The main thing that originally delayed me from trying World of Warcraft was the thought of paying each and every month for a game that I already had to buy upfront. Although my now-husband was already paying to play Final Fantasy 11 at the time, I just couldn’t imagine paying for a game and then paying for the privilege to play it each and every month. Then one summer night my husband managed to convince me to try the free-trial. I didn’t have to buy the game up-front and I didn’t have to pay to play for the first bit. That was all it took. I was hooked and feebly gave up my resolve to never pay to play.
Most of us long-term WoW players prefer not to add up the costs. Every month we see the charge on our card but don’t give it much thought. The other day though I was thinking about how much has changed in my life since I started playing…..and paying. I’ve gotten married, had kids, moved a handful of times, and established a career and I still play. I realized just how much time has passed. So how much have I spent on WoW? I didn’t start playing until 2005 but for the sake of this article lets assume I started playing on launch day – November 23, 2004. Let’s also take into account the 1 month free you get when you buy your account. As of today, it has been 148 months since launch – so 147 months of paid subscription time at $14.99. You could do multiple months in advance saving you a couple of bucks but the majority of players use the month by month billing. Therefore, if you have been playing World of Warcraft since launch day you would have paid the $59.99 price for your account plus $2,203.53 just to be able to log on to one game. Over twelve years that may not seem too bad but we haven’t even touched on expansions.
Ever since 2007, Blizzard has released a new expansion at least every two years. They released Burning Crusade in 2007 (and they should have stopped there if you ask me!), Wrath of the Lich King in 2008, Cataclysm in 2010, Mists of Pandaria in 2012, Warlords of Draenor in 2014 and most recently Legion in 2016. Although these expansions are technically optional and you can continue to play without them – NO ONE DOES. If you are still hooked enough to pay $15 a month – you’re going to buy the expansions. Each expansion sets you back $49.99 for the basic edition. If you’re rolling in the dough you can always upgrade to a collectors edition. So expansions alone are an extra $300 minimum.
Of course Blizzard has other ways to squeeze more money out of us. Ranging from something as simple as a name change or realm change, faction changes, boosting your characters 90% of the way to the current max level or the endless supply of in-game purchases like gold and mounts, Blizzard can easily get thousands more dollars out of the average player. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve spent a few hard earned dollars in this category too.
At the end of the day though, to only play the game with all expansions since launch day you will have spent a minimum of $2,563.52 USD. If you’re a Canadian like me, we’re looking at closer to $3,500, with our monthly subscription charge currently coming in at close to $20 CAD. The big question – is it worth it – is impossible for me to answer for you. For some people, $2,500 dollars for 12 years of entertainment is a great deal. Others might look at that and realize they could have gone on a trip or bought a used car for that price.
Personally, I’m torn. Although I thoroughly enjoyed it during the early years I don’t find WoW anything special now. The social aspect of it has plummeted – thanks to Looking for Group (LFG) and Looking for Raid (LFR) you can enter groups and never speak to a single soul. And since it’s cross realm and random you no longer worry about upsetting people or tarnishing your name with poor gameplay since you’ll probably never be grouped with those people again anyways. There hasn’t really been that much innovation to justify the cost of the expansions either. Much of what Blizzard puts into a $50 expansion, others developers put into free patches. Character customizations are tired and old with very little update since launch. Every few months though I get nostalgic and reactivate my account. Of course I usually only end up playing for a few days before tiring of it again.
I’d love to see Blizzard go back to the roots to earn my dollar. In their attempt to make finding a group easier they nixed not only the social aspect but also the exploration of the world. Back in Vanilla you had to have group members get themselves to the dungeons. You explored so much of the world in this time. As a stereotypical female WoW player I enjoy playing healing characters most of the time. As a healer, as soon as I hit Dungeon level I can open my LFG interface and run dungeon after dungeon never speaking to anyone and never even leaving my level 15 area. That being said, LFG and LFR are great for when I just want to hop on and do a quick dungeon while my kids are napping or I’m waiting for my husband to prep for a date night.
Another thing Blizzard could incorporate to win back my love and my dollars would be more subscription options. As of now, you rather pay nothing at all and can only play up to level 20 with many functions restricted – or you pay $15 a month for everything, no matter how often you log on. I’d love to see an option for buying time you use up. Instead of buying a month’s worth of time that expires after a month whether I play 8 hours a day 7 days a week or I don’t even log on at all, I could buy 5 hour increments that expire when I use them up – a lot like a pre-paid cellphone. Even differing subscription plans where $5/month lets you play up to level 100, $10/month unlocks everything but raids and $15/month unlocks it all would be a great way to incorporate varying playing habits as well as varying budgets.
I never thought I would see the day where I suggest Blizzard take a page out of Square Enix’s playbook as I’m very Team WoW as opposed to Team Final Fantasy. That being said, Square Enix offers in-game rewards to players dependent on the length of time they have been actively subscribed on FFXIV. I might think twice about cancelling my WoW account subscription if I knew a perk was coming in the future. Instead, when I feel like playing WoW I immediately deactivate my subscription upon activation so it doesn’t charge the next month automatically when I inevitably forgot I was bored a month ago.
It seems like subscription based games and apps are becoming more and more a part of our everyday life. Whether it’s your XBOX Live, Playstation Plus, Spotify music or even a Fitness App for tracking calories – if you want all the features you’re going to have to commit to giving the developer money indefinitely.
What are your thoughts? Has your money invested into Blizzard been well spent or a waste?