A couple of news items about the MMORPG World of Warcraft got my attention this week. In their own way, each item is further indication that electronic gaming in general, and WoW in particular, are mainstream leisure activities. And by mainstream, I don't mean everyone is participating, I mean games and the jargon and the peculiar activities associated with playing them are now part of the culture. Almost everyone knows "three strikes and you are out" is a baseball reference. As the vocabulary of games gets incorporated into common culture, the majority of people will know (and possibly do know) what "frag" means.
One of the events that added weight to my thesis this week was the announcement that you can now apply for a World of Warcraft affinity credit card. The card comes complete with art from the game and points can be redeemed for credit toward the monthly game subscription. As Yoghurt said in the movie Space Balls: Merchandising!
The other event is probably slightly embarrassing for Blizzard, the developers of World of Warcraft. For the past few weeks, the players of World of Warcraft have been plagued by in-game whisper spam. In other words, some enterprising souls have figured out a way to send private messages to thousands of players at the same time advertising services such as game money exchange for real money and character leveling. That's right for a not so small fee, some one in a small Southeast Asian nation will level your character for you. Why anyone would want that is beyond me, but the fact that these entrepreneurs are willing to risk account bans, and possible legal action to advertise in this way indicates that there is money to be made that makes it worth the risk.
Blizzard is working to block the spammers and third-party developers have already begun offering their own solutions – cha-ching.
Nothing indicates mainstream like the ability for somebody not into the activity to make a buck. Like the companies that sell overpriced skis, skateboards, or mountain bikes, the entrepreneurs have learned that people in most hobbies spend more money their chosen activity then they probably should. Mass marketing of items and services you don't really need means your hobby has achieved a certain status; a status that can be exploited to make a profit. Merchandising!