerns over the items that Blizzard was testing including "convenience-based" goods like buffs that aid leveling up characters, as Bashiok confirmed in Tuesday's post. One of them is confirmed to be the Enduring Elixir of Wisdom which increases experience gained from killing monsters and completing quests by 100 percent. Many players fear that on-hand items like these will give others a paid advantage over those not willing to shell out the extra money.
"We are currently exploring the possibility of adding a way for players in certain regions to make purchases directly within the game," Zarhym said. "As part of this process, elements related to this will be appearing on the PTR. We'll provide additional updates on our plans as development progresses."
Does an in-game store in World of Warcraft mean that Blizzard may eventually embrace free-to-play? That's hard to say given that the MMORPG still has a solid subscriber base. But the company may eventually be forced to take on the free-to-play business model if it continues to bleed subscribers.