Next to a few arbitrary sources even wowinsider has recently reported that there is some coding in our beloved wow that would suggest blizzard is interested in a form of 'paid' customization to allow people to somehow customize their characters for a price.
And frankly I am having mixed feelings about this.
On the one hand I don't really have any significant problems with it, if you want to dish out 5 bucks to get a an aura that envelops you in blue smoke while you walk or if you want to dish out whatever amount it will be to leave glowing footsteps behind then more power to you (I might even go for something like that).
The fun will probably end when you cross the line from something that is cosmetic to something that actually has an impact in the game i.e. that blue aura also giving +100 spell power.
After all, what happens if you can buy something that is better than what's normally available in game? Or worse: What if you can buy something that gives some kind of +attributes that doesn't take up an item slot? Or if for a measly 5 bucks you could buy a level or maybe a chunk of honor?
Would it change the face of high-end raiding to exclude people that haven't paid up to get their spiffy enhancements via the pay to customize scheme?
Would refusal to 'buy' stuff from the blizzard store result in you falling further and further behind in gear/effectiveness and thus cost you your raid/arena slot?
I would much prefer customization options of a cosmetic nature. A way to re-color ugly armor, to add a nice glow to your boots, get a nifty aura, a pet or a mount even maybe but nothing that will really make a difference when you're in an instance.
Even the ability to transfer stats off of one item to another would be a welcome addition so that everyone sooner or later can look the way they want. Essentially that would mean you could transfer the stats from your headpiece to a random other headpiece of your choice destroying your original headpiece in the proces.
So is blizzard well on it's way to becoming it's own gold-seller / power levelling service with additional perks and none of the legal issues for those customers that are willing to dish it out?
Will the end of Wrath be heralded not by the arrival of a new expansion or a new game but by a blizzard sponsored 'recruit a friend and gift them a lvl 80 dk free'?
How likely or unlikely is that? The most recent recruit a friend that has spawned more multi-boxers than anything else is a good sign of how these schemes can impact a game without changing the net effect for blizzard. Blizzard wanted to sell more accounts via recruit a friend and they succeeded...
Essentially blizzard sold us the ability to get more xp in a shorter time and the ability to grant levels to other characters for the price of an account or two. How far is that away from just plainly selling us gold / levels or items alike?
What is annoying here is not so much that people would have the ability to buy things they wanted, even the potential impact on the economy is only lingering in the back of my head (rampant inflation) but that there's absolutely no way to recognize people that purchase vs people that have played for their rewards.
The nightmare scenario would be to walk into a 5-man pug. Look at their gear, reasonably expect to succeed and then completely and utterly fail because the hunter doesn't know how to chain trap, the mage draws aggro on every pull, the level 80 fully epiced out shaman 'forgot' to do his totem quests and the pally healer only uses holy shock to heal because he likes instants and still uses his spellbook to cast spells from.
Be that as it may you have to be careful with features like this. While I am sure blizzard will make a nice chunk of cash off of it (and rightfully so) I do have my reservations when it comes to changes that can potentially impact how the game is played and how people act in it.