I very rarely write about the Cartel Market on here. Even though people frequently complain that Bioware spends too many resources on it (while simultaneously complaining that not enough resources are spent on filling the Cartel packs with new and unique item models, because MMO players are nothing if not conflicted), I can tell you from experience that it's very easy to play the game very intensely without ever even looking at the shop. It's just not needed. Maybe things are different if you are always on the lookout for the newest fashion items, but that's not me.
However, yesterday a particular bit of controversy caught my eye. The Unstable Arbiter's Lightsaber (aka the "Kylo Ren Lookalike Lightsaber") is having a limited time stint on the Cartel Market as a direct sale item. While I have no interest in it myself, that seemed nice to me. Previously it was only available as an ultra rare drop from Cartel packs, and people are always complaining about those and saying that they just want to be able to buy the highly sought-after items directly, even if they were expensive. So Bioware has decided to finally give people what they want, at least as an experiment. That's great, right?
Apparently not, because... the price! 7600 Cartel Coins come in at about $60 - I haven't done the maths for myself, but considering the prices of different CC bundles, that seems about right.
Now, don't get me wrong, I see nothing wrong with people saying that they find this too expensive for what it is. But the sheer outrage accompanying the sentiment surprises me. I happened to click on my general chat tab last night just to be greeted by someone saying that this makes them so angry with EA, they hope that someone bombs their offices. Yeah.
People are treating this like some sort of insult or sign of moral failing and I just don't see why. We're not talking about food, medication or some other necessity here, but cosmetic fluff in a video game. The real world is full of stuff like this. You can buy a handbag for $30 or for $3000, without gaining any functionality, and yet I don't see anyone raging that Chanel hangbags are a thing that exists. People like to show off their wealth; it's a thing.
"But that's more expensive than many fully-priced other games!" Yes, and instead of buying a Chanel handbag you could buy a used car instead, but do you want to? If you are playing a lot of different games and spending money on a lot of different games, then spending $60 on a single vanity item is probably not an attractive proposition to you. But many MMO players aren't gamers in the traditional sense who buy lots of new releases every month. If SWTOR is all you're playing, you're having a good time with it and are happy to support it financially, this offer might not seem quite so crazy after all.
I suppose being the one to raise the prices on the market compared to competitors might cast any dev in a bad light, and I can't think of any other Western MMO that currently charges this much for a single cosmetic item in their cash shop. Though that does remind me of previous PR disasters related to expensive cash shop items.
Who could forget EVE Online's "Monoclegate", which was enough to earn the word monocle a special Urban Dictionary entry? Though from what I gathered from reading Wilhelm's blog, that seemed to be less about the item's mere existence and more about CCP threatening to drastically change the game's direction, of which the monocle was but a symptom. Or how about LOTRO's "hobby horse" from 2012? Though again, looking back at that now the annoyance seemed to stem less from the existence of something that expensive and more from it just not being a very desirable item.
One thing that makes the Unstable Arbiter's Lightsaber different is that it's not a new item, but something that has been around for a while and actually has a real-world value already. Sure, you can't officially trade real money for credits directly, but you can buy Cartel Coins, buy something from the shop and sell it on the GTN. Looking at the GTN on TRE this morning, I saw Unstable Lightsabers going for about sixty million credits. I compared this to the sale prices of popular cash shop items to re-sell, such as hypercrates and character boosts, and what do you know, you would have to buy and sell about 7000+ CC worth of stuff to earn those sixty million. So basically, people were already able to buy the item for that amount if they wanted, it's just that the supply was limited. But hey, evil Bioware for giving people more of a popular thing I guess. I hope it goes well for them.