Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mr. T in World of Warcraft: Really!?!

Earlier this month, Blizzard unveiled the first in a new series of World of Warcraft commercials featuring the largely irrelevant Mr. T. Feel free to check out the commercial below:

The second commercial was unveiled just two days ago and is already circulating on around the airwaves. Here it is:

Aside from being relatively silly and based entirely on another World of Warcraft commercial which aired nearly two years ago (check it out below), the Mr. T ads are relatively harmless.

Where things get bizarre, however, is the in game impact of Blizzard's latest advertising campaign. To coincide with the release of the first commercial, Blizzard introduced a new item to the World of Warcraft: the Mohawk Grenade. The Grenades can be obtained from NPCs positioned in Azeroth's starter areas. Anyone caught in the blast radius of one of these grenades will find themselves looking a bit like a college mascot wearing a giant "Nightelf Mowhawk" head.

The creation of the Mohawk Grenade is a bit of an odd move for Blizzard. Obviously, it is not World of Warcraft's first in game promotion. I am sure we all remember battling Mountain Dew powered robots not too long ago. What sets the Mohawk campaign apart, however, is that the promotion is for World of Warcraft itself. An in game promotion only reaches consumers who have already purchased Blizzard's product. Why Blizzard would devote its limited resources towards such a project I do not know.

The Mohawk Grenade is also another indication of Blizzard's increasing commercialization of Azeroth through both meta-game promotions and micro-transactions. It began with paid "character services" such as name changes and paid transfers, and continues with race changes, faction changes, and likely eventually class changes. Even more marked is the recent addition of purchasable in game pets including the Pandaren Monk and Lil' KT.

Most have speculated, and rightfully so, that most of these changes are the result of the Blizzard - Activision merge and "greedy Activision's" desire to squeeze every possible cent out of World of Warcraft. If that is the case, no one can really fault Activision for attempting to maximize their profit. It is a business after all. One does have to wonder though if at some point, the commercialization of Azeroth will cross a line and the increased micro transactional revenue will be offset by the attrition of an increasingly alienated player base. I guess only time will tell. In the meantime, however, Mr. T's Nightelf Mohawks have taken root in Azeroth, like it or lump it.

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