World of Warcraft and free-to-play

The state of World of Warcraft is a constant discussion on gaming websites and blogs, and it’s obvious to see why this is the case. It’s the largest MMORPG to ever have existed and it still dominates the market despite losing large chunks of its subscriber base in the last twelve months. The numbers peaked at twelve million, but have only fallen since then, prompting the usual questions of whether WoW should convert to F2P, B2P, or whatever acronym is favoured this month.

But I’ve always wondered why monthly subscriptions are so reviled among certain gamers. On the surface, not wanting to pay per month is a common sense; I’ve already paid for this game, now why should I pay per month in order to keep playing? I already pay for my internet connection, electricity and everything else that other games need in order to keep going past a single month of gaming, so why is this so special? Hell, even multiplayer games don’t charge for the use of the multiplayer. Microsoft may well do, but the games makers themselves don’t do, usually. So why should an MMO be any different?

Subscription fees on Elder Scrolls Online? NOOOOOOOO!

And that’s the answer, really. It’s an MMO. It’s not a normal multiplayer. Everything is bigger and better, and the costs of running the game go up along with it. The worlds require more space to run, and that means a larger overhead. And those servers need regular maintenance, and a team constantly available to fix those servers when they occasionally go kaput.

Not only that, but the money goes towards a constant and consistent development team, who balance the game, nerf and buff, add new areas, and fix bugs. Patches are a sign that the game is being constantly worked on, and those people need to be paid for the work that they’re doing. And they are doing work.

And how much is that monthly subscription that people so dread? WoW is currently priced at £8.99 (€12.99/$14.99) per month at the most expensive option. That’s roughly £2.24 (€3.24/$3.74) per week, or 32p (46c/53c) per day. Can you play enough WoW per day to justify that expense? Depends on how you justify your time of course, but 32p’s worth of play is a pretty large bargain in my book. If I get an hour of gameplay out of that, I could end up doing anything. I could be fighting over strategic locations in a PvP struggle. I could be tagging along with thirty-nine other people to take on raid bosses. I could be infiltrating capital cities as a rogue, cheekily sapping people. I could just take an hour out to chat to some friends I met online. For 32p a day. I struggle to think of any other activity I could be paying for that would give me the same value for money.

Of course, if you’re really not interested than this isn’t going to sway you. And nor should it. This isn’t meant for you. This is for those who view subscriptions as only being better than the devil because Satan stole their shoes. This is for those who’re put off games by the need to pay per month to play. For those who use that as a reason to argue against the game, as if willingness to pay places people in the wrong. Take a step back, run the numbers, and think about it. If you feel you can’t afford it, or just don’t want to, then fair play. If you really do want to play the game, don’t let 32p a day put you off. By signing up, you’re not signing your life away, and you can unsub at any time you feel you’re not getting your worth out of it.

This may still be a little far to go though.

World of Warcraft is unlikely to go free-to-play or buy-to-play any time soon. A move to full F2P is generally a desperation move on the part of the company, and whilst WoW may be losing players, it’s still sat on more people than the rest of the market combined.

WoW, free-to-play? Maybe at some point in the future, but certainly not yet. Now go get your shoes back; I have a fiddle you can borrow.

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