As usual, loads of people around the bloggosphere have already vented their
I promised myself I wouldn't turn this into a nerdrage post, simply because I don't think that much about this. When I read about it I rather had this resigned /sigh going through me. I definitely think it's a bad idea, but I feel sorry for Blizzard for taking a decision like this when they're already struggling with their credibility. People are already accusing Blizzard for making design choices of dubious quality, and then they go and do something like this. So why do I think this is a bad idea?
I've never had any issues with the extra fun stuff that Blizzard have offered us to buy. The mounts and pets and even the remote access thingies you can buy to your fancy phone are as mentioned, esthetical. There are plenty of us who are completely uninterested in those mounts and pets, and most importantly, the game has nothing to do with gathering mounts and pets or playing the AH. Those, especially mounts and pets, are extra features of the game, something with which you can indulge yourself if you feel like it. Paying extra for server transfers and the like is much like the fee on respecs, it's partially there as an inhibitor to make sure players don't do it too often. What is the difference to this new feature? WoW is a social game. Everything in it circles around the fact that you do things with other people. How many of you would quit WoW if all of your irl and ingame friends did? I know I would. The reason I love the game is because I can play it with people I enjoy hanging out with. If the game was nothing but nameless faces or even worse, npcs, I wouldn't stick around for very long. No one would argue that no matter how they prefer playing WoW, it is originally designed to be about socializing. Therefore one could argue that Blizzard are implementing a feature that affects a core aspect of the game, but makes it exclusive to those that care to pay a little extra. If the game was about gathering pets and mounts, I'm quite certain we'd be bothered with the possibility to pay extra for a sparkle-pony when we're already paying for the game. In my opinion, that is basically what is happening right now.
I completely agree that we should pay for maintenance and development costs, the monster that WoW has become isn't a cheap thing to maintain. But we are already paying for maintenance and development costs. One could wonder what Blizzard does with those roughly 11 million times 12 Euro they get from us each month (you do the math, but it's a lot of money), if not to put them into these kinds of things? It's not really that simple of course. Blizzard set the monthly fee for the game a long time ago, and thinking about it now, it's quite astonishing that they haven't changed that sum at all during all these years. I imagine that the monthly fee was specifically designed to cover all and any costs that that player could put on Blizzard. That players usage of the game and servers costs them X, add some profit (maye a lot of profit) and voilà, you've got the monthly fee. I don't think it is impossible however, that the cost for the game has increased over the years, so that the monthly fee doesn't cover each players usage as much as it used to. Add really costly features like this one (or so Blizzard claim anyway), and their budget is cracked. Considering that Blizzard take an extra fee for server transfers and things like it, it seems like the monthly fee actually doesn't cover very much at all except server maintenance. Aren't we already paying for everything extra in the game?
People who think this is an ok idea are getting hung up on the "pay" part. That's not really the problem at all. No one has voiced a peep of concern about all the stuff we already have to pay extra fees to get. The problem is what we are paying for. They've always kept esthetical/practical (like server transfers) on one side, and game mechanics on the other side, and they should be put firmly on different sides. The reason I think this is a bad idea is because it's really taking a step down a slippery slope. So if one game mechanic is ok, what is next? Would you mind if Blizzard decided to implement features that allowed you to get shorter dungeon queues, or get to do any dungeon by choice and still have it count as random, as long as you paid a little extra for it? These are all things that don't break the game, but they do give an advantage to some players, if they pay a little extra. And then? Giving extra talent points to people who pay? Allow them to run faster? If we accept one step in this direction it could become difficult to stop if the next step comes. And giving game advantages to people who pay for it is a really dangerous thing to do. I'm not saying this would do that, but it's definitely not a step in the right direction to avoid it.
I've got nothing against micro-transactions or games that are built up using them - in fact I think they're a great way to charge for a product and hopefully lead to a future where customers pay exactly for what they want instead of a huge sum containing everything from production cost to the CEO's new bathtub. But they are still two different ways of charging, and taking it too far will alter the concept of the game. Blizzard, and we, have to be aware of that.
What it comes down to is if we really believe that Blizzard are forced to take an extra fee to be able to implement a feature like this. If yes, then we have to ask ourselves (as some bloggers already have), what do we prefer: paying a little extra monthly fee to make sure that Blizzard can afford all of these costs, or just pay extra for them when they come, if we want them?
It's fascinating, because you can compare it to a society. Do you prefer paying a lot of tax and having society pay for stuff, or do you prefer to have low tax, and just pay a lot for stuff yourself when you need/want it? There are pros and cons with both systems. If you have high tax, there is a chance that your hard earned money goes to stuff you're uninterested in. I wouldn't be very happy if they increased the monthly fee in order to make server transfers free of cost, for example, since I don't server transfer very often. But on the other hand, the problem with having everyone pay for their own things is that not everyone can afford it. I'm one of those people who probably wouldn't have the money to pay for many extra features in the game (I've only ever paid for two race changes over the last 5 years). I don't think it's a matter of want. It's not that I don't want the sparkle pony and therefore I don't care that it costs extra money, but want this feature, and therefore am bothered that it costs money. As I said, I don't think much about this at all, because I've actually don't have any out of server RealID friends. On the other hand, imagine what a great tool this would be if I could befriend some of you guys out there and we could do dungeons together? Or if I could finally get to play with some of my irl friends with all those off-server alts that I've got. Which, as mentioned, is what the game is all about, right? This tool won't have a major impact on the game, or my playing, but I would be lying if I said that I didn't want it and that it wouldn't be useful to me.
The problem with this, as I touched upon, is that it is opening the gates to allowing players to buy themselves advantages over other players. We're definitely not there yet, and I don't want you to believe that I think we're on the way to certain doom with this. But one has to draw the line somewhere, and Blizzard are moving that line - we don't know where it will end up. The reason you want to separate the two worlds is because no accomplishment will be worth anything, if everyone knows that you can buy yourself to it. WoW is about e-peen to a large degree, and a lot of that will disappear if you can buy yourself the fanciest gear and items. I'm not saying that has to be a bad thing, but it will definitely alter the game significantly - do we want that? At the moment, this game is based on skill, not on who has the most money to buy themselves to the top. Personally, I prefer it that way.