WoW Premium services: Yes/no/murloc?

Over the course of a game’s lifetime, things change. Features are added, pricing models change, content evolves. Blizzard’s fantasy epic World of Warcraft is no different. The game has been around for over six years at this point, and in that time we’ve seen many things change.

Remember when the game was first released? There were PvE server and PvP servers. On PvE servers you could have toons of both factions no problem, but on PvP servers it simply wasn’t allowed. Over time that changed, and Blizzard allowed you to make toons of both factions on a PvP server. There was also a time when Blizzard said you wouldn’t be able to pay to transfer your toon to another server, that it was only for server stability / population control. Not too long after the service became available for a small fee, the birth of the WoW premium service. From there we’ve gotten to recustomize our characters look, the ability to race change or change factions and all for a small one time fee. Every time this has happened, people have drawn a line in the sand. Either they love it, or they love to hate it.

Recently we’ve seen more in the way of Micro-transactions and premium services being added into the game. In game mounts like the Sparkle-Pony or the Winged Lion coupled with numerous in-game mini pets are available for purchase with real money. Pets will run you $10, mounts will run you $25. When they are purchased they are made available for all of your characters that currently exist, and any that you will create from this point on. Permanently attaching the items to your Battle.net account. There are also other premium features, such as the remote auction house. For an additional $3 a month, you can set up and purchase auctions from your enabled mobile device, and as an added bonus you can talk to your guild mates using the application as well.

The most recent announcement was that the developers at Blizzard are working on a Cross-Realm Dungeon Feature. In case you missed it, or are reading this post from somewhere not Blizzard-site friendly here’s the blue post

With the continued popularity of the Dungeon Finder, many players have been asking for a way to group up with real-life friends who play on other realms to take on instances together. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about a new feature currently in development that will allow players to invite Real ID friends ( http://us.battle.net/en/realid/ ) of the same faction to a party regardless of the realm they play on, and then queue up for a 5-player regular or Heroic dungeon.

As this is a fairly complex service to develop, we don’t have a release date to share quite yet. It’s important to note that as with some of the other convenience- and connectivity-oriented features we offer, certain elements of the cross-realm Real ID party system will be premium-based, though only the player sending the invitations will need to have access to the premium service. We’ll have more details to share with you as development progresses — in the meantime, you may begin to see elements of the feature appear on the World of Warcraft PTR.

So there it is, for a small fee, you will be able to invite your friends across servers into a group for 5-man dungeon running. This actually caused almost as much a stir as Real ID did when it was first announced. People either love, or hate the idea of having to pay to play with friends across different servers. Ignoring everything else, premium services or these additional cookies are luxuries. They don’t break the game, or give someone an unfair advantage. They are options, and love them or hate them they are very much real.

My personal opinion on this particular premium service is that I like it. I like the idea of being able to play my alts with friends from other servers for dungeon running. I recently moved servers and left a lot of my friends behind. I’m exactly the demographic that this premium service is aimed at. Is it for everyone? No, not even close. For some people though, they’ll gladly pay the extra cash for it.

Do premium services ruin the game? Are they a betrayal of the customer / supplier relationship we have with Blizzard Entertainment? I don’t think it does. These are all optional and don’t really have an impact on the overall game-play, they are just nice cookies for us to enjoy if we feel the price is right. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay for it. If it suits your needs, you can indulge in it. Our $15 a month has brought us many improvements over the years. New servers, higher population caps, improved development in characters, raids and the UI. The ability to talk with friends across servers anytime I want. I don’t think our free upgrades are done by a long shot, and if Blizzard wants to charge for additional services, that is their choice. While I can understand both sides of the coin, at the end of the day I see it as you’re paying your monthly fee to play the game, all the other stuff are just extra. The things they develop as premium services aren’t for every audience, so developing them for smaller groups, sure there may be a cost attached. I mean hey, just because you aren’t paying for mobile armory every month doesn’t mean you’re going to miss the chance to punch Deathwing in the face.

What do you think?

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About Lodur

Lodur is the right hand shaman to Matticus on World of Matticus, and a recruiting officer of Conquest and Co-Host of For the Lore podcast. Read more of his works at WoW Insider.

Comments

  1. I wrote an article about it not too long ago (http://bit.ly/mKxMpi), but I don’t see “premium features” going anywhere. Blizzard has hit a saturation point with its market share, so they need to derive new revenue streams. Premium features, even a premium subscription are ways to bring in additional revenue while providing a little extra to the player base.

    Some may say premium features aren’t fair, well Blizzard is still a company, with shareholders, and they need to bring in more money its expected. More money pays for more developers to develop more games and features for existing games.

    As long as the premium features add some good value add, then great. I like the idea of the cross realm real ID dungeon finder, I am curious to see the cost structure, I would like to see them create a premium subscription and include some of these premium items instead of doing all of it a-la-carte like they currently seem to be doing

  2. Lavingiasa says:

    It is nice that only one person has to have the service to invite his friends rather then everyone having to have it.

  3. Something about a la carte services in a subscription based game just bother me. If it’s time to raise the subscription so be it. Blizzard has to remember that we know how much profit it’s makeing and charging more on top may not sit well with folks.

    Setting a normal and premium subscription has its own set of problems. If that path is chosen, it won’t be long before everything in the game is compartmentalized and comes with it’s own fee. Want to raid hard modes, gotta pay for development. Since not everyone does Arena, it’s not fair to make everyone pay for them so they are now premium. You can see the problems there.

    I don’t write nearly as well as Lodur, but I tried my hand on this topic recently http://bit.ly/mtoKM8 .

  4. @EnvoyOfTheEnd says:

    The idea of premium services are that they are not meant to offer in-game advantages to players over those who do not have them.
    That however is simply not the case anymore.
    The remote auction house functionality offers while not strictly in-game functionality, easier access to an in-game service which could offer an advantage over those solely in-game.
    The upcoming Cross-Realm dungeon finder while marketed as a social tool actually offers a significant tool for guild recruitment, in the ability to test a potential guild member in a dungeon environment prior to any server transfer.
    While a dungeon may not be seen as a sufficient measure by some guilds, it is no doubt a tool that can be used for that purpose and therefore offering an in-game recruitment advantage over other guilds.
    Premium services are going down a slippery slope where they are already breaking that golden rule they were supossed to abide by.
    Tacking onto RealID a premium service to make it decent is a poor practice, when as a service it is sorely lacking a lot of functionality by default.

    • I think the part of about guild recruitment is a double edged sword. It requires you to be real ID friends with someone in order to invite them, or at least that’s how it is proposed. How many GM’s / recruitment officers are willing to share their personal email with someone they have never met before for an possible recruit? Hell, I know some GMS that wont even real ID real life friends! The point about the mobile AH I can see if people are mainly concerned with the whole micro game of WoW AH.

  5. I don’t have a problem with premium services. In fact, I wish they would implement more. I wish there were a way for players to purchase a high-level character if the account already possesses 1 or 2 at max level. I would pay for a 70 or 80 Mage or Hunter because I already have 4 or 5 85s and really, really, really hate leveling.

    Ultima Online did that back in the day. Players could buy “advanced characters” that started 5 (it might have been all 7) skills at 80.0 when the cap was 100.0 across 7 skills. It was a great way for players to avoid the part of the game they’d already done a hundred times over, and it honestly offered something that was worth the money.

    I don’t mind paying for pets or mounts, but I think the mounts are a bit expensive. I’d pay 15 for one, but 25 is nuts, IMO.

  6. Personally love the idea of it. It’s like a DLC except without the DLC. Feature Loadable Content maybe?

    Anyway, I guess its understandable if you’re upset about the idea of having to pay for extra stuff. But let’s wait and here how much this stuff costs first AND what’s going to come with it. WoW has always been the kinda game where you can truly customize your experience. You can raid, or PvP, work the economics system or just fart around and do nothing. Fully expect this to be no different.

  7. I’ve taken Blizzard up on paid server transfers for 3 characters. I paid to re-create a character(Name/Appearance). But despite that, I really bristle when I think about it. Why is that? Because knowing the architecture WoW runs on, and having a *very* good idea of the amount of time that went into writing/testing/evaluating the code driving those functions(most of which is probably reused across them), Blizzard easily recouped the development and deployment costs within a day, easily. None of it’s very complex, and having spent several years as an Oracle DBA, it’s kind of offensive that they do charge so much.

    On the whole, I feel that if Blizzard wanted to discourage folks from server hopping or changing our baseline appearance, then put an outrageously long cooldowon on it. Put a watch for folks who abuse it anyway. But for the most part, they could heavily reduce if not remove the cost for most of the services they offer and the only ill they’ll take of that would be the loss of revenue from those streams, which are nothing more than a license to print money.

    So with that said, this functionality is, in my mind, worse than any which have come before. It’s no different than the current dungeon finder, which limits you to your own battlegroup. While this will purportedly allow you to group with individuals on other battlegroups/realms etc, that’s something which isn’t terribly difficult to implement. Same thing for restricting the results to your RealID friends; in fact by making use of a much shorter list, the stress on the hardware architecture should go down as well.

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