Tobold's Blog
Thursday, July 05, 2007
 
How much would you pay per hour for WoW?

I used to play World of Warcraft over 100 hours per month, thus paying less than 15 cents per hour. When I cancelled my account, I was down to about 1 hour per month, just logging on here and there for alchemy transmutations and the auction house, thus paying 15 dollar per hour. I mentioned it as the first reason why I cancelled, although that got lost in the discussion about attunement. World of Warcraft has a regressive pay model: The less you play, the more you pay (per hour).

Now this isn't true all over the world. In China World of Warcraft is payed per hour, at a rate of 0.45 Yuan per hour. At today's exchange rate, that is 6 US cents per hour of World of Warcraft. But of course the wages in China are lower, and 6 US cents buys you more stuff in China than in the US. So at purchasing power parity (PPP) the 0.45 Yuan per hour correspond to about 25 US cents per hour. Which isn't quite that cheap any more.

From 1991 to 1997 AOL ran the first graphical MMORPG, called Neverwinter Nights, which cost $6 per hour to play. The text-based Island of Kesmai also cost $6 per hour. I paid something similar for my first month of Ultima Online, because I was still on dial-up then, local calls aren't free in Europe, and the telephone bill cost me more than UO's monthly fee. I stopped after the first month because I just couldn't justify paying $500 a month for a game, but then came back once I had flat-fee ADSL. I haven't played anything with a cost per hour since. But in principle I like the idea. Only, how much I'd be willing to pay per hour for World of Warcraft or a similar game?

Obviously if World of Warcraft cost 10 cents per hour, I would gladly pay that. Even if I played as much as before, I'd pay less than before. But I don't think that this price is very realistic, because then Blizzard would earn significantly less from WoW, because most people play much less than 150 hours per month, and would end paying much less than $15 per month. I think I could live with the PPP adjusted Chinese price of 25 cents per hour. I'd pay more than before in months where I play a lot, but less if I play just occasionally. The advantage for Blizzard would be that I wouldn't feel the need to cancel my account, which makes it easier for them to get me back into the game. A monthly fee constitutes a barrier to entry, if you aren't sure that you like the game, or that you will play enough, you're reluctant to pay a monthly fee. I certainly wouldn't play anything that costs $1 or more per hour.

So how about you? How much would you pay per hour for World of Warcraft or a similar game, if there was no monthly fee?
Comments:
I haven't played anything with a cost per hour since. But in principle I like the idea.

Why is it that you like the idea?

I ask, because you moved away from a game that had a cost per hour because it cost too much, only to return once that cost had been changed to a flat fee, with your Ultima Online example.

You also subscribed to LotRO with the lifetime subscription, essentially giving you another flat fee service.

Would you prefer an hourly fee for internet connectivity, where you would most likely monitor how much time you spent on-line, or the flat fee you have now? What difference is there between internet service and gaming?

A time-based charge makes sense when the service is used scarcely, whereas a flat fee makes sense when the service is used regularly enough to not want to worry about extra charges cropping up unexpectedly. What you are perhaps asking for is a tiered system, akin to mobile 'phones, with PAYG or subscription services, or dial-up internet services, again with PAYG or flat fee monthly connections.

Moving MMORPGs to this kind of scheme would no doubt be beneficial to the users, and potentially to the companies too. At first it would seem that more people would cancel subscriptions and the companies would lose money but, as you point out, more people could be persuaded to subscribe if they knew they would only be playing an hour a week and be charged appropriately. There must have been an incentive for the mobile 'phone companies to have a similar model, after all.
 
I also remember Neverwinter Nights, old style. I had DOS, I had Windows 3.x just to have it, and I loaded GeoWorks as another operating system just to play NWN.

What a game. I still remember one player, Hellhammer, who managed to PK folks trying to enter this forest zone. He and this mage with colors designed to make him blend into the background. I naively played a Paladin trying to do the quests and explore.

And it was expensive. And you had to pay through the nose just for the connection as well. I remember even playing a text based game, using scripts I'd written in a Windows program to interface with the server, I forget the name, and that cost me $1.00 an hour. And even though I thought *I* was paying a lot, there were folks online that were paying 100's a month to take part in the "online" stuff.

Anyway, I much prefer the flatrate fee. And I'm suspicious of the no-fee games because I wonder how they can be supported. Guild Wars demonstrates that it can do pretty well.

If I were forced to pay as I go I wouldn't want to be penalized for playing "too much". I remember those bills could get crazy high. Paying $15 a month is trivial.

Why not a pay-as-you-go until you reach the $15 cap, then the rest of the time for that month is free.

That would cater to folks who think $5.00 a month for Warcraft, and no more, is what they're willing to play.

I'm not sure what precentage of the WoW player base wouldn't reach the $15 point.

Allowing the means to play as little as $5 or $10 a month, would that bring in more people?
 
i love this discussion, since it's pretty much psychological ;)
to this date the 15$ barrier still exists and won't go away for a long time.

but a buck/hour is still peanuts imho.

i think people are willing to pay more if they actually get to know where it's spent on. if they show us numbers of people, servers, maintenance etc. then people are willing to pay more i think.
now it's just a magic-box that is too virtual.
 
I always fall back to the "well I pay about £8 a month, and that'd get me to the cinema once, with drinks and snacks, so I'm doing pretty well if I play more than a couple of hours"

Of course, cinemas are uproariously expensive, so if I did have to pay an equivilent amount per hour for an MMO, I probably wouldn't.

I'd quite possibly play a pay-as-you-play game, but I'd consider it more closely, depending on quality-of-experience to cost. None of this trying to find a group malarky, log on, if nothings happening and I don't feel like grinding, log off again.
 
I guess I could do with the 25 cents an hour deal too. Right now I'm definitely paying more per hour. :)

Anyway, I was just thinking. Do you think that the online activity would change if WoW introduced such a subscription tomorrow? What I mean is, while you pay for one month you can basically spend the time doing less productive things being online too and it will not cost you anything more. If a cost paid by the hour was introduced, do you think those less productive activities would lessen because they would in effect cost you money? For example, would the helpfulness of players decrease? Less time being spent just chatting or hanging out with others? Less time being afk checking out Thottbot or other such things.

I guess it's more a psychological thing, but I think I would definitely at least keep it in the back of my head that doing less productive things would cost me more money.
 
I'd like to add to what Changling bob said. 15$/month isn't a lot, when you compare it to other forms of entertainment. I spend *a lot* more on my TV bills and Internet bills. I don't worry much about my WoW subscription price, simply because, 50 cents per day isn't a lot to spend, IMHO, even if you don't use the service a lot. Even if I spend only an hour every 2 days or so I still would find it worth it. Any less and I might consider canceling...
That's not to say I wouldn't like a per-hour pricing scheme, but from experience, those quickly become much more expensive (compare to flat scheme) when you use the service for any significant amount of hours per month. A combined system allowing both payment methods and letting people choose which to use each month (or 3-months or 6-months) would be the best, as the heavy gamers could use the flat rate while the light ones (dare I say, 'casual'? :)) could use the hourly payment method.
 
A lot of people use MMOs like an "extended chat room", the log in, play an instance or too, but a lot of their time they stand around and chill out/chat with their friends.

When people would have to pay per hour, they would spend a lot less time with "useless" things ingame, they would chat in Teamspeak/IRC/ICQ instead. And I can't think any company would like to see their players spending less time in their games.

- Ben
 
Why is it that you like the idea? I ask, because you moved away from a game that had a cost per hour because it cost too much, only to return once that cost had been changed to a flat fee, with your Ultima Online example.

I came back because the cost per month had changed from $500 to $50 comparing, when adding up the cost of the connection and the game. UO was always a monthly fee game, only my connection cost changed. To really compare it, you would need to compare a game with $15 flat fee to one where your average hours played multiplied with hourly cost end you up with $15 average monthly cost. In that example I would prefer the hourly payment to the monthly one.

Why not a pay-as-you-go until you reach the $15 cap, then the rest of the time for that month is free. ... Allowing the means to play as little as $5 or $10 a month, would that bring in more people?

Nice idea! And yes, I would think it would bring in more people.
 
A lot of WoW quests involve running around the world map playing postman; I would be quite annoyed if I felt I was being charged by the minute for having to run/fly/ride from Silithus to Eastern Plaguelands - what, 15-20 minutes travel time (assuming I can't HS to Shattrath)?

As others mentioned, there are times I am too tired to quest or join a party, so I waste time chatting in guild or doing some RP. The pressure to log off in those cases would be so much stronger.
Give me a flat fee every 6 months and I don't worry about the cost.
 
I came back because the cost per month had changed from $500 to $50 comparing, when adding up the cost of the connection and the game. UO was always a monthly fee game, only my connection cost changed.

Right. You went from paying hourly, with your connection, to a flat fee. The cost of playing the game, in this case, was reduced because you moved away from an hourly-based fee, which is why I am wondering why you would prefer that structure to a flat fee.

To really compare it, you would need to compare a game with $15 flat fee to one where your average hours played multiplied with hourly cost end you up with $15 average monthly cost. In that example I would prefer the hourly payment to the monthly one.

Well, of course you would. Your question is thus not asking 'how much would you pay per hour?' but 'how many hours do you play?' and then you're working back to work out what the cost per hour should be to make it the same as the current flat rate. This will obviously be different for pretty much everyone, and vary wildly.

Here's a question for you: if LotRO had offered an hourly rate, let's say the equivalent of 0.50 of your bucks, and the lifetime subscription option, which one would you have taken?
 
I would never consider playing any mmorpg that used either an hourly fee and/or a velvet rope business model.

I consider both approaches to be scams. The mmorpg equivalent to pyramid schemes.
 
An hourly fee with a subscription rate cap would be interesting.
 
To answer your question more specifically: You couldn't pay me to play WoW at the minute :)
 
An hourly fee with a subscription rate cap would be interesting.

But would it be more profitable for Blizzard? It doesn't seem to be the fees are much of a bottle neck for WoW at the momnet...

- Ikuturso -
 
I would like to buy a time card for some MMOs, with time that did not expire.

I don't play City of Heroes/Villains enough to maintain a monthly subscription, but every now and then if I have a free afternoon it would be great to pop in for a few hours and dust off the old toons, just as a change of pace.

Purchasing time (that doesn't expire) on a system seems to me to be a very good way to attract and maintain a relationship with very casual gamers.
 
I currently pay the sub fees on 4 WoW accounts, and while I only play 15-20 hours a week, I have nephews that play 30-40 hours per week. I don't think I would pay for their accounts anymore if it became hourly.

I also agree that simple things such as VC run-throughs for lower level friends would go away with hourly rates.

Just my 2 cents worth, charge it how you'd like...
 
How about the using the formula:

Lowest basic rate of pay in your country divided by 24(hours in a day)...

Personally I don't wish to play a game online ever again that charges a monthly fee. So WoW would have to be free ala Guild Wars.
 
Several other people have had the same idea, but I'll elaborate on my own spin:

1) Hourly fee (whatever it is, $0.25)

2) Minimum monthly fee, to avoid micropayments (say, $2.50/month)

3) Maximum monthly fee, beyond which usage is unlimited (call it $15.00)

Here are my twists:

4) In-game monitor of time used that month and the associated charge

5) Since every connection is now metered: allow multiple connections to the same account!

5A) Each simultaneous connection has its own timer, although we might waive the minimum on the second connection. Thus, if you wanted to transfer inventory quickly between avatars, just pay the extra $0.25 to log in from your laptop your alt who needs that Rugged Leather right away (or whatever) for a few minutes. Alternatively, if you just can't finish a quest, bring in your alt for 15 minutes to help!

Just some thoughts.
 
32.33 repeating of course
 
After all I said I maybe returning to WoW after all:

http://sweetflag.wordpress.com/2007/07/06/planning-a-return-to-azeroth/
 
In theory, most people don't play 3 or four hours a day.

However, for those poeple that are consistent with high lvl raids, know that if you don't devote 4-5 hours on most days, then you might as well not go to a raid. For those poeple, I would feel bad for there WoW bill.

If you consider a modest 4 hours per day, every day @ 0.25 per minute, your looking at $1 perday, which means a WoW bill of around $30 per month... that's double what we pay now with subscriptions.

IMHO, it's better to have just a monthly subscription, or maybe just the availability to choose which payment plan you prefer.
 
I personally think it would be nice to simply buy 30 login days for the 15 dollars and only have them used if you login on that day. it wouldn't be pay by hour so you wouldn't feel like wasting time was wasting money, but it would allow casual gamers to only log in on a sunday for instance when they have spare time. I would love to play some MMO's but realistically I cant dedicate half my life to them, and paying so much for a few hours a month is too steep.
 
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