'World of Warcraft' makes an estimated $3.5 million from in-game horse

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The Independent Tech

Activision Blizzard, the company behind the super-popular online adventure game World of Warcraft, seems to be onto a winner with one of their latest pieces of additional content for the game.

The Celestial Steed, a flying horse that players' characters can ride around on, was introduced on April 15 along with another less expensive virtual pet called Lil'XT, and within just a few days over 140,000 players were queuing up to part with between $10 and $25 each in order to secure one.

Since the game was first released in 2004, it has undergone continued overhauls and seen the release of two expansion packs, owners of which recieved additional free content as time went on. Players pay for the basic game ($19.99), and expansion packs ($29.99-39.99). For Blizzard, regular income is accrued by means of a $19.99 monthly subscription.

While World of Warcraft players have enjoyed Blizzard's phased introduction of quests and environments to those expansion packs, the recent additions of pets and steeds that culminated in the Celestial Steed has made some fans uneasy about the direction the game may be taking - whether, as well as paying for the software and monthly subscriptions, players will need to buy equipment from Blizzard's store in order to progress.

Of course, video gaming is now no stranger to the notion of additional frivolous content being made available at extra cost. Standard downloadable content packages usually include extra areas or missions, but it is also possible to buy cosmetic upgrades in a wide variety of titles: Street Fighter IV, Army of Two: The 40th Day, and Everybody's Golf World Tour (aka Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds) are just a few to make the offer.

In terms of purchasable bonus items, Tiger Woods PGA Online Tour is a free-to-play online browser-based game in which further equipment and courses can be unlocked with a combination of in-game earnings and real currency. Yes, players can immediately maximize their character's attributes by purchasing a special costume - a conspicuous pink fluffy rabbit suit - but by the same token, other players will know those skills were bought, rather than earned.

At the other extreme, ZT Online is an extremely popular Chinese online role-playing game in the same genre as WoW, but in which it is almost impossible to make any sort of progress without buying extra gear and levels of skill from the game's storefront.

Perhaps the Celestial Steed will turn out to be one of World of Warcraft's very own rabbit suits. Either way, it's difficult to see Blizzard refusing to produce these sorts of items when so many existing subscribers are happy to pay top dollar for them.

Link: Find out what all the fuss is about by watching MMO-Champion.com's Celestial Steed preview on YouTube.com.

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