Would you pay for Premium?

Blizzard’s Mobile Armory which now offers guild chat capabilities? $2.99.

Recently announced cross-realm Dungeon Finder feature? More money.

Additional mounts or non-combat pets? Those range anywhere from $10 to $25.

I’ve seen people upset that all these extra cool features are costing additional money. We’re paying 15 bucks a month already. Shouldn’t we be entitled this stuff? I’m not so sure. I do have a different take on it. Things like the Mobile Armory, the cross-realm Dungeon Finder and stuff, those aren’t exactly essential game play services. Blizzard typically doesn’t charge for content (Exception: Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, and Cataclysm). If it’s something related to stuff we can do in game, there’s no extra cost to it. We just pay the monthly cost and that’s that. I have a difficult time understanding why some players are annoyed over an optional feature.

At school, we have a universal transit program. For an additional 105 bucks a semester, we get a pass that lets us travel anywhere via public transit in the Greater Vancouver area (that’s 26 bucks per month of go anywhere). Many of my friends complain because they drive to school, to work or to shop. They have no use for such a pass. Yet the school makes it mandatory. The only way this deal would’ve worked between the University and the public transit system is all or nothing. Given the option, they’d rather opt out of it. I can’t blame them.

The point I’m trying to get to here is would you rather pay a higher monthly cost for included services or have a lower monthly cost along with optional services? What if the monthly fee went up to 20 bucks instead but came with the ability for you to interface with the armory remotely through your mobile device? Not only that, you’d get to be able to use the cross-realm Dungeon Finder feature. And just for kicks, having the active premium subscription service means whatever new mount of combat pet comes out of the Blizzard Store goes straight to your mail too. I’m not interested in this stuff as much (that’s a lie, I bought a celestial pony and a pandaren monk). I’d even consider the cross-realm Dungeon finder just to have a chance to play with potential off-server recruits who were of the same faction to see how they’d fair (fare?) in a 5 man environment at least.

I like the opportunity to pick and choose what additional premium features I want access to. If it costs extra, that’s okay because then I can see what I’m willing to pay. Otherwise, the other alternative option is a higher price with no say in customizable features.

15 bucks a month for WoW. I had to pay 18 bucks to watch Thor last weekend. Great movie, but remind me not to watch stuff in 3D again.

Uh, anyway, anyone need heals?

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About Matticus

Matticus is the founder of World of Matticus and Plus Heal. Read more of his columns at WoW Insider. League of Legends player. Caffeine enthusiast.

Comments

  1. Elunamakata says:

    this is what I posted to a group of friends on facebook who immediately started complaining when I shared the link:

    I could see it as a natural function of battle.net if we all played on one server or battle group. Unless I missed something xrealm random grouping is still limited to specific battlegroups and battlegroup combos, not completely realm/battlegroup wide such as playing starcraft on battle.net is.

    I also don’t play starcraft, so if there are battlegroups and realms there, I apologize for not knowing.

    While I can agree that it wouldn’t be a service most people are willing to pay for, some are willing to pay for such a service. Most people who want to play with friends go ahead and transfer to their server and form guilds together, or have alts on each others servers. I for one, have friends who really enjoy playing on pvp servers, I prefer to pvp on my own time on my own terms, and have thus never leveled much past 20 on any pvp server, where I had to be subjected to either getting protected, or having my play time disrupted. Such a service would allow me to play with my friends on those servers.

    This, of course, assumes a competitive price and what other features may be included. If it would cost too much, I could always level a character on my own server, then transfer it to theirs and only do random instancing with them and never have to pvp.

    As this is an optional service, and what sounds like a programing nightmare that is going to require a lot of testing, I can see why they would charge for the service. Why would anyone ever transfer if they could play xrealm with their friends for free?

    Either way, I’m not voting one way or the other for free or paid, just my thoughts as to why this could be a good service that people in this particular group may find interesting, as well as my thoughts as to why they would charge for it.

    I’m holding final judgement until I see what the premium package is and how much it costs, to see if I’d actually pay for this service. I already subscribe to the mobile auction house, SPECIFICALLY so I can hop in guild chat if I want to. Why? I’m co-gm and I coordinate the healing team. Being able to use my phone to connect to guild chat is a perk I’m willing to pay for so that if my net is down, I can still coordinate the group. I will likely wind up with this premium service, if I feel the cost is worth it. If not, I’m sure I can still find ways to spend time in game with my friends for the basic monthly price.

  2. “We chose to go with the subscription-based model instead of that approach. We’ve taken the approach that we want players to feel like it’s a level playing field once they’re in WoW. Outside resources don’t play into it — no gold buying, etc. We take a hard line stance against it. What you get out of microtransactions is kind of the same thing and I think our player base would feel betrayed by it. I think that’s something else you have to decide on up-front instead of implementing later.
    –Rob Pardo, Blizzard’s Senior Vice President of Game Design (2/20/2008)”

    Where does it stop? Would you be upset if it’s Raid content that is more $$ because the non-raiding community shouldn’t have to pay for parts of the game they choose not to use?

    Picking and choosing which bits of the game you want to pay for…isn’t that a pay-to-play model and not a subscription based one?

    • Elunamakata says:

      How does being able to group with friends from multiple servers in a 5 man really affect the ability to play the game for people who chose to not pay for that service? Perhaps I’m missing something, but the cross server dungeon finder is not going away as a basic game service offered to everyone. Instead they are offering an option for people with friends of the same faction on differing servers to chose to group with those friends instead of randoms.

      Last time I checked, there wasn’t any world first progression going on for 5 mans. So who you group with really has nothing to add to play advantage.

    • I completely agree Zosima.

      We started at a place where the micro-transaction was non-existent.

      Now we have paid services, micro transactions for pets and mounts, and extra subscriptions for “bonus” features.

      I won’t say that the sky is falling or anything like that, but Blizzard can say today that they will not offer new raid content for 20$, or make you buy a pack of 5man dungeons for 10$….

      The point is we have micro-transactions now, despite the fact that Blizz said it wouldn’t happen. So, break out the tin-foil hats.

    • That is EXACTLY where it stops. The only time we should pay for additional content is when there are new expansion packs. It could be worse. Doesn’t Everquest have something like 10 expansions that cost 10 bucks each or so? As long as they continue to stick to the plan where they release regular, consistent content patches such as new raids, new 5 mans, new questing areas, battlegrounds, in game features,m I’m cool with them charging a little extra for other convenience factors.

    • While I do appreciate your use of a relevant quote and its implications in the situation, your argument is derailed by your slippery slope conjecture. We have no way of knowing what Blizzard is willing to do. All we can use to form a prediction is the actions of the company in the past, and in the past they have always been respectful of gameplay value and features. I hope that in the future they do not offer additional services for a premium subscription, as I feel that all players paying for the game should receive equal service and pay an equal price. I don’t want to play a game where I have to ask people which subscription level they are running before I invite them to events, nor do I want to see myself or my friends excluded from content or features due to payment differences.
      I think the best thing for the community right now is calm, objective analysis and commentary. Blizzard has proven that they are not above reversing a policy due to community reaction, but what really persuades them to listen to the playerbase and open dialog is constructive commentary, not emotional conjecture.

  3. IEatCrayons says:

    Mobile Auction House is worth the $2.99 for me. While at work making gold, Hell YEAH. I’m willing to pay to do 5 mans with friends too after I realm transferred when many of them took a beak now that they have come back I’ll enjoy being able to at least do some Heroic 5 mans.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with your perspective on this one, Matt. As you so mentioned, the monthly fee we all pay is a pittance compared to the hourly cost of most other forms of entertainment. And when Diablo 3 goes live (*anxious*) that will be 3 evolving games that I have access to all for that same per month cost (plus the initial purchase). There’s no better deal out there.

    When they start offering dungeons or raid content on a micro-transaction model, that’s when I’ll break out my torch and pitchfork. Until then, I’m certainly not going to begrudge a for-profit company for making money on additional services that they have to invest a significant amount of time to develop.

  5. I’m torn on the battle.net grouping. It wouldn’t be bad at all to have, but given the implementation of battle.net friends listing, it almost seems like this particular part should be part of the package. On the other hand, I do agree. I have very few battle.net friends, and even if I had more, I don’t know that it would necessarily be in my interest to run those dungeons with them. Still, as you said, higher cost for more services, and besides, the battle.net friends list is already something that can be opted out of.

  6. @EnvoyOfTheEnd says:

    When those “extras” start to offer something which will impact on the in-game performance in enabling you to do something faster, or more efficiently in-game then I feel it has already removed the level playing field.
    Additional mounts offered no advantage in-game providing they did nothing special.
    You could argue that the lil’ Ragnaros pet in being a mobile campfire without cooldown gives an unfair advantage in the cooking tradeskill.
    Mobile Auction house offers the ability to impact on an in-game market more than before and offers the ability to out-manouvere competition who are limited to only what they can do solely in-game and to the time they can spend solely in-game.
    This use of Cross-Realm Parties which can be seen as primarily for social groups can also as correctly be stated as being useable for recruitment purposes, so offering those guilds an advantage in being able to screen potential members who did not have the budget to readily throw away money on transfers.
    It is a competitive advantage so Blizzard have already gone back on their principle with the aim of making money.

    There are plenty of things that need fixed in this game long before these additional features being introduced, but we keep seeing more and more of them with less fixing of what really should be, the basic experience and bugs encountered by all players irrespective of their ability to pay more than others.

  7. Honestly, this is a ‘feature’ that puts a paid gate between friends grouping together – one would think that Blizzard would like to do all it can to encourage people to make friends and to play with friends, this being an MMO – not make people pay for the dubious privilege of reliably duplicating the somewhat risky effect of having all your friends que for the same dungeon at the same time and hoping.

    Cross-server grouping already exists. Cross-realm chat already exists. I and a lot of people see this as charging for a feature that really seems like it should come standard – indeed a feature that already seems to exist, is implicit in the goals that the existence of the real ID system seems to promise. I don’t buy the additional development costs excuse.

    It also provides an in-game benefit, unlike anything on offer before. It crosses a line of hybridizing wow between p2p and f2p/freemium.

    Like it or not, the ethical issues this raises are not illusionary.

    • I disagree with that. Players can easily play with their friends without having to pay money. Just level up another character on their servers or reroll altogether. It’s certainly possible to play with friends without having to shell out the premium cash.

      The way I see it, this is a tradeoff between time and money. We can take the time to get a new character up on a different server or if we’re that impatient, we can spend the cash for it and bypass that time entirely.

    • In a way, everything is about convenience versus time spent. Server transfers and etc (roll an alt is the alternative to everything from that to character recustomization), so they’re optional, yep, they have a workable alternative for the player.

      If you want to get picky, even the celestial steed provides a small but definitely there in-game bonus – small gold savings, for instance, in addition to just the pretty horse. I’ll discount the vanity issues – in that sense, the buyable pets are the most innocent of paid services in that they’re all just vanity items. Technically, it’s all in-game benefits we’re buying. The tricky part is where you draw the line between an in-game benefit that ‘matters’ and one that doesn’t.

      So they’re thinking of offering a service that means you either don’t have to buy another service (server transfer), or spend the gobs of time necessary to role an alt to play with your friends.

      I dunno. Somewhere between ‘small gold savings’ and ‘wow, you don’t have to spend days leveling/gearing an alt to group with a friend’ is my line where it matters. I certainly admit that’s a subjective judgement. Well, and this case is also aggravated by the way all the pieces are already seemingly in place, for free, for this to happen seamlessly.. and it’s just sheer cussedness on Blizz’s part that makes it cost.

  8. .. the hybrid of ‘pay to play’ and ‘freemium’ – what should that be called?

    Pay-to-freemium or p2f? Pay-to-pay?

    • Free-to-pay? As in, you choose if you want to pay or not. Pretty much what Matt said :p

      I’d like to see this xrealm thing included in the premium fee for the mobile AH + gchat thing. Make it a nice bundled pack and it will probably attract more people than making it another premium feature on top of the existing one.

  9. OMG Matt saw a movie.

    Now do it again . . .and again . . and then maybe just maybe you will be slightly up to date with current media.

  10. smeedsc says:

    I really don’t like it. I’d use it, I’m not paying for it becasue of a few reasons.

    1) step in the wrong direction. They speak of unfair advantages being for sale, well… I can easily gear out some old friends running heroics with a friend or two of mine, as we are endgame raiders, and my old friend is casual.

    2) It’s nothing more than RnD for future blizz games, that they decided to charge us to be part of.

    Most mmos don’t lock you to a server, blizz did, and then decided to charge you outrageous amounts to transfer when your’s went to shit, because they opened up server transfers….

    3) screw Bobby Kotick

    • Atlanis says:

      Wait, what? Most MMOs don’t lock you to a server? That statement is false on two levels:
      First, I haven’t played a single recent MMO that hasn’t had your characters stuck on whatever server you create them on.

      Second, WoW doesn’t ‘lock’ you onto a server. You can create characters on other servers if you want without paying anything beyond your standard monthly fee. The only limit is the 50-character limit. (Only 50 characters at most across all servers)

  11. To the extent that there are features that generally wouldn’t make the priority cut, in terms of deploying them in the normal time frame, I’m mostly okay if these services can be deployed earlier if they can pay for themselves/are self-sustaining.

    In my mind, it’s less pay for them or not, it’s more have them now available for a fee, or have them not available now and have them available when their priority would dictate they should be implemented, which honestly might be never for some of these.

    This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that I have any interest whatsoever in paying for these services. I doubt I’d pay for this one, and the mobile ah is something I never really considered either.

  12. Absent the option to pay only $5/month (instead of $15) to get a raid-free and PvP-free WoW (I don’t need those parts of the game), I’m not sure I buy the reasoning here.

    Er… that was in response to the original post, not to you, mescyn. I’m apparently not very good with commenting today.

  13. I do not like the fact that premium services are now leaking into the in-game systems. Previously, it was all ‘back end’ or ‘other platform’ or simply ‘cosmetic’ stuff – the server transfers, pets, or the Mobile App – but now? Now a portion of a very fundamental game function, Grouping, will have a premium option.

    Not only is that bad form, charging you extra to play with your RealID friends (people you trust well enough to know your real name), but it also sets a precedent. I know, a lot of people don’t like the ‘slippery slope’ argument – but think about this: A month ago, the concept of an in-game premium service had not even entered our minds, and now it is staring us in the face. Where does it stop? In six months, does it escalate to other UI features?

    Do we really want to move toward an EQ Marketplace/Station Cash situation? While still paying a monthly fee?

  14. ———————————————–
    Matticus wrote:

    “If it’s something related to stuff we can do in game, there’s no extra cost to it.”
    ———————————————–

    Until now, right? The ability to queue with friends for dungeons across servers *is* related to stuff we can do in game. That’s why I’m not a big fan of Blizzard charging for it. It seems like a pretty basic in-game system, rather than a “meta” system (accessing information about the game with mobile phones).

    Pretty much any game enhancement can be called a “convenience.” Why not charge real life money for dual specs? If you want a paladin who can heal in addition to a paladin who can tank, you can level up a second paladin. Or just keep re-spec’ing (though, re-spec’ing could be seen as a “convenience” and therefore a prime candidate to be a premium service).

    I don’t think this end-of-the-world stuff, but I don’t think there a clear and discrete divide as you’re suggesting. There really is no clear separating line or principle here between what costs extra money and what doesn’t. Blizzard, like any company, does the boundary condition analysis to figure out what price point maximizes revenues. What they can charge for and what they can’t in terms of retaining high enough customer satisfaction.

    My own opinion is that if they want to sell vanity items as micro-transactions, that’s fine…but game enhancements should be part of the subscription fee. That said, it’s not that big a deal to me.

  15. smeedsc says:

    its a slippery slope. and one Mr. Kotnick is very familiar with. selling 200 dollar game controllers and laughing at the people he sold them to…http://www.computerandvideogames.com/265559/news/bobby-kotick-insults-every-indie-developer-on-the-planet-except-bungie/

    Fact is that man is a shitbag. and now that activision’s CEO is in the saddle this is the sort of shit we’ll be seeing.

    I’ve loved and still love wow. I have been around since I was looking up to those guys doing bwl while I was level 40. I’m not anti wow. heck, i’ve first played blizz games about age 20 when I was supposed to be working at a steelmill in lemont illinois and the QA guys had orc’s vrs humans going on the computers they were supposed to be using for QA!!!!

    I just see it as a real shitty move, and pretty much a huge step in the wrong direction, but they’ve beaten the spirit out of me for the most part now. I”ll probably just start to move on to the next thing if this goes live. it will.

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