Blizzard has been hard at work after the release of the World of Warcraft Armory and Mobile Armory App, updating and tweaking the system in an effort to keep players connected to the game as long as possible, even when not actually playing. One of the newest services in development is the ability to let players access the Auction House directly through the Armory Website and Mobile Armory iPhone/ iPod App.
Blizzard Poster “Bornakk” broke the news on the World of Warcraft forums, where he informed forum-goers about the services’ development:
This is a fairly complex service to develop, due in large part to its unprecedented integration with the game, so we don’t have an exact release date yet. It’s important to note here that certain elements of the service will be premium-based, which we’ll go into more detail on once the service functionality is finalized. As with all of the services we offer, we plan to integrate the Auction House and Armory in a way that won’t disrupt the gameplay experience, and we won’t release it until it meets the quality standards that we’ve set for our other features and services.
Of particular interest is the fact that elements of the service will be premium-based, suggesting that players will likely have to pay extra to get full use of the system. Also, the service is still in development, and because it is such a seemingly large undertaking, has no set release date yet.
If implemented properly, this could be a momentous achievement, literally allowing players access to the game’s economy from wherever; at work, on vacation, on the can. etc. However, the trouble stems from its implementation. Without knowing what the premium fee is or what players are capable of doing with the service, one cannot truly know how successful or harmful the service will be. If the system allows for too much freedom, it is quite possibly an open invitation for bots and gold-selling companies to go nuts, potentially ruining the Auction House balance and game economy.
Another problem stems from an ethical standpoint. The idea of a subscription-based game nickel and diming players for extras is a worrisome, especially for an extra that impacts gameplay as much as this service might. If World of Warcraft were a free to play game, this service would be a non-issue; just another cool feature players have to pay to use. However, players already pay Blizzard a subscription fee to play the WoW. Now, in order to keep up with the tidal-wave of AH competition, players will have to pay a premium to give themselves an edge in the Auction House. This system gives the player willing to pay real cash for the service instant access to the games economy, and a significant advantage over those who do not or cannot pay for it.
Blizzard has often stated that they do not introduce premium features that give advantages in-game. Pets, name-changing, transfers, race changes, etc, are essentially cosmetic, and offer no real advantage to the players who use them. This system potentially changes everything. Pay for access to the Auction House from wherever you are, whenever you want? What’s next? Selling gold to players? Or perhaps high-level equipment to players willing to pay for it?
Of course, all this speculation could amount to nothing, as this service may not even allow for remote auctioning. But then again, if it’s premium, why would you pay for anything less?