Congratulations to Rock Paper Scissors for uncovering and confirming that Blizzard may be looking at dipping their toe into the microtransactions pool in some territories. As someone who has gone through the transition myself, I am completely welcoming and want to tell them from the outset that the water is fine. That being said, it would be nice if we could get observers and the press to stop equating with evil (‘dark… alchemy’) and ‘panic’.
The article could have just as easily pointed out that WoW’s billing model has remained stubbornly antiquated as the entirety of the industry has moved into a direction that players by all appearances seem to prefer, that allows a greater number of players to play the game, most of them at a lowerprice point, and that still earns more money that can be spent on growing and developing the game.
This is not to criticize Blizzard for NOT switching. With a large, happy playerbase as WoW still has (and despite the idea of ‘panic’, 8 million subscribers is still bringing home a lot of bacon every month), and that population is by its very nature biased towards subscription. Messing with that money-printing machine is something that is best done with extreme care.
But for the industry, the writing is on the wall. Marvel Heroes and Neverwinter Nights will both launch as Free to Play titles. ESO and Wildstar damn well be thinking about it now – having a plan in place at ship is far better than trying to jimmy one in later. Entire genres are switching to Free-to-Play – the iOS market has switched over en masse, for example – and the competitive forces will be too strong in any genre that has started that transition. Can you, for example, imagine shipping a MOBA with a $60 box in this day and age where LoL and DOTA2 can be played for free? So it will be for online RPGs.
This is not to say that game developers can’t be evil while microtransacting – either intentionally or through stupidity (i.e. ‘learning’). But as more entrants enter each genre space, the competitive pressure is going to push consumer prices down. I just wish more journalists were willing and able to talk about the consumer UPSIDES to free-to-play and microtransactions.