Tuesday, September 22, 2015

WoW Analysis: WoW Tokens and the "Premium Edition" (AKA Starter Edition Redux Part 3)

Over a year ago, while criticizing the Starter's Edition for World of Warcraft, I proposed an alternative experience similar to the Guild Wars 2 model (before they went free-to-play) where players can drop a few dollars and buy the full World of Warcraft experience up to the previous expansion's level cap. While this probably wouldn't seem that financially beneficial for Blizzard, it allows them to push their subscription-based game into a market of games that only require a single payment to play, offering a massive amount of value in terms of content per money spent, allowing them to grow a larger audience and potentially a more lively game by reasserting the power of social experiences in MMORPGs.

I still stand by my opinion that implementing the Premium Edition is generally a good idea at the time I suggested it despite some possible issues. Two that come to mind are the possible gold seller abuse and a lack of participation in the subscription model. To ensure there is less doubt when it comes to implementing the Premium Edition, I did some brainstorming and realized the WoW Token, along with some facets of reasoning, may very well provide a resolution to some of these issues. With that said, let's go over the two issues and how they can be resolved.

The Gold Seller Issue

Gold sellers are unlikely to open a new account and upgrade it to Premium Edition due to the money invested, which, even when accounting for a stolen credit card, constitutes an enormous risk of loss were the account to end up getting caught for botting or otherwise breaking the Terms of Use. However, they could potentially hijack a Premium Edition account, of which there may be many inactive ones since accounts that would currently be in the Veteran Edition status would likely end up having Premium Edition status were it to be implemented. There's a couple reasons why this isn't as much of a problem as it was a year ago:
  • Since the WoW Token exists, gold sellers could hijack an account and use the WoW Token to pay for a subscription (this is actually what happened to one of my long-inactive friend's accounts and based on Armory searches, this is not that uncommon).
    • It's worth mentioning this still constitutes some level of risk compared to hacking and using a Premium Edition account, but not by as much. I address this issue more below.
  • The WoW Token itself is also in direct competition with gold sellers as it provides a legal way for players to spend real life money on gold. Since it's safe compared to gold-selling sites that can potentially be harmful to the security of the account, among other things. To put it another way, gold-selling businesses are probably not in a good spot.
In addition to this, there's a simple solution that can prevent Premium Edition account abuse (or any account, for that matter): lock accounts that are inactive for too long automatically. It may even be possible Blizzard is in the process of doing such a thing quietly, though as of a few months ago they either haven't or haven't done it enough. Regardless, it is clear that gold sellers wouldn't benefit too much from the addition of Premium Edition.

An Issue of Lacking Subscriptions

I personally think an issue of lacking subscriptions would be more likely to happen due to a low quality product, much like how subscription numbers have fallen during Warlords of Draenor due to a variety of issues, a good number probably related to the game itself. On the other hand, it would be unfair to dismiss the fact players who are currently subscribed degrade their subscriptions on purpose (in unison) and still have access to a lot of content.

The WoW Token's presence helps to prevent this due to it allowing players to buy subscriptions for gold. This means that players would only need to pay for an expansion from time to time, which is far easier to stomach financially, reducing potential losses. This also provides players of the Premium Edition with an opportunity to farm gold and pay for subscriptions and may entice them to buy the expansion. Someone will also front the cost of the WoW Token itself, meaning Blizzard doesn't lose money (in fact, they gain money due to the higher cost of the WoW Token). Thus, it's fair to say Blizzard probably won't lose much from players intentionally degrading to Premium Edition were it to release, mostly because there's not much of a need to due to the existence of the WoW Token.

Final Statements

I aware there's probably some more issues associated with implementing the Premium Edition, but I believe the advantages are far too great to ignore, especially since some major issues have been rendered irrelevant with the WoW Token. If there's one thing I learned while writing suggestions related to the Starter's Edition and attempting to allow for some disconnect from the subscription model, it is that there's a lot of justified opposition and feedback. Feel free to contribute yours if you so desire.

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