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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Crack, And Why I Love It So.

So, it’s been a while since I updated this blog at all, and an awful lot of games have been played in the time between my EVE craving and now. I’ll try to cram them into a few posts over the next few weeks, but I’ll probably miss some stuff out.

Oh, as a note, I never got back into EVE. I managed to stave off the pangs of hunger long enough for them to subside and be replaced with something else. In this case, Lord of the Rings Online – which I’ll mention in a later blog post. Briefly.

Alright, I’ll kick off my post with a biggie; World of Warcraft.

World of Warcraft

So some of you are guaranteed to be groaning at this point. But really, as an easily distracted gamer, how can I not have played World of Warcraft at some point? As the guy to be distracted by shiny things I can’t fail to have been pulled in at some point.

Alright, so that point was around four years ago (the seventh of August, 2005, to be exact), but that’s not the point. At the time (bright-eyed and innocent), I was looking for a MMORPG to involve myself in; having a strange, rose-tinted view of online play ever since my Runescape days. After trying many, many different free MMOs, I came across World of Warcraft. Alright, it wasn’t free, but doing a little research, it seemed worth the money.

Of course, my “research” was looking through their official site. Again with the shiny things.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I bought the game and have been having a love-hate relationship with it ever since. The longest I’ve ever gone for without a subscription has been five months, even though I’ve probably never played a subscription all the way through. I’ve always gotten bored before the six months is up, and am usually inactive when it runs out. Still, I always come back.

The main reason I’ve always come back is because of the involvement I have with the game’s society. Despite never having been a major member of a guild, or joined a WoW-centric forum, I’ve always had links back to the game that’s dragged me back in again and again. One of these has been the WoW podcast, Taverncast; a childish, yet mature trip through various bits of Warcraft fun with added beer. Seriously, any one of their episodes can get me cracking up, regardless of what it’s about. The other one of these has been my cousin. I’d have been clean from my personal crack for several months, say, and I’ll go to visit him.

And he’ll be raiding.

Or doing something cool.

Or just AFK in a city.

All it takes is for me to see it. Or for him to talk about it. And I’m straight back in again. I’ll get home and throw myself on Blizzard’s mercy, apologising feverishly for my foolish desire for a life, and offering my money and my soul in recompense.

And Blizzard would look down at me, laugh and supply me once again with six months of grinding and leveling…

And yes, only those. Because I have never ever hit the level cap in any of my almost five years playing Warcraft. My highest level character is a 72 Rogue, who was leveled up to 75 by some hackers when my account got highjacked. Again, my love of trying new things, and consistently getting bored of old ones crosses into games, as well as across them, accounting for my alt-o-holic attitude.

But why do I love this game so much as to come back to it, again and again? I really couldn’t tell you. I love the art style – it’s bright enough so that distinct contrasts between characters and landscapes are actually possible – unlike Age of Conan, for instance. It’s also cartoony, and wonderfully exaggerated. Areas always have an air of difference to them, perhaps to a stupid degree in some cases (the area full of snow being right next door to one full of lava, for instance), but hey, that’s what Cataclysm’s for, right?

Anyway, back to what I actually did this past month. Well, I’ve been leveling up my Undead Mage. I’ve always had an urge to play a Mage, and earlier this year, I bit the bullet and raised one past level 18, finally surpassing my previous efforts. I’ve been having a lot of fun with this character, and I certainly want it to be my first (level-capped character, of course). I won’t deny that a large part of my leveling experience has involved a lot of adventuring using the Dungeon Finder, which has been an absolute boon for someone like myself. I’d never been half of the dungeons in Old Azeroth before the Dungeon Finder would randomly put me there. Maraudon, Lower Blackrock Spire, the three Dire Maul wings, and even a brief and brutal foray into Undead Stratholme.

All this has taken me to level 59, and my progress has somewhat stuttered there for a time. Oddly enough, it’s not down to my attention span this time. Most of the dungeons that I’m eligable for at this point, tend to take a fairly long time to complete, and I simply don’t have that much time now I’m at university and have developed what is known as “a life”. Scary, I know. I could leave halfway through an instance, but I’ve never liked that approach, especially when there are shiny things waiting at the end of it.

As another excuse (or reason), the university has a Firewall that allows Warcraft under the most silly of exceptions. After logging onto my account, I must log into a level 1 character on the Darkspear realm. Then log out. Then I can log into a level 1 character on MY realm. Only after logging out of that character, can I then access my real character. It’s bloody wearing, let me tell you. I can’t just log on; I need to go through this rigmarole every single time. That’s the reason I have a character called “Access” on my character list.

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Haha, this was originally meant to be a post amalgamating all of my gaming history of the past month into a single post. After writing almost a thousand words on WoW alone, I’ve decided that I’ll just leave as a standalone WoW post.

‘Til next time, true believers!