Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How Blizzard could make extra profit from a rich middle-aged geek

Tobold commented on on the connection between the sparkling pony and the changing dempographic in MMORPGs. The players who once upon a time enjoyed Dungeons & Dragons in the 80s aren’t unemployed or students these days – we’ve got jobs – often even well paid ones in science or engineering.

We may appear a bit childish and still look upon ourselves as geeks. But let’s face it. We’re grown-ups. Rich grown-ups with way more money to spend than then monthly subscription fee allows them to.

There’s a huge potential for the gaming industry to find up new services to sell to those this player segment with much more money than time at their hands. Tobolds predicts a future where we’ll see more merchandising, more virtual goods and more premium services.

So far we’ve seen a sparkling pony at 25 dollars. The 100 dollar sparkling dragon is waiting around the corner. This is just the beginning, according to Tobold’s prophecies, and I believe he’s quite right.

Me – a cheapscate
I suppose I am the kind of player that Tobold speaks of. I’m middle-aged and employed, and considering how much I’m willing to pay for activities such as skiing and holidays abroad, there’s no reason why Blizzard shouldn’t try to get their share of my wallet.

Their first attempt failed however; the sparkling pony didn’t cut it. I imagined myself riding around on it and realized that it wouldn’t make me feel entertained, excited, happy or proud – only awkward and embarrassed. If my children had played WoW and wished for a horse it would have been a different matter. When you get an opportunity to treat your children and see them smile, principles about good or bad game design go right out through the window. But since that’s not the case, the ponies will stay on the shelf.

What about a 100 dollar sparkly dragon than? It says itself that fewer people would be willing to pay that kind of sums, so it would probably work better as a status symbol. It could be The Rolex of mounts (mind you, coming with a not negligible risk of mockery for being a pillock).

To be honest I’m not tempted. I guess I’m a bit of an old cheapskate, more or less immune to vanity stuff that mostly is about to make an impression. Sorry. Admittedly I DID buy the collectors edition of WotLK, but then I’m a complete sucker for behind-the-scenes material of any kind. The extras for the LOTR movies were the best ever. The more of it the better and you could charge me almost anything for it.

What they could offer
The question is: how could Blizzard make me want to pay more for my WoW playing, apart from making good behind-the-scenes stuff for me to devour? What extras could they possibly tempt me with?

My time shortage is definitely a niche that could be explored. People in my age are constantly juggling, trying to fit our gaming into an already cramped schedule with job and family commitments. The time we can devote to WoW is limited and we’re very keen on spending it playing, having fun, getting challenged and entertained. We don’t want to spend it messing around trying to solve technical issues on our own or waiting for customer service in a queue of unknown length.

Yes, there is a potential market for premium customer services. In a comment at Tobold’s post, Peregrine recalls the original Everquest, where they apparently made a special server with a higher level of GM support in exchange for a higher monthly fee. I suppose it wasn’t a huge success, considering that we don’t see it in WoW. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they would come up new concepts in line with this.

Time has passed since EQ, the MMO-community has changed and grown older and the playerbase is way bigger, including people with little previous experience of gaming and limited knowledge of computer issues.

Maybe they could package this kind of services in a different way. Some players might like to play at special servers for the rich people, where you maybe could be protected from spam in the general channels thanks to more present GM:s. Others would probably like to get access to fast-queues for GM assistance, but would like to stay on their home services where they have their guilds and friends.

Paying extra for a higher level of service from GM:s sounds fine to me. What if you could get granted in-game chat contact with a GM within a certain amount of time – let’s say one hour – bypassing the normal ticked queue, which can take anything from a couple of ours to a week?

Individualized tech support
Another area of interest is out-of-game tech support. I’d like to see something more individualized, that helps me more than handing out generic answers that are supposed to be for everyone but are to shallow to really solve anything.

I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve bee suffering from problems with everything from lag and reoccurring disconnects to problems with new patches and UI headaches. The help you can expect from the Blizzard support is the three standard solutions: reinstall the game, delete the WTF and Interface folders or go whine at your ISP provider since they suck. Those suggestions will take you infinite amounts of time (yes, even the delete-interface-folder takes time if you want to rebuild your UI) and you can’t be certain they will help you in the end.

I may be an old geek, but I come from a world where I spent my time making fanzines with a manual typewriter and a mimeograph rather than messing around with a C64. I’m technically daft and I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent manically googling and browsing forums full of techno-babble looking for if not a solution, at least a clue.

More than once have kind guildies or even blog readers come to my rescue, giving me good suggestions or talking me through what to do, step by step over the phone. However it makes me feel like a parasite. My guildies value their time as much as I do and they could spend it in a better way than baby-sitting me. A pay-service from Blizzard? Yeah, why not? I’d be totally fine with having a personal servant, my own Jeeves, always on his toes and doing his very best to help me out of technical emergencies. Service with a smile, as they say.

Crazy ideas
Finally a couple of ideas more on the crazy side. A year ago I talked about the lack of equivalence of snowboard teachers in WoW. My idea at that point was that experienced gamers might offer some sort of in-game services. But what if you could buy personal tuition from the ones who should be best at playing the game, Blizzard themselves?

We recently saw a service where you could pay crazy amounts of money for a dating-service where you basically partied with a girl sitting in front of a webcamera. But let’s imagine another sort of dating service. Exactly how much would you be willing to pay to have an online meeting with a few of the Blizzard developers, maybe like the twitter chats they’ve run now, with the difference that it would just be you and a handful more of paying people allowed into the chatroom? Or a web-cam date with Ghostcrawler himself? I wonder what price tag they could put on that. I know from real life that some people are willing pay anything just to attend the same dinner or seminar as some celebrity, not even being granted to talk to him/her. I wonder if that would apply to WoW? How big is the stardom of the prominent staff members and how much is the community willing to pay?

I guess there isn’t any urgent need for new premium services right now. For the time being the sparkling pony has given Blizzard more revenue than they possibly could have imagined. Hopefully this gives them room to focus on old-fashioned game developing for a while, giving them a respite in the demands of making instant profit.

But sooner or later they will come back with more offers to the middle-aged rich geeks. Be sure about that.


Talarian said...

Custom levels of customer support based on premium fees? The only thing I worry about here is the whole "slippery slope" argument (ugh, I hate using this) of providing virtually zero customer support to players who are "only" paying the $15 subscription fee.

But I guess this isn't much different from any other complaint about providing no more mounts or pets in game and only selling them in the store, except for one small detail:

It's in Blizzard's best interests to keep you playing the game, so from a tech support standpoint, they ought to be giving better support to begin with.

In terms of selling a tutoring service, I actually enjoy that idea to a certain extent. However, I don't actually see current developers/community managers doing so, as they already have an immense amount of work on their plates.

At some point the WoW forums had the concept of an MVP, a green text community star who participates in the forum community positively. I wonder what the legalities of a similar program except have these folks tutor in their own time and Blizzard plays the middle-man. Essentially have a site where person A says, "I've free time between these hours on these servers" and person B says, "I need a tutor at this point in time". The site pairs them up and negotiates fee/etc. There's no reason why any such system couldn't exist outside of Blizzard, but I imagine some folks would rather a company sponsered version for (very valid) genuine article reasons (don't want to get scammed).

Ablimoth said...

I'd pay a higher monthly fee to skip queues when I want GM assistance. I'd pay even higher to have all players below lvl 10 perma-blocked from my chat channels unless a character on that account is in a guild with a character on my account...

Perdissa said...

I think it will be easier to justify paying a premium for services which actually incur additional costs for Blizzard. Premium customers with higher GM queue priority would be one of them, increased chances of beta-testing maybe, and maybe even account insurance (accelerated and full restoration) in the unlikely event that you get hacked even with your authenticator.

Another premium service I can imagine if my kid starts playing WoW would be the ability for me to monitor some of his chatlog, nefarious and draconian as it might be.

In the shorter term, I think the AH remote tracking/ usage mechanism we've been hearing about would be the next premium service. In line with this, maybe a new app that allows you to chat in gchat in-game over your iPhone.

Pangoria Fallstar said...

: Would anyone in your guild be below level 10 for more than a few hours?

Unless they are a bank alt....

Mycroft said...

I think an RP server, with GM support to actively moderate immersion breaking names, would be a good opportunity for improved customer support.

At least an extra charge of even a $1 more would probably keep those looking to grief those who want to actually participate in RP events off the server?

spinksville said...

I'd pay for heirloom gear that I could gift to a friend who didn't have a level 80. In fact, gifts for WoW playing friends is something I'd easily spend a fair amount of money on -- I know quite a few people who play. That could sort out birthday/ xmas presents for lots of them.

I'd pay for extra character slots on a server.

I imagine there are mounts or pets they could come up with that I'd love so much that I'd want to buy -- I just can't think of any right now.

I'm not entirely sure about the support, since the number of times I ever have to use it is very very few.

I think you're onto something with the tutoring but the tutor would ideally need some decent tools to be able to show the client what he was doing, and to check what the client had done.

I'd pay more for guaranteed server uptime and (controversial) faster queues for my dps alts.

I'd pay for content. ie. if they put in some one man instances, I'd pay for those. Particularly for RP-oriented content.

I'd pay for music. I like some of the soundtracks, and I'd happily pay for extra alternative ones for zones I use a lot.

Chewy said...

I fit your criteria as an RMAG.

My children don't play but from Blizzard's perspective they would be my target. A fluttering of eyelashes and a "Please Daddy" would be enough to have me reaching for my plastic to buy almost any ingame, worthless tat that made them happy.

Maybe that's my failing (amongst others) and I'll have to live with it but I suspect I'm not alone.

From my own perspective I'd pay more to have the chat rules enforced. If everytime someone made a racist, sexist, obnoxious,aggressive or otherwise nasty remark to vent dissatisfaction with their own real life, I'd like to press a button and have a GM appear beside them, just to point out the error of their ways and perhaps enact a mute for a couple of hours.

Practical ? Probably not, but I'd pay for that service.

Kiseran said...

The better customer-service for a higher fee might make sense, but it is very dangerous. People accept Blizzards customer-service right now because they know it is horrible, but everyone gets the same horrible service, so they are obviously not able to deliver anything better. Start different levels of customer-service and it will be plain obvious that Blizzard can deliver something far better, but they just don't value most of their customers.

People have certain prospects.. one of them is a high level of customer support (this applies to everything from online gaming down to a small street cafe). They might not get it everywhere, but they still expect it and if they tolerate missing customer service somewhere then its only because the rest of the offer is simply too good to switch to anything with a better service.

Me, I'm very keen on being treated equal. If I would get the impression that I'm a second grade customer for Blizzard and would be more important to them if I throw more money at them, I would leave. Sure, more important customers get special treatment everywhere in the real world - but it is one of the things I enjoy most in virtual worlds: Everyone of us is the same, the way we are treated is only altered by the way we behave ourselves.

Now ingame teachings or tech support is a different matter for me. I'm used to being my own tech support and to teach myself how to play the game is half of the fun for me. I wouldn't mind that kind of service from Blizzard. I would pity the people who need the teaching a bit, but I wouldn't mind. Of course that teaching shouldn't exceed what I would call "the EJ-Knowledge-Pool". Blizzard thinking up new, complicated mechanics only to charge some people for telling them how to rock before the rest can figure out how everything works would be just wrong.

Anonymous said...

Hey Gnomy,

I am always fascinated how fast you catch up in your observations with the "veterans". It took me five years to figure that out and you are playing for how long now?

This is something I argue about with Tesh back and forth. While he stays in the "I am an artist and only want my work paid" (which is real noble, but ...), the customer and tradesman in me tries to convince him, that there is a better market for him: you and me.

Offering premium services is a bit tricky, I would rather consider adapting a game to the needs of a maturer audience.

For the purpose of demonstration, let me design a Pink WoW or gnome copy of WoW.
It the same game, but with a different connotation.

You love smart choice of skills, rather than constantly mashing buttons. Using counterspell in the right situation or activating your fire shield before an explosion, makes you smile.
In other words, you would be more entertained by having to use all your skills, than being reduced to a few and instead constantly running around.

You love good company and chose your words, therefore you would welcome a stricter forum and chat moderation.
You would focus GM support on quality rather than quantity.

Compared to a Teenager, who changes his guild according to their progression, you stick to the same people for years.

Friendship and social contacts do matter for you, so you are interested in real teamwork. For instance you would love a way to work with other classes as a team in skills, not just moving and buffing.
For instance if your beloved gnome warlock and you, could time your spells in a way that they would have a bigger impact (1+1=2,2) you two would die on laughing.

To borrow on of Spinks arguments, you would most certainly love a way to support a friend who has not that much time. Transfer Experience, or giving him Heirlooms or passing some of your gear over to him.
Believe it or not, we already gave to epic flying skills to our friends, just to make them keep up with us. Let's face it, middle agers are herd animals. The times, were we felt the need to prove ourselves are over.

I mean this is not rocket science. When I was 20, our clan meetings usually ended in a club. Nowadays our community meetings are held in brewery looking at pictures of each others offspring, or in a Beer garden looking over the countryside.

Long said short: I would improve the quality of the experience.


Jen said...

Kiseran, I'm not sure what you're getting at... Blizzard customer service is horrible? Seriously? I don't know if you're exaggerating or not, but I see Blizzard as far better than many other companies. The GMs (most, at least) are very helpful, but they can't multiply themselves. Do you know why you wait so much for replies? Because thousands of people ticket with things like "Hwo do I use missdirct???" and "My brother's cousin's cat jumped on the keyboard and deleted my pro lvl 56 DK RESTORE PLX". Because Blizzard CS actually does care about customers, they need to reply to these requests too, hence higher queue times.

gnomeaggedon.net said...

The average age of a Aussie gamer is 30 (which is a part of the current about introducing higher levels of ratings that 15+).

Listening to BoE Podcast the other day, I heard how Tempste spent about 2 hours on the phone due to a flat battery in her authenticator.

2 hours is a long time on hold - full stop.
2 hours on hold when calling the US from Australia - that's plain expensive.

If I was in her position and I could spend $10 to shorten that queue to 30 minutes... I'd pay it.

As for the kid gifting thing... Odin is constantly at me about buying this or that. If he played and wanted a my little pony... Well his birthday isn't that far away...

Kiseran said...

@Jen: Just because Blizzards customer service is about standard for an MMO doesn't mean it isn't still horrible. Imagine your computer breaks and you phone up the service company only to be held in the line for 7 hours straight. You would be furious, wouldn't you? Yet you suffer the same treatment by Blizzard ingame without a second thought because you never experienced anything better. And the argument that Blizzard has so many tickets doesn't count in my book.. If you take a look into their financial report, they are earning an obscene amount of money. Hiring several dozend more wouldn't hurt them at all, those support-guys are horribly underpaid anyways.

Jen said...

Well, I would class my computer breaking as much more serious than my character not being able to turn in a quest, or even more serious than not being able to log into a game.

It might be a cultural/mentality thing, though. I don't expect any level of CS, usually, because my country, frankly, sucks at that. Compared to what I'm used to (haven't played other MMOs btw, except for a month of Aion), Blizzard is awesome. If my computer actually broke and it was still under warranty, I'd have to grab it, take a bus for 30 mins, maybe stand in line at the service desk, drop it off and wait from a few days to a few weeks. Calling is usually an exercise in futility since people are rude and/or dumb and unhelpful.

However, whenever I tell this to my Western European and American friends, they're surprised, so I guess it's not the norm over there.

(And, fwiw, I would never call Blizzard at international rates because I think it's a waste of money. I'd just wait for a reply on e-mail/in-game. Maybe it's my patience... or maybe it's just because I hate phoning.)

We Fly Spitfires said...

As much as I hate it, companies will always try to create money-based divides so they can profit more. It's why we have first class travel and all of that nonense. I flew first class for the first time last year and it was incredibly classist, I felt like I was boarding the Titanic. MMOs are heading that way too, rewarding those that have the most money.

Anonymous said...

My dear Gordon,

it's not just the companies, it is us in general. We want different treatment, even if you go into a restaurant or a club.

Besides, you may also feel classicist on your sparkling pony ...


Markus said...

I certainly wouldn't pay for $25 US for a mount. I would prefer farming Tempest Keep or Auchindoun if I wanted a special mount (that turtle from fishing will one day be mine!).

As for special services, I would pay to have any new toon start at specific level (50, 60, 70 for example) instead of running through the same lowbie quests over and over. Why should DKs have all the fun? You could pick professions as well and also have them at an appropriate level.

Something else I would consider, even though age is hardly a measure of maturity, would be 30 and older servers. I am not sure if the demographic would allow that, but it might be something to consider.

I have been fortunate in that I have rarely ever needed a GM. The few times I have, the response was a tad slow, but all of my questions/issues were resolved, so paying for more efficient technical support is not something for me.

All we need to do now is package these ideas and see if we can get a meaningful response from Blizzard. Yeah....right. :)

Dorgol said...

I'm not sure what Blizzard could offer that I would be willing to spend real-life money on.

I have a starting point, though - I own all three Collector Editions for WoW. I gladly paid an extra $30 because I felt the extra content was enough: CD Soundtrack, Art Book, in-game item, plus extras (a cloth map in Classic, TCG cards in TBC, Mousepad in WotLK).

Now they put up a single in-game item for 75% of what I paid for all that? No thanks.

If these new in-game pets were $5, I'd be tempted. If the mount was $15, I'd be tempted. But Blizzard is simply pricing the current items higher than I'm willing to pay.

I had a conversation with my wife about the mount when it was released. In the middle of this I mentioned the two plushy items - and she thought I should buy one for my daughter. Until I mentioned the $25 price tag. Again, had they been $15 (maybe $20) I would have bought one.

Hugmenot said...

I agree with Spinks on two points:

I would pay for heirloom gear that I could gift to a friend.

I would definitely pay for extra character slots on a server.

Larísa said...

: yeah, I kind of like the flat-fee equalitarian way they used to have too. There is something very relaxing about all-inclusive-services, where you don’t have to take decisions all the time or receive all sorts of marketing offers. You pay and you get it all and don’t have to think about it. But I’m afraid they’ve already left that model and if they do, they could as well offer us some useful stuff-

I too would love to see a better tech support as a basic service but look at the rest of the world… it’s just the same. If you want better support you pay extra to bypass the queues. Why not in wow?

: Extra payment to get access clean chat channels, sure. I could sign on that.

: account insurance! Brilliant! And yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if the new AH offline interface would be charged somehow.

@Mycroft: oh yes! An RP server with real, active GM participating. I’d pay extra for that.

: solid ideas! Faster queues for your dps:ers was in my mind, but I forgot about it when I put together the post. And I’d SO pay extra for added content such as one-man instances.

@Chewy: Haha… ”Hire-a-demonic-GM-who-always-is-on-your-side”? GMs that take bribes…I can see the attraction in it, even though I don’t think it’s realistic (or good forr the game.)

: Well… yeah… I like equality too. But if I’d list what I’d be prepared to pay for I’d definitely prefer a VIP customer service to a sparkling pony.

@Usiel: Well, I’ve played since the beginning of 2007, so a little bit more than three years now.

I think you nail the wishes of an older player. At least I recognise myself very well.

@Jen: My experience is so-and-so tbh. I don’t say that it’s too low for a basic level. But I’d definitely be prepared to pay for a premium service in that aspect.

: Oh… Odin’s started to play WoW?

@We Fly Spitfires: yeah. I think they’re heading that way and why not help them to make up good services rather than selling stupid ponies?

@Markus: Pay extra for +30 servers? Maybe. I doubt it would work though – how are you supposed to check up on people?

Responses from Blizzard? Not very likely… But I’m playing with the thought to start posting some of my stuff at the forum they pointed me to for fancreations. Just to see if they bother to read that forum…. Haven’t made up my mind though.

@Dorgol: funny enough the price tag doesn't matter that much to me about the pony. It's more a lack of desire. If I was a mount collector I guess I'd feel the urge though.

Anonymous said...

Short and sweet.

You wanna a sparklie pony? Go for it. Me? Nah, I'm more pragmatic (that's a fancy word for cheap).

What I will do, however, is give my next two (2) paychecks to have a GM monitor our raids and, upon occurence, enter God-mode and move the goddam melee* out of the purple stuff saving us a wipe.

*I'm a founding member of the as-yet-created group, "Save the Ranged," a non-denominational, highly petulant group of ranged DpS existing for the sole purpose of clearing up confusion about the ranged class's inability to stay out of the bad stuff.


Hatch said...

Larisa, I love the idea of a more expensive "premium" server. More present GMs would be nice, but I'd also pay top dollar for an "adults only" server if they could work out the logistics well enough to keep children from conning their way onto it.

Other things I'd pay for? More combat animations. The ability to influence the odds of a dungeon drop for my group (I would like to see Deathbringer's Will more than once in 3 months of clearing Saurfang every week, thank you very much). The ability to do all 7 of my dungeon weeklies on the same day rather than having to log in every day. Cool graphical effects on my character that are independent of gear. That paid developer attention you talked about.

Nosnum said...

I have no problem with the mount or pet sales as they really don't have any game impact. I won't buy one because my mount goes just as fast and I don't need to look pretty. However, I have a creeping sensation on the back of my neck that Blizzard is making SO much money from them that they might consider dabbling in other purchasable items that could potentially impact gameplay. Would someone pay $100 for a sweet weapon or piece of armor? You know they would - if I see Blizz go that route, I think I'd hang up my WoW cleats...

HP said...

I fell prey to the sparkly pony but I'm super happy with it. I guess it's just your own personal choice =X

I just hope it doesn't devolve into selling gear for money and what not.

Chewy said...

The most obvious one I forgot yesterday. I'll pay more for a server which is guaranteed to be free from gold sellers.

Dun said...

just give me more charslots...

i would pay 10€ or even 20€ for one more...

Dorgol said...

@Larisa - "the price tag doesn't matter ... It's more a lack of desire. If I was a mount collector I guess I'd feel the urge though."

I am a mount (and pet) collector. I have 104 mounts and 106 pets. Even still the price is just a tad higher than I'm willing to pay for a single item.

Honestly, I think Blizzard is intentional with this. $25 isn't too expensive for MOST people, but it is enough to make them think about it before they press "Buy Now!".

If it were $3 for a pet and $10 for a mount we really would be seeing everyone with them.

As is they are popular enough to be seen (and make people ask "Where you get that!?!") but not so popular that you see ONLY these fancy items.

Tesh said...


"This is something I argue about with Tesh back and forth. While he stays in the "I am an artist and only want my work paid" (which is real noble, but ...), the customer and tradesman in me tries to convince him, that there is a better market for him: you and me."


I've argued for segmenting the market before. I do think it's a good idea, I just have a different notion of value as both a consumer and artist.

As a consumer, I'll pay for good content (say, Guild Wars... and I've argued many times for a similar single purchase WoW, which I'd buy in a heartbeat), but I detest paying for time. As an artist, I want to get paid for good work, not for good psychological manipulation. I'd never work for Zynga, for instance.

I do understand the marketing side, I just don't enjoy it. One marketing class I took in college was ridiculously easy, and I wound up earning in the top three (out of about 250) in a market simulation, earning well over $200 million when the average was around $1 million. I can work the markets; it's simple math and psychology. I'd just rather create something than market it, at least professionally.

Perhaps it would be a fun mental exercise to try to predict other Blizzard "value added services". Larisa, I think you have some great ideas, and it wouldn't surprise me to see some of them happen.

Still... I'd rather create new nooks and crannies in the world and then go explore them than find ways to monetize them. I find it soul-destroying to always be considering how to monetize my creativity. It also tends to warp my creations. I find that unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a few of the ideas:
1)more character slots (one of every class fills your max without bank toons or creating that new goblin/worgen you may want to try on your home server)
2)would definitely pay for either an age restricted server or some other way where I am not forced between turning off trade/general chat completely or having to watch immature language/jokes all the time while trying to sell/purchase.
3)single person dungeons sound interesting, but not sure how they could actually do that. If it was soloable by any class, it just doesn't seem like it would be the same or worth whatever rewards come out of it.
4)I agree with a previous poster - if they start selling items that affect gameplay, I would probably leave the game.

Strongly disagree with paying extra for shorter queues of any kind (especially the dps for randoms queue). If you play a dps class - like I do - you have to accept that they are not as in-demand. Buying your way to the front is basically stepping all over people that can't afford that luxury.

as an aside - I have long been the proponent of a little added customzation - at least on crafted gear. i.e. I think tailors should be able to decide what color something they make is (or at least a couple of choices)...and I also think they should get the option to make something as a vest or a robe - again, just a preference. Don't nevessarily think that should be a paid service though.

Larísa said...

@Hatch: you’re asking for really game-changing stuff… Tbh I guess it’s something I too would be prepare to pay for, however if I’d wan’t to SEE it is a different matter. I think it would be game breaking, so no thanks.

@Nosnum: regardless of if they’ll continue down a slope or not you can count on that they’ll make more sparkling-mounts-sort of things. And I’d frankly rather get more instances.

@Tesh: you're a true artist! The harsh truth for you as well as for authors, actors, musicians etc is though that you have to find someone willing to pay for your work... or marry rich.
This said I don't advocate that the marketing department is allowed to control and dictate everything that is done within the business. It might turn into something too polished and soulless that the audience will look through and turn their backs to in the end, tearing down the credibility you have built up with so much effort.

: I too would love to be able to customize the looks of my gear but it would really bug me a lot if they charged me RL money for it.