On December 3, World of Warcraft’s newest companion, Argi, hits the Battle.net store. Even better, for the month of December Blizzard will donate the entire “adoption fee” for every Argi sold to the American Red Cross to assist in their battle against Ebola. Make a new virtual friend and help people in need? That’s a win-win.
Argi herself looks kind of like a goat crossed with the genie from Aladdin, and Blizzard’s holiday-themed write-up emphasizes her cute, playful nature. She’s just one of over 650 whimsical creatures World of Warcraft aficionados can befriend; available pets run the gamut from baby dragons to steampunk robots to sentient balloons. There’s something out there for everyone.
This isn’t the first time that Blizzard’s sold a virtual pet for charity. Proceeds from the Cenarion Hatchling helped fund Red Cross efforts following the 2011 Japanese tsunami, while sales of the Alterac Brew Pup and Moonkin Hatchling raised over $800,000 for the Make-A-Wish foundation. All of these pets are still available in the Battle.net store, although the charity promotions have ended.
World of Warcraft’s pets, which are also known as companions, are one part mini-game and one part accessory. They’ll follow your character around as you travel Azeroth, but they can’t engage in combat. However, players can challenge each other to Pet Battles, a Pokemon-like side-game in which players pit teams of companions against one another. Victories make the player’s companions stronger and might result in a “pet charm,” a type of currency that can be exchanged for in-game items like collars and pet treats. Pet breeding was initially announced for World of Warcraft’s upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion, but the feature was seemingly dropped.
So-called “vanity items” like World of Warcraft’s companions are becoming increasingly popular in online games. While pets and outfits rarely offer any in-game advantages, many players enjoy tinkering with and personalizing their avatars. Vanity items are also extremely lucrative for publishers. Riot Games’ free-to-play League of Legends, for example, is expected to make over one billion dollars this year, mostly from the sale of outfits for its virtual characters.
Like most companions in the Battle.net store, Argi will cost United States citizens $10 (other prices vary by region). If you don’t play World of Warcraft but would still like to contribute to the American Red Cross, or if you just don’t want a blue goat following you around, you can always donate at their website.