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Why an in-game backpack has World of Warcraft fans fuming

It’s more than just a backpack

World of Warcraft - a selection of players stand and pose with exclusive in-game gear equipped. Blizzard Entertainment
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

In World of Warcraft, one of the biggest sources of content is acquiring new gear for your character. Players can complete new content, search the world, run old raids, and craft gear, then spend hours in the transmogrification system to make sure that their hero looks as cool as possible. For many players, this means that sets like endgame raid gear are highly treasured. So why are fans so upset over the addition of an in-game backpack?

This backpack is one of the rewards for the overhauled Recruit A Friend system. If players get their friends to play World of Warcraft, and pay for a subscription, the player will earn exclusive rewards that include the aforementioned backpack, a plane mount, a two-seated camel mount, and other desert explorer–themed rewards. For the most part, this isn’t surprising, and mirrors similar rewards from past Recruit A Friend initiatives.

One item in particular has caused a significant amount of controversy, however, and that’s the backpack.

World of Warcraft fans have wanted more character customization for years now. The game struggles to give players as much creative freedom as competitors like Final Fantasy XIV. While there are countless ways to look like an epic hero or scheming villain, many players want more humble ways to express their individuality: more scars, the ability to wear glasses, more hairstyles and colors, and, of course... non-cape back items, like backpacks.

One of the most popular changes in Battle for Azeroth was the ability for players to hide pieces of gear so that they could show off tattoos or look more streamlined. People take character customization very seriously, and there’s now a way to get a much requested piece of gear ... if players recruit their friends.

Of course, fans have already realized there’s a way they can game the system. By setting up new accounts, and spending in-game gold (or real money) on game time, they can funnel the new rewards into their main account. However, this has a very real cost — nearly two million gold worth of tokens, or in the neighborhood of $200.

Something that adds to the frustration is that there’s already a profession that could find desert-themed cosmetics: archaeology. Players are frustrated that despite a plausible in-game way to earn these rewards, they remain exclusive to this promotion.

It’s not clear whether the backpack will remain alluringly behind the Recruit A Friend wall, or whether more non-cape back cosmetics will come to World of Warcraft in the future. For now, the furor highlights a very real player concern: in a game like World of Warcraft, players should be able to express who they are through customization. Right now, that’s not entirely possible, and it will remain a point of frustration until major changes are made.