WoW Factor: World of Warcraft’s proposed Trading Post actually sounds good so far

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I could, in theory, spend today’s WoW Factor talking about the launch of the first endgame season in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, but quite frankly there’s nothing interesting there to talk about. Primal Storms are back, which are still kind of underwhelming but at least offer a path to some gear, especially if you’re willing to hop into a party. (And deterministic gear, too! Credit where it’s due.) Once again we’ve seen Raid Finder entry delayed for no adequately explained reason, so it’s either because of stupid elitist gatekeeping that contributes directly to toxicity or because there’s a company-wide deal with El Chupacabre and if the developers don’t delay raid releases for queued folks they’ll get sugar in their gas tanks.

We’ve had that discussion before, and if you’re in denial and/or so eager to defend developer gatekeeping that you’re now looking up what kind of bullet you need to beat a Mexican goat-sucker, you’re beyond help. So instead, let’s talk about something else in the form of the upcoming Trading Post because this was a surprise announcement the other day that offers players a variety of cosmetic items on a regular rotation. And… this is interesting! In fact, from what we know so far, it has the potential to outright be quite good.

While we’ve already posted about it, just in case you were waiting for this column and didn’t want to read about it before then, let’s sum up quickly: There’s a trading post full of cosmetic items that players can buy with a certain amount of time between introduction and rotation. Players get 500 Trader’s Tender (Special Currency Du Jour) each month and can earn a further 500 by taking part in a variety of activities, which include but are not limited to normal endgame stuff.

A bit more can be derived from looking at the screenshots. The UI for earning Tender, for example, seems to imply that there’s an extra little reward at the end if you max out that track. We also get a sample screen showing off at least a sampling of the prospective rewards, which include one mount, a bunch of cosmetic appearances, and a couple of pets.

Now… there’s a lot to unpack and speculate about here. We’re not sure of several things, chief among them being whether the reward screen we’re shown is meant to be demonstrative of current balancing or just a sample of what the UI might look like. Which one is the case will have a lot of impact on this feature as a whole, but since the only concrete numbers mentioned are about currency, we can assume those are the ones that are concrete.

Moreover, we don’t know how the rotation of stock will work, we don’t know yet how often new things will be rolled out to the trading post, and we don’t know what percentage of things will be new to the trading post vs. what percentage will be new to the game period. For the moment, I am going to assume that what’s there is broadly indicative of what we can expect in terms of prices and reward rates, but that can change. On board? Great.

Trade? Buy? Sell?

First and foremost, I think the split in terms of currency amounts sounds pretty much perfect. The way that this is set up, it sounds like we’re looking at something splitting the difference between getting progress just for being there and rewards for playing the game more, with neither side being overwhelmingly dominant. If balanced correctly, it provides a good chance for players to have a reasonably easy time getting the currency so long as they stay active, but if you have to play less on a given month, you don’t feel like you’re wildly missing out.

I do wonder at this point about the details regarding how many points are needed to fill out the track and how many activities are necessary. This is, in fact, going to be pretty important; all we know now is that you won’t need to do everything available, but that could mean “you have obvious paths available even if you aren’t interested in progression endgame” or “you can skip out on M+ if you are doing everything else available.” We do not yet have the information on that.

We see a 0/1000 marker on the bar in the preview image and rewards of 50 points in the preview journal, but it’s unclear if that 1000 is to one tier of reward or to fill up the bar completely, and it’s also unclear how many different options there actually are. As mentioned, everything right now should be considered provisional.

However, the fundamental interaction here seems solid. What remains is filling out the detail, and from the mockup prices, it seems reasonable based on numbers. Mounts are going to take most of your monthly stipend, but they’re realistically attainable in a given month; there are even some things that you can purchase with just the monthly reward. It isn’t perfect, but it’s reasonable, and so long as things remain at around this level, we’ll be in a good place.

Could this go wrong, though? Oh, definitely. In a lot of ways, albeit none of which has yet been announced.

Game for sale!

Any sort of system where you can buy cosmetic rewards is going to be defined in no small part by what cosmetic rewards are on offer, and if the cosmetics are garbage then this is not going to work out very well. What we have previewed looks nice enough, but we don’t know what the overall cosmetic array will look like. The Celestial Steed on the list is still ugly, we don’t know what those ensembles will be like, and so forth.

And that could go a lot of different ways. Will these have the care and attention that heritage armor sets have? Will they be retextures of existing gear? One of these is a good option and one is not. How broad will the cosmetic weaponry be? What will the exclusive rewards look like?

Plus, it’s still possible that they’ll announce some cockamamie monetization scheme in which you can pay to advance faster or get more Tender, and I am throwing up in my mouth just typing that. This has the potential to be a really good loyalty/player incentive program, and Blizzard has not earned the goodwill back to take that at face value. It may never earn that back.

However, despite that, I said before that you have to judge these things by what is present and not what could be present, and what we’re seeing so far is actually a good start. Maybe not a flawless one, and there are lots of fine details of tuning and rewards that could go either well or badly, but the idea is at least interesting and a step toward making the game more engaging and interesting for people who have approximately zero interest in the title’s progression side.

Now, when are we getting more customization options in the character creator? When are we getting those white transmog options? Where’s the heritage armor for the races not yet represented? Let’s start firing on all cylinders, shall we?

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with almost two decades of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
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