Blizzard loves giving more value to people who have more time. I hate everything about this, from the perspective where I am at as a gamer right now. Yes, this is a bit of a selfish rant (to be up front out of the gate)
Players will be able to purchase a WoW Token through the in-game Shop for real money, and then sell it on the Auction House for gold at the current market price. When a player buys a WoW Token from the Auction House for gold, the Token becomes Soulbound, and the player can then redeem it for 30 days of game time.
This rewards players who have a lot of playing time and who can focus on raising gold. In essence, they get to play for free, while the time starved still pay a sub fee. When I call for action on subscription fees to give a fair relative valuation on player’s time, this is the exact opposite. I’ve given WoW thousands of dollars over two accounts and two sub fees for years – and they want to reward people with extra time to spare with free subscription fees. And in this MMO welfare state it allows Blizzard to double dip. Sure, they are giving up a sub fee but they are gaining a lot of hits on money that goes otherwise to gold sellers (that is the black market to fix the broken WoW economy). Don’t solve the economy issues, profit from them! But all kidding aside, why do this now?
Q: Why are you introducing the WoW Token feature?
A: We’ve heard feedback from players that they’d be interested in a secure, legitimate way to acquire gold that doesn’t involve the use of unauthorized third-party gold-selling services—one of the primary sources of account compromises. We also know players who’ve amassed large amounts of gold through regular play would be interested in the ability to trade some to other players in exchange for game time, helping cover their subscription costs. The WoW Token feature gives players on both sides of the equation a secure and straightforward way to make that exchange. It opens up a new kind of payment option for World of Warcraft players, and we hope that it will also help lead to fewer account compromises and a better game experience overall.
Isn’t this just going to further inflate the economy, with easier access to more gold, and force/encourage more people to buy more tokens, to buy more gold? I’m sure they misread the feedback – it probably went more like “players want the WoW economy to stop getting crazy inflated due to gold sellers and bots”. It makes sense for them to drive more profits, but please don’t try to tell anyone this is from player demand. This is a smart, very profitable initiative. If you really want to give players more payment options and flexibility, try some of these:
- Charitable contribution for game time – this could be via humble bundle or any choice. Make a $10 donation to the Red Cross for 30 days game time
- Game time for new player mentoring or community lead initiatives – this strengthens the community and makes it more likely new players become long term (and subscribing) players
- Limited time / Limited access accounts – players can’t enjoy all WoW has to offer because of busy life and schedules? Here is a WoW-Lite account for half the price. No Mythic raids for you (or other minor access barriers), but still, you can quest, to LFR, talk to friends, etc. If you need access to the top game modes you will have to upgrade though.
- A new, rental server model that I talked about in 2008
There are others too if WoW truly wanted to support different payment types and support players with access to the game.
I always make these arguments and then feel silly in some ways because it’s definitely not about the money. It has a lot to do with principles and I know principles don’t pay bills. I just want MMO companies to recognize that their empires were built by people investing time and money into them, and consider rewarding loyal customers. The value / sub / time proposition has been debated to death but I have tried to stay consistent on how I view it. It needs to feel right to me to make a purchase. I haven’t even done my expansion tour of WoD yet (which I was planning on doing). We’ll see how it all pans out. Clearly they don’t care if I do or I don’t. Someone buying gold through Blizzard will replace what my sub fee and box purchase would have represented in the first place.
I have a sneaky suspicion that the open market value of these tokens will be close to a sub. At the very least they will control this tightly and keep aggregate prices higher than what they are giving away in sub fees. I dislike that WoW is the most successful sub game but that they also add (and continue to add) cash shop elements. Good for them for maximizing the return for shareholder value though. So all of this is pretty funny – the introductory sentence is really misleading because clearly Blizzard values people with more money (than time), they just found another creative way to get more of it from more people, while giving good economy players some free game time. I suspect this is going to screw up the economy even worse because of price fixing by Blizzard and in order to participate on the AH you’ll have to buy gold at some point. This feels like a Zynga-esque move.
I support giving players alternate methods to fund their subscription time but due to the fixed, Blizzard set cost and way this is setup it is really just a revenue bump for Blizzard – not a true alternate method for players. It should be marketed more honestly – that is what disappointed me. I could end up eating crow here at some point if it launches and even casual players can raise enough monthly gold to cover their subscriptions but do we really trust Blizzard to let anything happen that hurts their eroding revenue base? I don’ t think that is realistic. This is more likely proof that Blizzard needs to increase it’s declining revenues from its subscription base. What’s next, true, individual player housing that can only be bought and designed through a cash shop? Players have provided feedback for years that they want this. Don’t confuse player feedback with another excuse to layer a revenue stream on top of the subscription fee. Most player feedback would sensibly want fixes to the economy and enhancements to the game as PART of their subscription fee. If not, what are they paying that for?