Not Hurting Enough
No matter the dire economic news surrounding Activision Blizzard, one thing always keeps me grounded: when there’s a WoW “sale.” Then it’s made clear they aren’t hurting enough.
Stock price of ATVI was $83.19 in September 2018, and it closed $42.92 Monday. That’s damn near half the value in six months.
Now, obviously, cutting prices for (apparently) extremely lucrative services will cut into profits, but it nevertheless boggles my mind that twenty-one dollars ($21) is the sale price of this sort of thing. Or that moving servers – which is a cell on a data table somewhere – costs seventeen fifty ($17.50) on a discount. Especially when you can buy an entirely new copy of same goddamn game for $40. And that comes with all the expansions, 30-days of game time, and a level 110-character boost.
Blizzard has gotten a bit clever over the years though, as it says “new account required.” It used to be that you could buy another box and basically merge them under one account, thus netting you a level 110 boost token for the sale price of a box instead of the $60 or whatever nonsense they sell it for in-game. Maybe it still works that way? Regardless, the process is obfuscated enough to likely dissuade most from realizing it.
As for me, it’s a bit of a moot point. Even if the BfA expansion was any good at all – it isn’t – I have less than zero desire to head back to WoW at the moment. Seeing the naked hubris of “sales” like this though, only reinforces my resolve to stay away from a game in which people are so invested that these prices “make sense.”
Relative Value of Money
Gaming has gotten pretty complicated for me these days.
The annoying part of this situation is that the complication is all by design. Clash Royale recently celebrated its 1-year anniversary, for example, which means I have been playing this mobile game off-and-on for about a year. Just the other day they teased a “one time sale” that included 100,000g and a Magical Chest for roughly $25. At the stage of development I’m at in the game, that amount of gold would effectively allow me to upgrade two units. Two. For $25.
And I was seriously considering it.
The only real thing that stopped me was that the deal wasn’t as good as the prior deals I did take advantage of. The $25 thing was only a “x4 value” whereas I dropped $25 on a different package several months ago that was a x10 value. At the time, it offered a rather significant boost of power, and allowed me to finally snag an Ice Wizard, which I have used in every deck to this day. Conversely, it is not entirely clear that upgrading two units for 100,000g would see similar returns.
In addition to Clash, I am playing three separate gacha-esque games with similar payment models. Four, technically, if you include Fire Emblem: Heroes in there. I haven’t spent near as much in those as I have in Clash, but I do boot them up every single day for the feeling of incremental progression. And all of them are offering “amazing” deals for $10, $25, even $99.
Then look what happened with WoW. There is currently a “sale” on character services, which means it “only” costs $18.75 for server transfers. Since I had over $180 in Blizzard Bux from cashing in WoW Tokens, I decided to use some of those funds to move the survivors of Auchindoun-US over to Sargeras-US. Moved about four toons thus far, and thinking of a fifth. That’s $75 already. Not $75 from my bank account per se, but I could have nearly bought StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void and 50 packs of Hearthstone’s latest expansion with that same amount of funds.
All of this is why I take a somewhat adversarial stance with game designers. If these were all B2P games, we would not be having this discussion; instead I would be lamenting about how there aren’t enough hours in the day to play all these great games. Instead I’m talking about services within a game, or progression boosters, any of which are more expensive than actual, other games. I just bought Mass Effect: Andromeda from GMG for $41 and some change. That’s roughly two character transfers in WoW, or a few unit upgrades in Clash Royal.
Now, there’s the argument that there aren’t that many games you could even play for a whole year and not tire of. Doesn’t Clash Royal deserve my money for how much amusement it has generated? Isn’t plopping down some cash on these games technically cheaper than paying full price for new releases every few weeks/months anyway?
I think those are the wrong questions, and intentionally engineered to take advantage of cognitive dissonance. Because we aren’t asking those questions up front – we are asking them after having “invested” dozens (or hundreds) of hours into the game. If you told me at the beginning that it took 50,000g to upgrade units in Clash Royal, I would have balked. But having stewed in a pot of nearly boiling water for a year, it all seems reasonable. “Of course it makes sense that I used to get upgrades every three days, and now only get one a month.” Not really, no.
(Especially not when they end up nerfing units a month later. No refunds here.)
The value of money is mostly relative. Going from making $20k to $30k is life-changing, whereas going from $100k to $110k is likely not. However, money is also fungible. Dropping $10 or $25 here and there might make sense in the context of whatever game you are currently playing long-term, but those same dollars could buy anything else.
It is important, IMO, to consider the full picture of what your gaming dollars may or may not be purchasing. A server transfer in an MMO that will save your waning interest may seem a bargain. Hell, it might actually be a bargain in the final analysis. Just be cognizant that the decision should not be “do I spend money or not,” but rather “do I give up X or not.” I decided that two unit upgrades in Clash Royal isn’t worth half a Mass Effect. Framing it this way helps me resist all the fallacies (Sunk Cost, Gambler’s, etc) working on the decision to make it seem reasonable (when it is not), and gives me an answer I can live with.
Maybe your gaming budget is such that you don’t mind dropping hundreds of dollars a month into whatever. In which case, feel free to Paypal some my way, chief. Otherwise, we all have to look out for each other a bit, because the game designers and the in-house psychoanalysts on their payroll certainly are not.
WoW Tokens = Blizzard Cash
Blizzard finally did it. You can turn WoW Tokens into Battle.net Balance:
I actually resubbed to WoW (using a token) just for the ability to quickly capitalize on the process. I say “quickly” for two reasons. First, because I almost couldn’t believe that Blizzard went with a $15 per token rate. Considering that 30 days of game time is already $15, there isn’t actually any reason not to just convert them all straight away.
The second reason is because the gold price of these tokens would skyrocket. And they have:
In fact, there were no tokens available for purchase last night; I kept getting an error message each time I tried. Which makes sense, considering that all of the goblins of the world finally have an outlet for their millions of gold. Blizzard has enough fingers in genre pies these days to cover most of the bases – DotA, ARPG, MMO, FPS, CCG, etc – so there is probably something for everyone.
Luckily (or unluckily depending on when you bought some), the price has since dropped down. Not all the way back down, but nearly 30k gold. The fun part of that graph from WoWtoken.info is how it exposes Blizzard’s pricing algorithm. As demand skyrocketed, the price of a token never exceeded +3.04% per hour. Conversely, as more tokens entered the market, the price never decreased faster than -2.98% per hour. At least, that’s what the graph shows.
As for me, my $120+ balance is likely to be spent transferring characters from the dead server of Auchindoun-US over to the high-pop server my “main” is on. At current rates, I could move… four. Out of ten. Considering that it costs Blizzard nothing to do this automated process, they are essentially capitalizing on the removal of future financial obligations (e.g. game time) for free.
Hmm. Perhaps I shall wait until another one of those 50% off sales on character transfers…
- TOKEN_CONSUMABLE_DESCRIPTION_30_DAYS_BALANCE (New) – Use: Adds 30 days of game time to your World of Warcraft account or %s to your Battle.net Balance.
Time will tell how much the WoW Tokens convert into. Many seem to think it will convert into a standard $15 amount, same as a normal subscription. That makes a sort of elegant sense. I was kinda hoping that it converts into enough to cover an entire Server Transfer (currently the outrageous $25), as that means moving two toons would require four Tokens with some remainder, or perhaps three and a $5 bill thrown in. Of course, that’s not going to happen given they went the Battle.net balance route, unless Server Transfer costs go down.
Anyway, when I got wind of the WoW Token update, I quickly bought up as many Tokens as I could:
I have five WoW Tokens on the druid now, and presumably five more somewhere. Current prices?
Of course, it’s always possible that Blizzard doesn’t make current WoW Tokens “backwards compatible” with their new functions. In which case… shit. I guess I have 10 months of free WoW time? That said, I’m pretty sure Blizzard isn’t going to confuse the issue by having very similar but different functioning Tokens. I imagine the Fiscal department over in Irvine would prefer getting WoW Tokens out of players’ bags via Account Services rather than needing to defer possible months’ worth of subscriptions anyway.
So, we’ll see how it shakes out.
Biggest News from BlizzCon
Let me just lay it on you:
- They’re looking into making the WoW Token be able to be used for other services as well like Character Transfer, Faction Change, or Battle.net Balance. (source)
You can watch the specific part on Youtube, but the bottom line is that this is coming in the “very near future,” there won’t be different Tokens, e.g. the ones you currently have will work, and this entire thing was what they had planned from the start but wanted to start slow to make sure the system worked.
This news is both incredibly good and probably bad for me. Good because I have a lot of toons trapped on Auchindoun. Bad because I don’t know when this system will be implemented. But because it is, that means I shall leave them trapped until it is implemented. Definitely don’t want to be a chump spending $25 two weeks before I could buy a dozen moves with in-game currency.
More BlizzCon impressions to follow.
It’s 25% Off!
A friend of mine still hanging onto WoW for dear life wanted me to see this news:
In other words, character transfers are 25% off for a limited time. Not quite the 50% discount Blizzard was offering back in June of last year, but hey, why would they? They got back 600,000 subscriptions in Q3. Can’t possibly stymie that value-added cash flow equivalent to any number of quality Steam games/bundles/etc.
I kinda get the argument that the value is there for players still invested in playing WoW; even at $18.75 there are only a few Steam games that could stand up to ~100 hours of play that WoW could easily generate in a month. On the other hand, my subscription ended 5/10/13. I am nearly a year and a half removed. And even if I came back tomorrow, all my toons are still stuck on
no-Pop Auchindoun-US whatever merged PvP server nonsense exists with just about everyone else I know having abandoned ship to a PvE server. So the costs for me to get back into the game is, minimum, $15 + $18.75 + the expansion. That is a rather serious goddamn commitment for something I don’t even know I will find fun anymore.
So, no thanks, Blizzard: it’s still a wee bit ridiculous. If I could transfer my entire character stable wholesale for that price, sure, maybe. I simply got too much gold, too many alts, and not enough fucks to give.
Instant 90s, cont.
In a rather topical turn of events, Blizzard has confirmed both that the level-90 boost will be $60 for real, and that it’s priced that way for your own good.
“In terms of the pricing, honestly a big part of that is not wanting to devalue the accomplishment of leveling,” Hazzikostas said.
“If our goal here was to sell as many boosts as possible, we could halve the price or more than that – make it $10 or something. And then hardly anyone would ever level a character again.
“But leveling is something that takes dozens if not over 100 hours in many cases and people have put serious time and effort into that, and we don’t want to diminish that.”
He added: “I am not an economist, I’m not the one setting the dollar value myself, but it’s not the profit maximizing price. That was not our aim here.”
You know, because anything less than $60 devalues your leveling accomplishments from years ago. Aside from everyone getting a free 90 with the expansion. And aside from those free level 80s via the Scroll of Resurrection (RIP). And aside from getting triple XP for putting a character on /follow for $12.50. And aside from the people cajoling their friends for power-leveling AoE dungeon runs while wearing full heirlooms. And, of course, aside from the inevitable XP reduction that comes with each expansion.
What’s extra interesting to me now though (and with Wilhelm too), is what Blizzard is going to do when the price of the expansion inevitably drops. I ended up buying Mists of Pandaria for $20 over Christmas a few years ago. Will the $60 character boost go down in tandem with the box price? Or will their stomach for the “unwieldy” buy-extra-expansion-copies suddenly steel up?
My post yesterday came across to Tobold as an admonition of in-game purchases or whatever. While I do not expect people to maintain a full inventory of my opinions, I do hope that I am occasionally afforded the benefit of a doubt. Just so we’re clear though, here are my thoughts.
Way back in July 2011, I posted The Problem with F2P and Microtransactions. Over the years (!), I have come to concede the point that microtransactions are not going away. However, I have and will always continue to fight to slow the steady erosion of consumer surplus whenever I can. To me, there is no inconsistency with being okay with DLC in general, but not being okay with on-disc or Day 1 DLC. Similarly, there is good F2P and bad F2P, the latter of which can be summarized in Green Armadillo’s “To Vote Against Monetizing Nuisance” post. I’ve spent real dollars on PlanetSide 2 and Hearthstone, but would never spend anything on Dungeon Keeper or Candy Crush Saga, even though I have nothing against playing those latter games.
In fact, I talked about games like Dungeon Keeper just about two weeks ago. Their business models suck and they are emblematic of the wrong way to take game design, but if you treat their nuisance as an extra layer of challenge, you can re-extract the consumer surplus you inevitably lost somewhere else. Plus, paying in time management games is an extremely bad trade of value. Getting extra imps or builders or whatever usually results in maybe an extra minute or two of gameplay if you’re lucky – you will be able to take a few extra actions but will otherwise still be required to put the game down for an arbitrary period of time. Compare that with Don’t Starve or Terraria or whatever full-fledged indie game you could have bought with those same dollars.
In any case, circling back to Blizzard, I hope it’s clear that I’m not against all in-game purchases. I’ve used both the Scroll of Resurrection and dual-boxed a RAF account in the past (that’s the origin of my Priest named Freexp). My opposition to the $60 instant-90 is precisely the dollar amount, on top of the bullshit PR logic used to justify it. I have always had a problem with the $25 character transfer service too, which really came to a head when they dropped the price for a week. These services are priced so absurdly compared to what other pieces of entertainment you could be buying because, quote, it’s to discourage their use. Yeah, okay. Tell that to the thousands of people left duped and abandoned on no-pop “Recommended” servers that Blizzard left to rot for 6+ years. To those people, it was “pay $25 on top of the subscription to continue playing the game.”
Ghetto Transfer + Twitter
Has it occurred to anyone else that the free level 90 character Blizzard is handing out in Warlords of Draenor can be used as a ghetto faction/server transfer? If not, well, consider it. My old crew transferred away from Auchindoun to a PvE server during the half-off sale, so the possibility of server mergers “Connected Realms” bringing us back together is nil. I mean, we could still do some cross-realm things, but it’s not quite the same.
But I was thinking the other day about what would stop me from just straight-up rolling a new level 90 paladin on their server come expansion release. Other than the monk, all my other alts are level 85 at a minimum, so boosting any of them would be a waste. Achievements, mounts, pets, most titles, and even heirlooms are account-wide now or will soon be. About the only thing I “lose” is the ability to transfer 50,000g and my old-world mats. And, I guess, my transmog gear. Since I ran Black Temple long enough to get the Bulwark of Azzinoth (and a hopeless dream), that would suck to lose.
For other people though, the level 90 thing could provide value in all sorts of surprising ways.
Also! After the frustration of not being able to relate my awesomeness in Hearthstone the moment it occurs (e.g. all the goddamn time), I have dusted off my Twitter account:
I’ll keep it over in the sidebar, but I make no promises as to its updating schedule or value of its contents. So… basically it’ll be like every Twitter account ever. But if you want to know how #AllSkill it felt dropping an Alexstraza against a Druid at full HP and then killing him next turn when I gave her Windfury, well, you just might be prepared.
WoW Finally Has Server/Faction Sale
In a move that I have been suggesting literally forever, Blizzard is slashing all character services by 50%… for one week.
The prices break down as follows:
- Server Transfer = $12.50
- Faction Transfer = $15.00
- Server + Faction Transfer = $27.50
- Name/Appearance Change = $7.50
- Race Change = $12.50
If there is not a clearer sign that Blizzard believes WoW still exists as luxury entertainment on a level all to its own, I don’t know what it is. Well, you know, beyond the fact that as absurd as these prices appear to be, given the proper distance from the game, they are normally 50% higher.
I mean… Christ. Is this the same MMO that lost 1.3 million subscribers last quarter? That’s a rhetorical question because of course it is. Otherwise Blizzard would have no cause to not still charge people $25/$55 to move off dead realms Blizzard kills with extreme negligence.
In other news, I just bought EVE Online for $4.98 on Steam. You know, for a rainy day.