Greedy Goblin

Friday, December 10, 2010

Would you pay $150 for Cataclysm?

Business update: not much. People still buy 1-1.5K worth glyps/day but nothing new. They slowly buy bags too. Material prices are still high, so I don't buy herbs or cloth to level inscription or tailoring.

The Pug update: nothing spectacular either. 5 new people in, 3 inactives out, people level up, most of them are 82, 5 are 85, starting heroics. I'm 84.2. Instance groups are forming, the 85s are already taking Tol Barad, business as usual.

Some of the servers are so full, that players must wait in a queue. Well, on the one hand it's great, who doesn't want customers lining up at the door? On the other hand it make them annoyed. Annoyed customers may don't renew their subscription. World of campcraft doesn't sound great. There are several suggestions flying around, but none of them perfect. Transfers don't really help as the people want others to go away, they want to stay with their raid team or their "friends". No real realms (where everything, even continents are instanced), are "bad for forming communities" and "promote anonymous asshattery".

Let me introduce a goblinish idea. It is based on the fact that the player surge is temporary. After people reached 85, they practically leave their server as they are in instanced BGs, 5-mans, raids. So we have a wave and the optimal move would be to separate this huge wave into several smaller waves. Now here is the idea: Blizzard should have sold 4 versions of Cataclysm:
  • Platinum version: $150, you can access 80+ content, archeology, goblins/worgens, illustrious professions on Dec 7.
  • Gold version: $100, you can access the above on Dec 21.
  • Silver version: $50, you can access the above on Jan 4.
  • Bronze version: $25, you can access the above on Jan 18.
Since the guild XP, guild achievement features are on for everyone on Dec 7, the buyers of lower level Cataclysm can still play and be "useful" to their guilds by doing lvl 80 heroics or doing achievements. These actions don't stress the server as they are done in instanced servers. They don't even stress the world server when idling as they do it in Dalaran.

Instead of a huge wave of complaining players, Blizzard would get more $ and 4 smaller waves. On the top of that they would get a very reliable info on how much their players are willing to pay, helping pricing further products. What do you think. Would it be a good idea to do it next expansion?


NewNameEachDay said...

Good concept, bad execution. Socials would complain of perceived unfairness and would not purchase. Some would quit.

In the long run, Blizzard makes money off of subscriptions, not expansion purchases. Making things seem too unfair would drive off subscribers and lose Blizzard money.

If they, however, announced ahead of time date would be Dec. 15, then said you can pay double to access on Dec. 8, it would be all win for Blizzard. All the positives Gevlon described without the negatives I mentioned.

People hate when they don't get what is standard; they are OK with others getting "bonuses." Rest experience (XP) initially was implemented as punishment XP reduction if you leveled up without resting -- people hated it so they changed it to "bonus" rest XP, and everyone loved it.

typhoonAndrew said...

The price point for teh full version is too highin the example, but otherwise I suspect many folks might pay less to get it eventually, but that raises a potential loss of revenue too.

A proportion of the player base will not buy it day 1, so when they choose to buy it later at the moment Blizzard gets the full retail value - with this new model that changes significantly. Are purchases after Jan 18 always $25?

If so there will ned to be some math + sales stats analysed to find out of this is effective.

Squishalot said...

The option is already available, albeit not as quickly as you propose. The price of expansions go down as time progresses. Look at Wrath - Blizzard themselves were selling it for $20, and BC for $5. You could get similar discounts at retail stores.

Having said that, if Blizzard were to implement such a proposal, I think that would actually cause more discontent with social players on the grounds that it doesn't treat people 'fairly'. At the moment, people sitting in queues can remind themselves that everybody has an equal opportunity to log in. Once you put a price on it, it favours those who are more well off / have more money to spend, and this would drive away people in its own right.

Foo said...

If it was 'free to play' - then yes. Players accept that those that pay the most get the best.

However Warcraft's subscription model is based on the notion that a flat fee gets you everything. (Yes I know this notion is incorrect - sparkly ponies anyone?). You would have to introduce 'free to play'/'pay for access' concepts. Those you refer to as M&S would complain that they don't get the opportunity to play, and Blizzard risks a PR nightmare.

Blizzard got around this problem in Beta with a lottery for entry.

I am on a high pop US realm (Caelestrasz), and the only problem I had was the login server (still no queues).

Plan (B) for charging could work like this:

Realms get sibling servers that 'serve' heavily populated zones (using instance hardware). When you are not in a heavily popluated zone, you play on the main server.

You can pay a one time server 'transfer fee' (or possibly a 'collectors edition') to play on a sibling server. Guild chat and whisper is still linked, similarly to how chat works in instances.

The costs for Blizzard are minimal; setting up zones to be gated (much the way that Outland/Azuremyst Isle are gated), but possibly with a large portal area instead of a single point of entry; and determining how many players per instance server.

Once the stress period settles down, they could remove the portals and merge areas into a homogoneous zone. Alternatively you could purchase for an additional fee the option of a lag free 'dalaran' (the current laggy city of the day).

If you need to catch up with your non-paying friends/guild mates you can 'downgrade' your performance by requesting to be in the same 'phase' as they are.

In this way all players are equal. Those that pay are more equal than others.

Anonymous said...

This seems to be a very valid idea (and I think NewName's idea would improve it significantly), but I would be willing to bet that Blizzard would still see a net loss after a few months.

Some people are going to be irritated with the ques and the wave, but I think people would be more irritated with the tier system, with the difference being prominent enough to offset the increase in sales revenue.

There is a high chance that anyone who has a level 80 character has survived the wave before and is willing to survive it again. Also, it is probable that que irritation would result in server migration before subscription cancellation, or a player that will simply take a week or two off before upgrading.

There is always the possibility that I am crazy though.

Kuckuck said...

I think same as newname.
Socials wouldn't like it because they NEED to show their friends that they have $X to spend on a game just like EVERYONE else. (Where previously they did not).

nightgerbil said...

Wouldnt work. People would pay the $150 en masse, except the ones who would cancel their subs.

Anonymous said...

I imagine that would piss off a huge amount of the playerbase. I finished ICC over six months ago and I considered my guild very casual. The type of player willing to pay out $150 to get in a few weeks early probably finished ICC far earlier than I did and was only restricted by the gated content.

That and it would assume the purchases are constant. Staggering the release cuts into the buzz and impulse buys of new content and you'd better hope you can live up to those $150 expectations or your initial press is going to be very, very bad and encourage people to wait for the $25 version. People were starting to hit 85 on the first day, they'd better have something better to do than complain about vash'jr.

Nerdrager said...

No thanks I play on a low population server (DentargEU) and questing feels good.
You have enough people around you to feel like of a MMOG without spawn camping.. questing during the first days of an expansion is a lot of fun on low pop servers.
Being lvl 82 I'm a bit behind the wave, but mount hyal was playable even the 7th of december.

Maybe I missed a post of yours regarding high population realms but there's a good reason why they are (perceived as) better for "casuals" and socials: PUGS. When the player base is biggger it's easier to gather enough people capable of boosting you while on a small realm your're limited to an handful of raiding guilds and a small army of scrubs.

Zazkadin said...

I think it would work in the sense that a lot of people would be paying the $150 to play first. But it would also drive away a lot of the other players, who will feel that the game is elitist and only for the rich.

This mechanism could be applied in other realms, e.g. the cinema, but it is almost never done. If I see Harry Potter at premiere day, I pay the same as the guy who sees it six weeks later. On the other hand, the retired person who sees it on a Monday afternoon, pays only half price. So perhaps Blizzard should have an off-hour subscription: you pay only half the fee, but you cannot log on between 19:00 and 22:00.

Anti said...

oceanic servers,
prime time,
12 servers,
6 PVE, all "high"
6 PVP, 3 "locked", 2 "high", 1 "medium"

my "locked" server has 1500+ queue and 110 minute wait. well it was 110 minutes an hour its 90 minutes. 130 minutes and 700+. ffs

when i started loging in rolling restarts were 4 hours away....if i get in just before they occur i'll be pissed off.

but if they added more oceanic servers they would have to admit they have enough subscribers to justify locally hosted realms.

Orgaansint said...

Hardcore players with little money would be left out as they may have had the money to buy the expansion, but at $200 they would have to wait a couple of weeks before they could buy and play the full game.

Minmaxing is an important part for hardcore players. Things like guildkicks or other people taking their spots could occur. Not a good thing.

And giving Blizzard even more ideas how to drain money from their playerbase that is already happening (e.g pets) is not neccesarely a good idea.

Hrym said...

I think having 4 versions of cataclysm would just confuse the consumers. Consumers want it plain and simple. Also, it would take a lot of work for blizzard to make 4 versions and to program all that in their system that certain cd keys can only be activated at a certain time. It is much cheaper for them to just create one cd and have just one price. It's very tedious to track in accounting because it's a similar product but just different "versions". It's just too much additional work.

Anonymous said...

Such action would break most of the social and raiding guilds by rendering a large percentage of the roster unable to play for different periods. It would make guilds restructure, and players coming late would find themselves in a deserted guild or guildless.

I think Blizzard's 'make the product as widely available as possible' philosophy is much more goblinish.

Anonymous said...

When the normal gamers sees advantages bought trough cash they flame the developers in forums and leave. This is the case whenever people reach goals in games trough money instead of playtime.

So while it seems reasonable on paper it mostly wouldnt work. Partly cause the hardcore players are mostly students and other cases of barely enough cash to play. If they cant compete they will just leave to other games where they can

Anonymous said...

Why do game console makers sell there consoles at or below cost?

They make more off the games than the console.

Why would blizzard sell an expansion for a little more upfront only to get less subscription money?

Would your atypical M&S buy a game when it was not new and shiney? Would they start a month "behind" everyone.

What if they find something new and shiney before they can get the "cheap" version?

What makes the most sense is to just deal with the problems that comes from queues and such for the few weeks that the servers get hammered. People who complain about queues are paying a subscription fee.

Bobbins said...

The answer to the question in the title is ... No.

Your idea creates a two tier game one where one lot of players pay for better equipment, mounts, professions and the ability to gank lvl 80's to their hearts content. This currently will happen with Cataclysm but the price is less of a barrier but i think that is your point to create haves and have nots based solely on their purchasing power.

PS. Indeed if the initial price was raised to a $300 dollar tier would the people who would pay $150 feel a bit niffed at being priced out?

PS2. What was the thinking of the price levels in the article. Were they random or figures which you would feel comfortable with on your income level? 150/100/50/25. The value of items varies according to income levels. Someone on a lower income would have to spend more (as a %) of their disposable income on a luxury item.

Dexter said...

Small money-making tip... Raw Sliced Brillfish can be bought from a vendor in Vash'jr for 1g80s for a stack of 5. I've been selling them for 20g-30g each on my AH.

Anonymous said...

This seems like a bad idea. Most socials react violently to perceived "greed" (desire by others to have money). They would hate Blizzard for this.

It seems like the only players who would quit in large numbers over queues are new players. Long-time players have invested much time and energy into their characters and are more likely to endure the wait. So the best business move would be to give queue priority to newer accounts. Let the new players play and get hooked, and let the veterans complain on the forums (rather than voting with their wallet).

Anonymous said...

You know you are treading a very controversial line there ,going by your argument Blizzard should even start selling feats of strengths or server firsts. Where you think for immediate gains , blizzard care for long term and sustained results.The suggested solution would have made masses (read socials) quit the game and many of those who are returning to the game after a break, wouldn't have came back.

I have been a long time reader of your blog,I like the pragmatic but sometimes extreme approach of your posts.But this post doesnt make any sense at all.

thehampster said...

This idea would basically break WoW. Can you believe how angry many people would be after waiting 6 months for cataclysm, just to have to wait an extra month while the "rich kids" got to play? Do you think anyone would continue paying their monthly fee to keep raiding ICC during that time frame?

This would be even worse then blizzard selling top gear for money. I'd definitely cancel my account based on principle, even though I could easily afford the price tag.

Anonymous said...

The difference between 150 and 25 is so high, that not even 1% would purchase the 150 dollar copy.
That might be fine for population, but would be a total waste of money for blizzard, as they would need to wait for so long to get majority of their player base to purchase the game.

Note that getting 100% of money upfront, is better than getting 1% of more money upfront, followed the other money later on, as you could put the 100% of money into bank and get interest ... or invest it for even more profit. "A bird in a hand, is worth two in a bush"

If the difference in price is nominal, lets say 10 dollars per each level your described, than I can see people doing it.

But it alienates players. Not everyone in social guild is a social, some are very hardcore players (those who end up carrying the guild). And having that hardcore player wait a month before his guildies even purchase the game is going to be tough. If they get frustrated enough, they may even quit the game ... what if they join another game, and their wow friends follow them?

I think a lot of people are tired of playing wow after so many years, and are looking for a way out.
Charging a monthly fee or an expansion price not in line with other games, will be a way out for those players.
If enough players leave, cascading affect will start. It wouldn't even take until end-of-subscription to have 12 million people switch over to the next 'it' game.

Anonymous said...

how about make the different price levels just be for different guarantees of server access? platinum players get 24/7 guaranteed entry to any server with no queue. gold get non-peek time guarantees. silver get no guarantees when logging on. bronze get no guarantees when logging on and might get kicked out if a burst of platinum people show up. you could bake some priorities for Dungeon Finder/BG queues into the packages too. then sell them as subscription levels, not tied to the expansion (enabling people to upgrade).

of course there might be technical challenges if all the platinum subs try to log on to the same server at the same time, but absent an explicit effort to subvert the system, it should work. the trick is to set the prices to attract the number of people at each level which you can support efficiently.

Anonymous said...

"Blizzard would get more $ and 4 smaller waves"

I'd be concerned about the mass exodus of existing subscriptions with such a huge price gulf

Tychus said...

I’d do it a bit differently and offer a full-time premium level of service for “Platinum” subscribers. Rather than stagger the launch, I’d let everyone in at the same time, but Platinum subscribers (who pay, say, 4x or 5x the monthly rate) would get queue bypass, priority placement in the LFG tool (first-available access), immediate access to GM tickets, etc.

I’d oppose a staggered launch just on simple logistics. As much as I am loathe to admit it, the ability of a player to pay for premium service and his relative talent generally have little relation to each other. I’m sure some of the poorest players in WoW are some of the best, and I know for a fact that some of the wealthiest players are pretty bad. Given that the leveling curve is so short, 85 would be a lonely place for a month (or more) while the rest of the players catch up to those of us who paid for early access, possibly enough so that I’d spend more time in LFG than I have to already. Therefore, I need other people leveling up beside me if I don’t want to get stuck waiting for people to arrive at the cap with me; I’m just willing to pay more to bypass the lottery to get in alongside them.

Think of it more like a ticket at an amusement park that lets me cut the line, but still ride with the rest of the people. I can’t ride a rollercoaster if it doesn’t have enough people – that’s not safe, doesn’t meet the weight requirements, and they wouldn’t let me do it. But I don’t want to wait in line behind all the other people who want to ride, too. So let me cut to the front of the line, but ride alongside everyone else.

If you’re a player with lots of disposable time on your hands (ie, younger people, students, unemployed, etc – folks who couldn’t afford to pay the premium access) it’s not so big a deal to wait in line – you’ve got the time, you can just bum around doing something else around until you get in. But someone like me, who has very little leisure time available at all, needs to maximize the use of his free time, and I’m willing to pay a relative premium to do so. If I’ve only got an hour to play, I don’t want to spend half of that in a queue.

This also helps Blizzard target what Nicholas Lovell likes to call “the whales” – those players who can afford to spend more money, and are willing to do so if you offer them something they want. Blizzard has only made about $400 or $500 from me in subscription fees to date – I spend more than that on a date with my wife. Give me something worth paying for, and you’ll get a lot more money from me.

Anonymous said...

The idea would fail epically for a few reasons. For Blizzard there is the loss of the pr factor: "blank millions of players purchased the expansion on day the it came out". This is huge for them. Nothing sells a game like knowing that lots of other people bought the game.

Second, as someone alluded to this would destroy some of the achievements in particular realm firsts. What does it mean to be the first to level your toon to cap if you are competing against a far reduced number of people?

Finally the ques have never been that bad. I play on a large population server and even during the worst ques for BC, it was never that bad. Sure I might have to wait 45 minutes to log but that just means when I get home, I log in, shower grab something to eat whatever and once I'm done so is the que. And of course after a week the ques are much less and after two weeks they are gone.

Taconite said...

In my own way, I am doing something like the wave Gevlon is describing. I am leveling an alt or Archaeology on my main when Vash and Mt. Hyjal are over populated. I would have paid blizz less and started later if that option was offered.

Claive said...

With all the new free (other than the subscription) content Blizzard gave away during the shattering I don't understand why anyone is paying for cata at all.

Without upgrading we get a completely different leveling experience, guild perks, etc.

Anonymous said...

Truth is, right now Blizzard is doing what's the actually goblinish thing to do. Yes, some servers are full to the point of having long queues. No, people won't transfer even if it's free because they'd leave their player community/whatever behind.
But so what? They aren't actually quitting because of that. They suck it up. They moan on the forums. And that's still 13 bucks a month. It's like the login server disaster that occurs after every expansion launch; why get more server capacity when people are still going to buy the product.

RLWJR said...

I am in the planning stages of forming a US version of the PuG. If you are interested in helping make this happen, email me at If you just want to join, DO NOT email me YET. I am looking for a person, or two to discuss the "where" and "how exactly" part of setting the guild up.

Alessandro said...

It would be terrible for business. Most of the players would think "Damn, Blizzard is mercenary!" and give blizzard the finger.

What would be better would be a players balance not by realms.

It would be by Friends-Enemy list. You say who are your friends and enemies. And the game would put you and all your friends together, and would TRY to put your enemies in the same "Game Instance". And put "Max Friends = 50".

All other persons would be random.

Another way would be to use Guildies instead of Friends.

This could be really integrated with Real ID.

Then blizzard would have to implement a bad-ass balancing algorithm, and do a perfect split beetween their servers.

Everyone would be happy.

The problem would be the market(AH) . Make a Huge Giant Market or make market more random and every time you fall into a different market?(one-market by "Game Instance")

Lighstagazi said...

- Get automation software
- Automate your WoW login an hour before you get home (assuming you don't have an authenticator)
- ???
- Profit

I did this for when my server had queues at Wrath launch, and for Ulduar and TOC launches (very high pop server, it slipped into queues really easily).

I have an authenticator now, so it wouldn't work without deactivating the authenticator, but the authenticator is generally very superfluous if you keep your computer and your password safe.

Foo said...

Lighstagazi, that's a good idea - what I would do if I were playing Cata, would be to login to my home PC from work using some remote software (such as TeamViewer), start the queuing and then drive home (takes about an hour for me). =)

As to Gevlon's idea of using price discrimination - I have to agree with most of the people who posted here, I think it would piss off a lot of the casuals because they have 'a life' and can't afford to pay $150 for a game, which they would feel compelled to do, lest they fall behind everyone else. Thus, Blizz might end up making less money.

Lighstagazi said...

Actually, wasn't there an MMO that came out recently that did something like this? Maybe it was FFXIV; they let collectors editions into the game a week or two early.

Though if it was FFXIV, they have enough other problems going on, it might not be a fair sampling.