Against seemingly insurmountable odds which include an 11-year lifespan, new contenders rising up, dated-looking graphics and its steadily weakening grasp on relevancy, Blizzard’s revered MMO World of Warcraft has stood like an unbreakable monolith of the MMO gaming industry. Now Blizzard is getting ready to reveal a new expansion for the game, the sixth major expansion to date and one which will no-doubt bring in new and returning players alike, as did the five expansions before it. As someone who once played World of Warcraft regularly, and who has purchased all five previous expansions, I’m sure I’ll get caught up in all the announcement hype once the expansion is announced, gazing in slack-jawed wonder as Blizzard lists off all of the expansion’s new features. However, there is one aspect of the expansion I know about for certain even before it has been announced: unless Blizzard nixes (or at least relaxes) the game’s subscription cost, I won’t be buying it.
Baiting The Hook
My current opinion of World of Warcraft is difficult to explain. I started playing back in the game’s early years, shortly before the first expansion, The Burning Crusade, was released. Since then I have had an odd sort of on again/off again opinion towards the game. I remember the first time I “quit” World of Warcraft shortly before the release of the second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. I tried to pretend that all of Wrath’s cool new features weren’t tempting me but shortly after the expansion’s launch, I was right back in the thick of it. It became a sort of cycle; I’d get all hyped up for an expansion, buy it and play for a few months, get bored, “quit,” hear about a new expansion, and the cycle repeated itself.
My most recent vacating of the World of Warcraft premises occurred about a month and a half after the release of its latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor. I realized that, while getting to play through each expansion’s new content and mess around with its new features is fun, that magical feeling I felt during my early years with the game just isn’t there anymore and, no matter how hard I try to recreate it, it will never come back. There is no one gameplay feature not already in the game that could really tempt me to shell out another $40 for something I’ll likely grow bored with in a month or two. Cataclysm had the old world revamp, Mists of Pandaria had Monks (my favorite D&D class) but, unless the game’s subscripton goes away, I can’t really think of anything else that could pull me back in after having spent eight+ years of my life playing.
An Ever-Expanding Price Tag
It’s not just my lack of excitement though. The simple cost of playing World of Warcraft is also a factor that gives me pause. While a new player starting the game up today obviously wouldn’t have to buy all five of the previous expansions individually (the first four expansions are bundled into the base game’s $20 price tag), they’d still be looking at a $33-$35 investment (depending on which subscription plan they chose), and that’s if they didn’t want to also spring for Warlords of Draenor (another $40). Combined with the monthly subscription fee and all the extra services Blizzard pushes you to buy (character services, cosmetic items, pets, mounts, etc.), it can really add up fast.
What really irks me about World of Warcraft’s subscription cost is that Blizzard is effectively triple dipping. Between the yearly expansions, the extra items and services (conveniently available for purchase via an in-game shop) and the subscripton cost, Blizzard has slowly but surely found the best ways to get the maximum amount of profits out of each player. I cringe to think just how much money I’ve spent on all of my combined World of Warcraft purchases. I don’t regret spending it (except maybe when I bought that ghastly Celestial Steed mount) since I have a lot of fond memories playing the game. But I’m also not exactly raring to blow another $40 on a new expansion, especially since I’ll also have to pony up for the subscription cost if I want to enjoy my new $40 investment.
If I could boil down my reasoning for not wanting to resume paying for a World of Warcraft subscription to one reason, it would be time. Since I am now an adult with adult responsibilities, I obviously don’t have the same amount of free time as I did five, six, seven years ago. These days I prefer MMO’s like Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic simply because they don’t require a subscription. I can go for a week or two not playing them and not have to feel like I just threw two weeks’ worth of money down the drain. I know Blizzard wants to avoid switching to a B2P (or even a F2P) payment model for as long as it can, but World of Warcraft ain’t getting any younger, and this new expansion might herald the ideal time to make the switch.
Honestly, if there’s any company that could handle the financial hit of switching its MMO from a subscription model to a B2P model, it’s Blizzard. World of Warcraft is far from the company’s only source of income (and likely isn’t even its most profitable anymore), and the good faith that Blizzard garnered from nixing the subscription cost would go a long way towards sustaining World of Warcraft’s continued survivability. I know just as well as Blizzard that there are still a lot of players willing to shell out their $15 a month, but I also know that there’s really nothing Blizzard can do to turn me back into one. If Blizzard were to ever do away with the game’s subscription cost, I would gladly jump back in and maybe spend some cash on the in-game shop. Until that point however, I’ll just be admiring the latest expansion from afar.