Heroes Of The Storm Finally Releases Elusive Vulture Mount…For A High Price

Heroes Of The Storm Finally Releases Elusive Vulture Mount…For A High Price

There’s been a running joke among Heroes of the Storm players about what happened to the snazzy-looking Vulture mount. Blizzard announced it in September, but never released it. Did it disappear? We wondered. Was it incurably bugged? Today Blizzard confirmed the mount does still exist, but getting it will cost you.

In a patch today for Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard added a new “recruit a friend” feature that’s designed to encourage current HOTS players to rope their friends into the game and, if all goes according to plan, keep them there. It works like this: you send your friend a “unique recruitment link”. If they accept your invitation, you can play together. Or separately! It doesn’t specify.

Heroes Of The Storm Finally Releases Elusive Vulture Mount...For A High Price

The one thing that matters, rewards-wise, is what level they get to.

If one of a player’s recruits makes it the level ten, the recruiter is rewarded with a special “Recruit A Friend Portrait”. If a player recruits four people to start playing HOTS and then all of them get to level 10, the player will get the vulture mount.

Heroes Of The Storm Finally Releases Elusive Vulture Mount...For A High Price

The recruitees, meanwhile, get Raynor and a five-day stimpack (think: experience and gold boost) for free from the start, and unlock Sylvanas, plus the Recruit A Friend portrait, at level 10.

Heroes Of The Storm Finally Releases Elusive Vulture Mount...For A High Price

I’m calling bullshit on this. Not the referral system in and of itself — I think it’s usually a good thing when big multiplayer games, especially ultra-competitive ones like MOBAs, encourage people to play together with friends. I’m not even necessarily opposed to the idea of incentivising referrals with in-game rewards. The part that is bullshit is the way that Blizzard is gating off people’s access to the vulture mount.

The vulture mount isn’t just a normal mount in Heroes of the Storm. HOTS and StarCraft fans have been asking for a mount based on the iconic Terran unit for at least as long as I’ve been playing the game. It’s one of those things that just seemed like a natural and perfect fit, given the fact that vultures already look like futuristic snowmobile type things. It was finally confirmed for HOTS at the end of September along with a number of other impressive priced character skins and mounts. I should note that all of the other skins and mounts in that announcement have since been released and made available for normal purchase.

Blizzard actually started teasing the release of the vulture mount two months ago when it added it to AI games, so players would end up seeing it in action if you played against bots. Reddit’s Trasko spotted on in the wild that was being ridden by King Leoric:

Heroes Of The Storm Finally Releases Elusive Vulture Mount...For A High Price

Unlike other exclusive and not-available-for-normal-purchase mounts like the Diablo III treasure goblin mount (which was only available for a limited time) or Zeratul’s “Void Speeder” ship from StarCraft (which was only available for people who pre-ordered the deluxe edition of Legacy of the Void), Blizzard never said that they were going to limit the availability of the vulture mount prior to today’s reveal. I don’t know what changed in the past two months since the mount was first shown off, but it’s clear what Blizzard is doing with it right now: they’re trying to use their player-base’s pre-existing interesting in something that’s genuinely unique and interesting to help kickstart a new initiative they just decided to launch.

I suppose that content-gating like this is as ubiquitous in the game industry as it is shitty. World of Warcraft has regularly used these sorts of exclusive in-game items to encourage WoW players to get their friends to sign up. Bungie has made specific Destiny emotes exclusive to players who recruit their friends.

Incentives like these are gross. Modern games already demand so much of their players’ time and energy that asking for their friends’ commitment as well is just kind of…inconsiderate. What makes it particularly frustrating in this instance is that convincing four people who haven’t already drunk the HOTS Kool Aid to start playing something as idiosyncratic and often off-putting to newcomers as a MOBA, let alone getting them all to level 10, is an extremely tall order.

You have to play a lot of games (your specific mileage may vary) to get to level 10; it’s a third of the way towards reaching level 30 and playing in the game’s ranked mode. As an exasperated fan already put it on the HOTS subreddit, it creates a system that’s begging to be gamed by people willing to create alternate “smurf” accounts.

And what about the diehard HOTS fans who’ve given more of their time and energy to this game than anyone else? I have several friends who’ve been playing HOTS since the alpha or beta, have played hundreds and even thousands more games than I have, who feel justifiably bummed that they’re losing out on a highly prized community simply because, at this point in their HOTS career, they have probably convinced everyone they possibly can to start playing the game.

HOTS director Dustin Browder did respond to one such player’s inquiry on Twitter saying that he’s “very sorry” to longtime players, but he ultimately believes that “it is good for the long-term health of the game.”

Encouraging people to play HOTS with friends is an admirable goal. But there are healthy and productive ways to do so, and then there are profoundly lame ways to monetise all that precious content. Closing off a particularly snazzy piece of content players already knew about and really, really wanted isn’t a particularly classy way to motivate people to do anything.

Blizzard has come up with smart ways to incentivise socialising before, like the way they have made people play with one another in order to unlock the new two-player hero Cho’Gall. The vulture mount just isn’t one of their brightest or most respectable ideas.

On a more positive note, today’s Heroes of the Storm patch did increase the free hero rotation to ten, and removed its annoying and unnecessary talent-gating, so there’s good to be found as well.


  • This seems like a whooooole bunch of whining and complaining to me, for very little reason. It’s just a mount- a cool one, yes, but that’s it. There’s a TONNE of cool mounts in-game that you can buy. Besides, why not celebrate the expanded hero pool or lack of talent gating, rather than giving it a footnote at the end of the article?

    It’s JUST a mount. There are plenty of others. Be grateful you can get this one for free by bringing in new friends, which benefits you ANYWAY since you have more people to play with, instead of spending real money on a shiny virtual pretty thing.

    • For a lot of people, it’s the only mount they ever gave a shit about, and it’s been implemented in a way they see as unobtainable without ‘cheating the system’ (i.e. making 4 new accounts).

      Edit: Also remember most of the people complaining about this are complaining because they’ve been playing since day 1 (which is why they have no friends left to recruit). For most of these people, they already have all/most of the heroes they want and are leveled past the talent gating nonsense. So they don’t care about these (clearly great) features because it just doesn’t affect them as much :/

      • Just create 4 new Battle net accounts get the invite; and level the 4 accounts to 10? Should be done in a weekend?

        Edit: For the record I agree with you; I think this move is retarded by Blizz but I for one am happy to flood their servers with fake Bnet accounts.

      • It’s a bit melodramatic to consider recruiting four friends who level to 10 as ‘unobtainable’.

        • I was talking about it from the perspective of the long-time hardcore players (Like Yannik writing this article). For them, the game’s been around a year (including alpha/beta). All thier friends are either already playing, have played and quit or are simply not interested in the game/MOBAs in general. So it isn’t realistically obtainable for those players (the most loyal players of the game) without creating “smurf” accounts which is bad for the game…

          Personally, I think I’m only level 10 myself. I’ve been playing since tech-alpha but none of my friends have ever had enough interest to play the game for more than 20 minutes (if at all) and playing alone becomes horrible really quick. While I personally would love the Vulture, I would be one of the many who would be forced to create 4 new accounts… and I honestly have no motivation for that at all.

          • I mentioned in a comment below, but there are plenty of ways to recruit new people to the game, they don’t have to be real life friends or anything. You’re not forced to create new accounts, just go jump in TAY and ask if anyone’s interested in participating, or other forums you frequent, or Steam groups. You don’t have to play with the people you recruit, they just have to click the link and play to 10.

    • Ditto that. Anything that expands a community is a good thing for everyone. And if the reward is actually worth the effort of finding new players outside your established HOTS friend group, GREAT! More players!

      This really did feel more like a forum post than an article

      • ‘As long as you invite people, it’s all good!’ is some pyramid/MLM logic. There are plenty of people for whom recruiting four more people at this stage in the game, is difficult, if not impossible. I have exactly four friends who play the game, and they’re the ones who were most likely to accept my invites back during the Beta. Finding four more who are on the fence, is frankly impossible for me, this late into the game’s cycle.

        I’m not entitled to this mount, but this is a big pain point for me. I’ve never really cared about mounts or skins, but the vulture is the first one that I desperately wanted, because I played BW religiously back in the day, and it was my favourite unit. I’d pay for this skin, but now there’s no way I can obtain it without smurfing.

        • Or ask people on the forums and website you frequent, or Steam groups, etc. Most of my friends aren’t gamers but I’ve never had difficulty getting rewards like this.

    • It honestly wouldn’t surprise me. They’ve already said they’re doing that with Cho’gall which seems dissapointing, I actually liked that ‘event’, seemed like a much better way to market for new players/community interaction.

  • I agree with this article. IMO Vulture mount should be sold like any other, with the possibility to get it free if you do the recruit a friend. The way they’ve done it is a scumbag move.

    • Last time I gave this game a shot in july i think it was, The queue for a game was 7 mins+ uninstalled it, not worth the time.

  • Oh, what a surprise… HOTS is failing and Blizzard gate something the community wants behind player recruitment. Just another example of the company saying “we know what’s best for you, we know what’s fun”

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