|Polls. Is there anything they can't do?|
Okay then, we'll go there.
The poll above ran as yesterday's Breakfast Topic on WoW Insider and... well, I think the poll's asking a bit too much, and by that I mean in terms of cash. $20 is ridiculously expensive, when you set it alongside what is currently available in terms of Account Services. If Blizzard were seriously considering this I think they'd be far better served going for a scaled plan. I'd say your first 90 should cost no more than $10, and maybe after that you're given a discount for each additional 90 you boost... and now I can see people looking at me incredulously. You mean I actually approve of this? What happened to the 'if this happens, the World ends' attitude?
There comes a point where the inevitable needs to be accepted.
Another member of the WoW Insider staff floated this idea a couple of months ago, and when I read his article then a little voice inside my head speculated whether it was an exercise in wish fulfilment or simply a reinforcement of an inevitable truth. Seeing the news story surface this week, it appears this 'customer survey' could just be coincidence, but is more likely that same inevitability. Eventually it was all going to boil down to this question: many people can't be bothered with the effort of levelling. Simple fact. Many people have the disposable income to buy what they want and play, and if Blizzard provide a means to satisfy that, they make money. Simple as. This is the future, and however much people might not like it, the fact remains Blizzard needs to make money. If they can extract it from those people willing to provide it to return to the game, then why not?
The key to this, of course, isn't the first 90 that the returning player receives. They're already paying their box price to get that as part of the deal, assuming they're updating from Pandaria when they left. To update to the current at present is only £11 in the UK, I know because I did this for a Recruit a Friend mount. After that purchase, people will want more 90's because of the convenience of the first one, and that's where the money will matter. Blizzard would be foolish not to capitalise on the first character, and if they set the price at something sensible for each subsequent upgrade there's undoubtedly money to be had. Update a full server account's worth of slots once you have the chance? $10 each, give a discount if you do more than five. Seriously, people will go for this.
Oh, and for the record, I voted that the option shouldn't exist.
There's a problem when you open the box, you can't shut it, the stuff is out there and you have to deal with it, and that's what happened with the introduction of the XP potions on the PTR last year. It's why (at least in part) the In Game Store exists as it does: there needs to be a reliable and dependable income stream for the company to plan its long-term future upon. This is a clearly a sensible and rational progression from the initial question of how you get old players back into the game, as well as enticing new players with disposable income towards adopting your product. It can be, quite rationally, met with disappointment and resignation by sectors of the existing player base, but it really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone any more. This is how gaming works: an average 'adventure' title on a console can be played out in a couple of days. Attention spans demand instant fixes to issues and not anything that involves wasting that most valuable of resources: time. In the end, this is a great solution to the issue of how Blizzard makes money, and keeps the game alive. If the only realistic objections boil down to moral indignation, then that can easily be covered. Just make sure everyone can play the game the way they want, and on their terms, and there really shouldn't be a problem.
In Warlords of Draenor, we're implementing a completely new Group Finder, which will allow players to find or create cross-realm groups for pretty much anything, including raids. We think that sort of environment -- finding an organized group, with a leader, and strategy, and possibly even using voice chat -- will be much more appealing and enjoyable for the player who craves an endgame raiding experience but can't find a team that fits their schedule. Plus, having an easy-to-use in-game Group Finder will, we believe, make finding such a group just as easy as queueing for Raid Finder (or easier, if you often find yourself in Raid Finder groups you'd rather not be a part of).
That, in turn, will allow us to take another look at Raid Finder and how exactly it should be tuned. I don't have any specifics to share (we simply aren't at that point in development yet), but our hope is that we'll be able to better provide for both the "busy raider" and "sightseer" styles of gameplay as a result.
Blizzard are putting a lot of time and effort into giving the existing playerbase the choices they want and crave. There should be no excuse you can't find a group come Warlords, if you're prepared to put in the time and effort... so even your freshly minted 90's will need to do the legwork at some point. Really, if they are good enough, it doesn't matter where the character came from... does it? There's a reason why these surveys get sent out to people, real or not. All companies, regardless of their size or operation rely on feedback to continue the success they create. When a contentious subject comes along, the perfect way to test the waters is with questions and surveys, the 'what if' that bloggers often speculate on which can often become fact.
The fact remains that Warcraft has allowed you to 'buy' characters in one form or another via the Scroll of Resurrection and Recruit a Friend scheme for a while. The only difference with these schemes and actually standing at the door and asking for your money is the illusion of effort that was previously involved. There are already going to be people judging others when they buy their 90's out of the box, you don't need to be amongst them. This is the future, and to succeed in your endeavours the customer needs what they want.
If that's to purchase a 90 off the shelf, then let them have it.