Tobold's Blog
Saturday, October 22, 2011
WoW at $8 a month

How much does a MMORPG cost? If you think about it, this is obviously a trick question, because the price of any given MMORPG can change with time. For example Rift did cost $50 when it came out, but now costs $20. EVE Online has a promotion ongoing where you can play it for $4.95 per month. Many games give out free months if you refer a friend. It is in this context that I see the new World of Warcraft annual pass: Assuming that you would have bought Diablo 3 for $60 otherwise, the annual pass offers you a $5 per month price reduction on a World of Warcraft subscription for one year.

Obviously the annual pass is designed to keep up flagging subscriptions to World of Warcraft. And it might even increase the sales of Diablo 3, so it is win-win for Blizzard marketing. Promotions increase sales, and that is as true for a can of beans in your local supermarket as for World of Warcraft. But if we would interpret any promotion as a desperate sign of a failing company, we would need to conclude that all companies are soon to go bankrupt. Hey look, even Apple has promotions, they must be about to go under!

My wife has an active World of Warcraft subscription she wasn't about to cancel any time soon. And she wants to play Diablo 3 when it comes out. So signing up for the annual pass was an obvious decision. Me, I'm not currently subscribed to World of Warcraft, and I wasn't planning to play WoW before the next expansion comes out. So I gave the annual pass a pass, as to me that would just have increased the price of Diablo 3 from $59.99 to $155.88. I suggest you do a similar calculation of whether you are interested to effectively play WoW at $8 a month.

so it is win-win for Blizzard marketing.

It is only a win-win if Blizzard didn't expect to make more money by keeping WoW at $12.99 a month and selling D3 separately.
I submit that there is a missing piece of information for you: when will 5.0.1 ship. I.e., if Pandas ship in August (made up) then one would want to get character in shape, do the achievements, and use the new spells in 5.0.3 - say a month or two in advance. In that case, you are getting Diablo for an incremental 6 months of WoW.
Hagu, that is technically correct. Nevertheless I would be surprised if there was a huge change from the usual expansion schedule. I expect MoP to be released in November/December 2012.
The Eve online promo is limited to the first month :(
One thing confuses me though.

I would have thought that the target market for Diablo would be exactly those sort of players who turn their noses up at the idea of Kung Fu Pandas.

Exactly what sort of gamer is Blizzard aiming at?
I think Blizzard is expecting a substantial number of people to want to ditch WoW and move to D3. This maneuver is to address that issue.

I'm expecting MoP to come out next summer, btw. They chopped a raid tier off Cataclysm, remember.
I think it's especially a win for them because it guarantees the people who would flee to D3 will be subscribed *during an expansion release*, making them extra-likely to shell out the $whatever for MoP.

Otherwise there'd be a whole crowd who were away during a release, and thus had less motivation than normal to buy it and get back to being active players.
Except, you pay your normal price for wow. So if you pay the monthly $14.99, then you still pay that. The "annual pass" is only a year contract, nothing to do with price.

You can still buy a 6-month card after you agreed to the contract, and redeem it on the site. Blizz then add that 6 months credit into your 12 months. Thus you end up paying the 6month prepay price for those 6 months.
As you already contractually oblige yourself to play WoW for 12 months, there is absolutely no reason to not change your payment plan to the cheapest option of two 6-month subscriptions.
November 2012 is the wise bet for the MoP ETA. Yet, I keep hearing all this talk from Blizzard about smaller, faster releases. At some point, they need to deliver on that or shut up. Starting a promotion in October that involves free Beta access in exchange for a 12-month commitment and then providing *zero* free Betas during that 12-months is perhaps not fraud but certainly tacky.

I think 18-24 month development cycles put Blizzard at a competitive disadvantage. I doubt many AAA MMO besides WoW could get away with that these days.

I think the annual pass is a good thing. It gets you over the bored waiting on next patch people unsubbing and then never coming back, If you have an annual WoW subscription, you are slightly less likely to try out the latest MMO past the free trial.

It's pure win for me as I get to try D3 but probably was not going to try it myself.
I cannot shake the niggling feeling that some time after D3's release BNet will become a service you have to pay for, probably about $10/month, and to sweeten the pot Blizzard will throw in a "free" Vanilla WoW subscription.
@Cap'n John
That's an interesting idea. I would definitely do an annual pass every year if Blizzard would give me a free game each year. This year free Diablo 3, next year could be free Heart of the Swarm, then free Diablo 3 expansion.
Assuming Mist of Pandaria is released this summer, players will still have several months left on their 12 month WoW subscription. A good incentive to buy the expansion especially as they got D3 for free.
They are seriously adding a panda race?

Sharks, they has been jumped.

It's a nice little cross promotion. Gets D3 players into WoW a little bit, gets WoW players into D3. Didn't need this promotion to know that WoW is no longer in the position to dictate to players.
As you already contractually oblige yourself to play WoW for 12 months, there is absolutely no reason to not change your payment plan to the cheapest option of two 6-month subscriptions.

Unless you plan to subsidize your own monthly subscription even further by selling D3 items on the RMT AH and putting those dollars towards the Blizzard "wallet" or whatever.

After all, the difference is basically $24 over the course of an entire year. Cashing out via Paypal will result in extra fees versus keeping the dollars in-house, and surely we can expect you will be able to sell 25 epic drops for a minimum of $0.99 apiece. So, for someone looking to sell D3 gear, it's liable to be better to keep the WoW sub monthly.
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