Friday, January 03, 2014

How Much is That Doggy In the Window?

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.


Belghast said...

I will happily take a free 90, because this is probably the only way I actually get a cap or near cap Mage. However as a whole I voted that I would rather it not happen. I just feel like blizzard is doing what they usually do... seeing a problem and making the wrong solution to said problem.

The issue at hand is that you have issues of being able to do something meaningful with friends that are significantly lower than you. The answer they are taking from this is that your friends should simply cease to be lower than you. For me this is just the wrong conclusion because it is essentially telling us that not a single thing before level 90 matters any more.

There are so many wondrous things at lower levels to be experienced that an instant 90 character will never get to see. How many of us remember wiping horribly when we went to Blackfathom Deeps for the first time with someone that was a rabid candle clicker? To me the correct answer to the problem is to implement a mentoring system like so many other games have. It works amazingly well for them, and it allows you to drop your level to match your friends and experience content with again as it was meant to be experienced.

This is one of the features that is sorely lacking from the game, and so many times in the past I have thought they were priming the pumps to introduce it. Now that abilities scale based on your level instead of the ability rank, it seems like they have all of the pieces in place to do this. However they are taking the easy way out and just boosting your friends rather than letting them experience the game as it was meant to be. /soapbox off

Navimie said...

I think the last bit Belghast said will be implemented one day. It seems logical and works well in other games. WoW isn't afraid of taking the best bits of other games!

And I would have voted the first one. For obvious reasons :) Though a free 90? I'll take it, so I can get my dark soil in Pandaria...

Oh and Godmother, I LOVE how you put our banners on your sidebar like that!!! That look like a LOT of work! But you know what I'm thinking that I like it so much I might copy that idea!

Kamalia said...

I see that I missed an interesting Breakfast Topic yesterday. I would have voted for the "no more than $25" option. Given that I have at least three characters whom I am trying to decide between for the complementary boost to 90, I would happily pay for additional boosts -- if they didn't cost too much. I think $25 is a good number to start with because it's the same as a server transfer currently costs -- but I definitely like the idea of getting a discount for additional boosts. As I have nine 90s already and will most likely have ten or eleven before Warlords launches, my boosted characters would be my twelfth, thirteenth, etc 90s -- the "nullifying earlier content" argument definitely wouldn't apply to my use of purchased boosts!

Mike Moore said...

I tend to think the pricing for the boost alone should be higher. People pay £20 just for a mount. So I would think at least £25 (~$40) for a near-max level character. If we were doing it the roundabout way (buying a new WoD account and transferring the free 90 back to an existing account), it would cost much more.
I do think including the boost in with the expansion purchase (or at least as an option to bundle with it) is a good one. Say you finally talk your friend into starting playing WoW based on the cool stuff you've told them about the new expansion, but first they have to spend many days/weeks running through old stuff first. I would buy an option to jump right in at the same level as everyone else at the start of the expansion.
Mentoring is an interesting idea, but are you really going to be happy running your friend through old dungeons and quests rather than playing the new exciting stuff yourself.
Once they've got an established character, there's nothing stopping them from rolling alts and experiencing the levelling game. It's not likely to be going away any time soon. In fact the thing more likely to make me never do the levelling thing again is having the option of very cheap boosts.
It sounded like there was going to be some kind of tutorial built into the boost too, kind of like the death knight experience where you pick up abilities over a short time though a series of quests to at least get you started with your new class.
The key thing for me here is that the boost will be to 90 not 100. As long as what you can buy off the shelf is never the top tier of the game, that's fine with me.

R said...

I'm having a hard time figuring out why you said the option shouldn't exist in your survey answer... nothing you said here really supports that viewpoint. :)

I've thought for a while that purchased 90s were inevitable once they gave us the free 90 with WoD purchase but I've only now solidified why... there will be players (a few / some / many / tons / all) who boost a toon for a class they thought they'd like, or that they liked for 45 levels, just to find out that they hate it at high/max level. One use only, no take-backs, sorry for your luck? That'd be the response without being able to buy 90s and that isn't typically how Blizzard responds, generally to their credit.

As for price, I don't see any benefit for them to price it low, I'd expect players will only buy as many boosts as they need, I don't see them buying more at $5 than at $25 because they're cheaper. Either you want a toon at 90 or you don't and considering it takes most of 40+ hours to level a toon to 90, even $100 for a boost is a good deal by any reasonable measure.

(conflict of interest disclaimer - I'm one of the 30 who said up to $100 on the survey)

I expect Blizzard will make the same calculation that any company would when putting a brand new product on the market... graph out the expected number of sales at various price points and pick the one that gives them the highest sold x price revenue amount. All things being relatively equal (if $25 through $45 all come out roughly the same, for example, with twice the sales at $25 as at $45) they'll probably go lower in the scale and make up for it with volume since that should increase the stickiness of the game for the player base. More active characters = more stickiness, I figure.

I'd be comfy with any price up to $100, although I don't expect them to go that high. $50 is reasonable and is less than the workaround second account / merge process but is still likely on the high side. I'm expecting to see it in the $30-40 range with a reduction in cost for some of the other account services (transfers, race changes, etc), when you can create a new toon for $35 it doesn't make much sense to pay $40 (?) to transfer and faction change an existing toon.

The Godmother said...

I can argue the merits of this until the cows come home, but I'm the person who'd not have opened Pandora's Box to begin with. Hence, I'd vote for it not to exits :P