Blizzard is once again courting controversy with the announcement of a brand new pet for World of Warcraft. The "titanically cute" Guardian Cub companion might seem harmless on the surface (it's a miniature version of the Guardian of the Titans, y'know), but behind the scenes, there's all sorts of dramas.
Firstly, there's one important difference between the Guardian Cub and most other pets - it's a one-time-only use item and will not Bind on Account, meaning that the Cub will belong to a character, rather than an account.
This is raising eyebrows across the World - with many feeling that it sets an unhealthy precedent. Will all pets now be attached to one character and one character only?
The other, major, thing which sets the Guardian Cub apart? It's tradable. Once you've purchased it, you can on-sell the little guy to other characters, in exchange for in-game gold or items - and you can set the price. Sticking with the "one-time-only" theme, once you've handed the Guardian Cub over, he will be added to the recipient's Companions list and cannot be re-traded again later. "Be sure to choose a master wisely," warns Blizzard.
Costing the now-standard US$10, but tradable for almost anything you'd like, the big-eyed Guardian Cub is being heralded as the Beginning of the End - opening the door to real money trading in World of Warcraft.
TCG Loot card mounts like the Spectral Tiger have been BoE for a long time now (since patch 3.2), and that was and continues to be well-received, and as far as we've been able to tell hasn't had any adverse impact to the game or economy - despite them selling for sometimes astronomical amounts of gold.
It's potentially worth noting that no new gold is being introduced into the game's economy with those mounts or the new Guardian Cub pet.
Our goal with the Guardian Cub is to provide alternative ways for players who don't want to spend real money to add these pets to their collection. Even though this has been available a while now with the TCG mounts, this is obviously a new kind of way to deliver Pet Store pets, and we're definitely interested to hear your feedback and ultimately see how this will play out.
The problem - the newest, cuddly resident of Azeroth - is set to arrive in the Pet Store in the coming weeks. Hopefully by then a little of the drama will have subsided, but our money's on "probably not".
Blizzard has also written up a handy mini-FAQ about the Guardian Cub, explaining how it works, how it may be used, and the hope that its introduction will actually reduce "scamming via trading for invalid pet codes".
The company also directly addresses the issue of "future Pet Store pets", which does not rule out the concept of tradable, one-time-only pets popping up in the future.
It's too early to say how we'll handle future Pet Store pets. We made this change in response to feedback from players looking for alternate ways to get the Pet Store pets, and we're always looking into other opportunities for improvement. We're interested in hearing what players think of the Guardian Cub when it launches, and we hope you'll have fun with this new flying friend.
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Jimmy the Geek