The Guardian Cub Experiment, One Year Later

The Guardian Cub’s release in November of 2011 was met with mixed reception – a pet that you could buy on the Blizzard Store with real world currency and sell to other players in-game for gold provided a unique opportunity for players. Forums and comment threads were ablaze: was it the gateway to real-money trade in WoW? Could it combat security concerns by decreasing black market gold buying? Would it change the pet store forever?

The answer to these questions seems to be “probably not”.

The experiment of the Guardian Cub was straightforward – Blizzard released the pet to test the water. Would players actually buy the pet in order to sell it for gold in game? Would this, in turn, decrease black market activity for gold buying and, by extension, security issues and botting?

While players don’t have access to the numbers, there doesn’t seem to be any fewer botters. If anything, the increased popularity of the game brought on by the expansion has heralded new waves of bots: people flying in Pandaria before level 90 while gathering, paladins farming Halls of Lightning, and persistent PvP bots. As for black market gold trade and security threats, there are plenty of spammers in trade chat still phishing for people to buy TCG mounts outside of the game and shady websites where you can buy gold.

The Undermine Journal shows 400-800 Guardian Cubs being sold across US and EU realms at any one time in the past year for an average of 7000-10000 gold (about 1,000 gold per dollar). We don’t have any way to know how many of these actually sold, but I really wonder how many players who ever wanted a Guardiatn Cub or other older Blizzard store pets haven’t bought one yet, especially with account-wide pets giving it to all of your characters (despite what the outdated Blizzard page says about the pet).

Both players and Blizzard learned a lot in the past year about real-money trade: between Diablo III and its unique real-money auction house and the Guardian Cub, it is clearly an area that Blizzard is exploring. It would be great to see the Guardian Cub go account-wide to mesh well with the new pet journal, and I think most people’s fears about the cub were assuaged by the lack of a RMT doomsday effect on the auction houses. Personally, I hope to see more of these Guardian Cub-style tradable pets in the future and older Blizzard Store Pets retrofitted to the tradable system.