Cosmetic Armor: Style Analysis, Target Audience, and Store Suggestions

Transmog has been a hit since it launched in Patch 4.3, and it seemed inevitable that armor would eventually find its way to the Blizzard Store, as it finally did last week.

My opinions have gone back and forth on the store helms over the past week. Initially I thought that adding more transmog flexibility was a great idea, then I balked at the prices announced on Tuesday. However, after seeing so many users enthusiastically upload detailed screenshots to Wowhead, I’m thinking that the items have a targeted niche, and I’m just not one of the people intended to  purchase these items.

I want to look at why these helm designs were possibly chosen, explain why I’m not the target audience, and suggest some potential Blizzard Store armor for the future.

Blizzard Store Helm Designs

Helms occupy an interesting place in transmog. It’s one of two slots players can hide, meaning that not everyone will utilize helm transmog in the first place. In addition, players are split between wanting a fantastically-themed helm that covers their faces, or one that leaves hairstyles and facial markings visible. Other times players get attached to a particular helm, such as how many leather-users are with the Cursed Vision of Sargeras.

For Blizzard to release helms people feel compelled to buy from the Blizzard Store, Blizzard’s designs have to fill a noticeable transmog void. With the option to hide helm graphics, new transmog options have to be pretty compelling.

Looking over Wowhead transmog set comments, these three new helms work very well on popular BoE sets that were missing matching helms. (Many vanilla BoE sets did not have matching helms and shoulders.) They also match popular tier sets for outspoken transmog classes–Death Knights and Paladins are very vocal, leaving many comments about matching accessories and weapons on their set pages.

375057The Crown of Eternal Winter is a blue crown that periodically glows and covers the user’s face with a skull. A bit too garish for my tastes, but it’s appealed to many players that are Death Knights or enjoy a frosty theme. Looking at the Blizzard preview images, two are of priest T6 and two images are of plate sets. The Wowhead submissions have overwhelmingly been plate sets–the T11 Magma Plated set has shown up at least five times, but Death Knight Tier 10, Tier 8, and Tier 13 has also shown up as well. The Magma Plated set may be especially popular because most of the set has lookalike items any plate user can farm up. There’s also some representation among frost mages, with Tier 3 and Tier 4 transmog, and rogues using old tier sets with blue and black accents.

A common theme in these screenshots is that wearing the Crown of Eternal Winter leaves the player’s face more exposed than the completely hooded helms intended for many of these sets. Creating a helm that both has a cool animation and leaves the user’s face exposed may win over some transmoggers who did not farm up a set’s bulky matching helm.

375243

The helm also appeals to a subset of users who enjoy the appearance of frost resistance gear, which is an elite transmog look since there’s no way to learn recipes for these sets anymore (save for chests/boots and select duplicate quest rewards). I’ve noted in the past that the Naxxramas Plate set has a large number of comments for a set that’s nearly impossible to get, indicating players really like neon blue gear. This helm certainly fits that description, and the Crown’s page has submissions from users wearing full cloth, leather, and plate frost resistance gear–impressive that people have held onto those sets for years.

374929The Jewel of the Firelord, a set of fiery horns with golden glowing eyes, seems to appeal to Paladins, players using expensive BoE sets missing helms like Blood Knight Mail or Glorious Plate, and specs with natural affinities towards fire, like Fire Mages and Destro Warlocks. Paladins are one of the most vocal transmog classes–check out the comments on Judgement or Lightbringer pages. Many of their sets feature gold accents, and for players who dislike bulky plate helms, this works as  a lighter alternative.

Gold is also a very versatile color, as this fiery helm can both match sets that are primarily gold, as well as unrelated sets that simply have gold metallic accents. There’s even a few uploaded screenshots of completely bland gear with this fiery helm serving as the only colorful accent.

The user screenshots for this helm include a large number of mail sets, unlike the other two helms. The sets these match are generally expensive BoEs–Radiant, Masterwork, Magnificent, Glimmering Mail. The store helm seems to be building off of the popularity of Ragnaros’ Crown of Destruction serving as a fiery non-set conversation piece, except the color scheme is geared towards yellow instead of orange sets.

375000

Similar to how frost mages used the Crown of Eternal Winter, there’s pictures of the Jewel of the Firelord using Warlock sets–Tier 10, Tier 6, and Tier 5–as well as Mage Tier 5. These sets also got accessorized with fiery spell effects in screenshots.

Another observation is that players really went out of their way to make creative screenshots for this helm, more so than the other two. Players have posed with fiery mounts, core hound pets, and Ragnaros and lava in the background. The Crown of Eternal Winter does have some Arthas-themed screenshots, but there’s less variation in the screenshot creativity.

374889The Hood of Hungering Darkness has noticeably less comments and submissions. Perhaps this is due to its face-hiding model, which doesn’t appeal to all players and too-closely resembles bulky helms already designed to match tier. The Blizzard Store images pair this helm with a Sunwell PvP set, cloth fire resistance, Warrior Tier 13, and Wrath questing plate. However, the plate sets already come with bulky helms, so this may look too similar to existing models. The cloth fire resistance set doesn’t really have a matching helm though, so perhaps it was hoped matching fire resistance gear would be as popular as the Crown was for matching frost resistance gear, and users do seem excited by my suggestion to pair this helm with the plate fire resistance set.

This helm overall may have slightly more limited use, but based on user submissions, it’s already been paired with both fire resistance gear and BoE transmog sets, both of which are missing helms.

Transmog: Not Like Other WoW Collections

This next part of the blog I originally wrote before analyzing the Wowhead screenshots above. After reflecting on it, I’ve modified this part slightly to get across that I’m probably not the targeted audience for these helms, not that the helms were poorly calculated–because based on user submissions, people are really enjoying them, both new players who just started transmogging, and older players that had expensive items and TCG tabards saved up.

For long-time collectors like myself, transmog is a new fun collecting game, but it’s different from typical WoW collecting in one important way–there’s no shared endpoint. You don’t collect transmog gear to add to a trackable collection total, like mounts or pets. Finishing a set is satisfying on your own creative terms, instead of comparing your progress to a measurable subset of achievements.

Even participating in the traditional collecting model for mounts, pets, and achievements, it’s easy to get choosier as time goes on. At this point, if someone gave me $100 and said I could only spend it on WoW mounts, I would prefer to spend it on a single TCG mount like the Ghastly Charger, instead of four Blizzard Store mounts at $25 each. My collection is at a point where I rotate between the rare mounts I have and don’t feel compelled to rush and acquire the “low-hanging fruit” mounts simply to increase my quantity. After so many years playing WoW, increasing my collection’s quantity isn’t compelling enough of a reason by itself. This is one reason why I’m not going to rush out and buy the three extra helms simply for additional transmog options.

For players who choose sets to compliment a particular meaningful item or express a RP character concept (beyond fire/frost specs), these helms probably won’t be an essential purchase. The BoA status on the helms is nice, but people who devote effort into transmogging all of their alts usually enjoy variation and get tired of the identical heirloom look.

Transmog gear is also one of the few things in WoW that can parallel real life a bit. While much of WoW is pure escapism, transmog is more realistic. Slaying dragons, riding dragons, summoning cute dragons as battle pets–none of that is happening in real life. Transmog is essentially a glorified shopping experience though, where you can buy as many clothes as you like, without having to worry about economics, body image, annoying magazines, or trends.

With transmog, your character’s persona is literally their costume. It’s both addictive and freeing to know that you’re still being judged on your appearance, but you’re completely in control of it in Azeroth. Paying money for helms throws a bit of a wrench in this–it’s not a huge issue with three helms, but if there were a wider variety of high-quality store helms available, people may feel their creativity tread upon.

While I quickly shelled out $25 for the Celestial Steed since it was a fantastical mount, spending $15 on an in-game hat reminds me, as a fashion enthusiast, that I could spend that money towards an actual real-life accessory I’d get much more use out of. And when I think about $45 for three hats vs some dresses on sale…it’s not a hard choice at all.

Potential Future Store Items

182124To potentially get more collectors like me engaged with in-game armor, I think selling tabards would be a good development. While tabards did get some gorgeous artwork in Mists of Pandaria, they’re mostly tied to reputation grinds not every player wants to do, like the August Celestials Tabard. There are fewer tabards than there are helms currently: 108 tabards to over 3700 helms. There’s a far greater likelihood that fashion-conscious players are lacking a perfect tabard than they are a helm.

There are currently some luxury tabards like Tabard of Frost, which was discontinued some years ago when the WoW TCG underwent some changes. These items are very expensive, as no new loot codes are being generated, and they are also BoP, so old-time players can’t transfer this tabard to new characters. Adding artistic BoA tabards could have a potential market, as there are so few tabard options, both in-game and via the TCG.

Players have demonstrated they’ve cared about in-game tabards as well. The Tabard of the Scarlet Crusade has over 300 comments, and many player were sad to see it temporarily vanish when the Scarlet instances were revamped in Mists of Pandaria. Playing back in vanilla, it was always exciting to see it drop, and finally getting enough good gear to solo the instance at 60 for the tabard was a big deal. The tabard had a pretty basic design, but players liked it since dungeon tabards were novel and it had cool lore behind it.

The Tabard of the Lightbringer has always been one of the most sought-after rewards from Shadowmourne, currently averaging 150,000g on the AH. It’s dear to many players, especially Paladins, who love that it looks like the Tabard of the Silver Hand. It also has a special Use effect–it encases the player in glowing light.

Very few tabards have on use affects, and even fewer have on use vanity effects, so if Blizzard Store tabards could be both BoA and include special effects, that would be amazing. Relating the tabards to lore would be a good hook–in addition to the two lore-base tabards mentioned above, the Illidari tabards are also very popular, which are from a lore-filled questline.

I personally might be tempted to buy some demon-hunter themed accessories if the Blizzard Store eventually offered them. This may seem too much of a niche, but the TCG has a good number of Illidan-themed items (Path of Illidan, Demon Hunter’s Aspect, Dark Portal Hearthstone, etc) and Blizzard has plans to sell more vanity items in the future like the Seesaw and Iron Hitching Post. In the meantime, it appears the helms have been encouraging users to transmog more, in spite of my early worries.

One thought on “Cosmetic Armor: Style Analysis, Target Audience, and Store Suggestions

  1. As an avid transmogger, I admit I wasn’t interested in these items; aside from costing money, they’re really garish and are helms.

    Interesting points, though. You’re right about them not obscuring faces or looking chunky like most helms. The fact that they just happen to conveniently match popular sets without good helms is very interesting. Suddenly makes a lot more sense that they go for helms – because there aren’t many good ones, rather than in spite of.

    Still can’t see why people would want to put fiery red horns on their otherwise normal Human/Elf/Spacegoat/Greenskin, but I suppose the difference in tastes is half the draw of transmog.

    Agree they should make some tabards. It’s very rare that I find any that add to a transmog set; if they’ve managed it with helms, then tabards will likely work too. Especially since tabards are already quite popular in spite of the lack of choice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *