Another post from IGN.com so go check them out for more!
BY LUKE KARMALI Following today’s news that World of Warcraft players will soon be able to buy game time without spending their real world cash, the MMO’s various detractors are likely to be crowing about the imminent demise of Blizzard’s behemoth. Their glee may be somewhat misplaced however, at least according to lead game designer Ion Hazzikostas.
“I don’t know if I would characterise this as in any way being a move away from WoW being a pure subscription MMO,” he said ahead of the news. “I think it’s just offering more access and flexibility in terms of how those subscriptions are paid. At the end of the day, every player in the game has an active subscription or a month of game time that’s been purchased by them or someone else in order to play the game. It’s just about the dual objective of broadening access and letting people have more flexibility about how they pay while striking a blow against the third-party goldselling market that’s been a blight on the game for such a long period of time."
The main aim of the move then isn’t to test the waters for a full shift to free-to-play in the months ahead, but instead about trying to edge out the more destructive elements of the in-game economy. It’s the lucrativeness of the illicit third-party gold trade trade that sees thousands of accounts hacked every year as those involved look for a quick means to gather gold before selling it on. After floating the idea of the WoW Token late last year to a positive response, Blizzard is now happy to make its plans public.
“We needed to get a sense of whether this is something there’s broad support for among our playerbase,” Hazzikostas explains. “We certainly saw advantages in kerbing the behaviour of illicit goldsellers and the third-party market, we’re well aware of all the negative impact that’s had on players who have their accounts compromised and cleaned out in this never-ending thirst for gold, but we floated it at the end of last year to say we were considering it. We were happy to broadly get a very positive response from a large segment of the playerbase on both sides of the potential transaction, who were excited to make use of this feature and had maybe made use of it in other games, and that kind of steeled our resolve that this was the right move going forward for our game.”
Some may be sceptical about the efficacy of such an approach – after all, Blizzard has spent over a decade trying to eradicate goldsellers from World of Warcraft without much success. Why should the WoW Token succeed where the mysterious Warden Programme, Authenticators and dedicated support staff have failed? According to Hazzikostas, the answer lies in base economic theory. Supply and demand dictates that as long as there’s a demand for gold, players will be willing to bend the rules in order to get at a supply of it without thought for the consequences. The theory, therefore, is that by providing a legal and secure means of getting gold in-game Blizzard can become the major supplier of gold once more, cutting off the need for players to look elsewhere.
“Ultimately, the reality is it’s driven by demand. The gold-selling market wouldn’t exist if there weren’t players looking to do this,” Hazzikostas agrees. “As long as the demand exists, the market will exist and the product will exist. As we’ve seen, the illicit creation of this market has tremendously negative effects on the rest of the game and other players. The majority of the gold that ends up being circulated comes from compromised accounts that were cleaned out, sometimes that have been hacked or botted, and we’re fighting an ongoing war against the supply. But I think offering players a much more secure, legitimate option instead of going to a dodgy third-party site - so you can do it legitimately in-game with no worry of being scammed and also helping out another player on the other end of that transaction – it’s just win-win for everybody.”
Though the WoW Token clearly embraces elements of Eve Online’s PEX system, in reality it’s closer to the C.R.E.D.D. model that debuted in Wildstar. Warcraft showed itself long ago to be an amorphous beast, one capable of critically appraising the greatest strengths of its rivals before finding out how best to incorporate them. It’s a trait that’s enabled the MMO to continue growing while its many competitors fell by the wayside, and Hazzikostas isn’t afraid to acknowledge it keeps Blizzard at the front of the pack.
“I think there’s no question we looked at how C.R.E.D.D. worked out in Wildstar, I mean that’s a game that’s certainly more similar to us and our ecosystem than something like Eve. Eve obviously pioneered this with Plex, but theirs is a very different version and a very different game where you can have your spaceship destroyed and lose your Plex and it’s an economy and a world that’s much more driven by money and in-game currency as a direct analogue for power.
“[In WoW] while more gold is useful, it’s not the same lifeblood it is in other games. But looking at how it worked out elsewhere certainly gave us confidence that this was the right way to go.
“I’m certainly not going to object to a characterisation of us as a group that’s willing to adapt and evolve and move with the times because I think we totally do. We’re also looking to improve upon the experience and the features that are out there.”
Pricing isn’t final yet but, as each Token offers 30 days of game time, it makes sense that it’ll be around as much as a month’s subscription. Despite Hazzikostas’ protestations over this not marking a shift towards free-to-play, it’s still an incredibly significant day in Warcraft’s history. For the first time ever you’ll soon be able to play all the game without purchasing a subscription using real world cash. After a lengthy period of stagnation, the MMO business model is finally changing with even the big dogs finally starting to embrace new forms. Where we go from here is anyone’s guess.
Again for more info from Blizzard and World of Warcraft check out IGN.com