So here we stand, fellow gamers; divided in droves as the powers that be implement new ways to funnel cash into their coffers. I’m talking about MMORPG developers like CCP, Nexon, and more recently Blizzard Entertainment, as they attempt to reinvigorate old players, and attract new ones alike. With the gradual decline of subscription models, developers have been turning left and right to find new ways to sustain operations. However, for reasons to later be explained, players immediately find microtransactions to be game-breaking and unfair (although not always the case). At what line must the developer cross in order to sustain their game, while keeping casuals and hardcore players at ease?
Most recently, World of Warcraft, the crown jewel of Blizzard Entertainment’s PC game portfolio, has begun to adopt a new model where players can exchange real money for game time tokens that can then, in turn, be sold on the auction house for a server calculated price. This price is generated based on supply and demand: if many players are buying, then prices will be high, and the same can be said vice versa if demand is low.
Here’s an example: on Tuesday, April 7, Blizzard introduced WoW Tokens. They were being sold, at first by default, for 30k per token. So for about $20 (the price of said token), a player could walk away with 30k upon successful completion of their auction. Within 24 hours the pricing of WoW Tokens diminished by almost 10k or 25%, as the rush to empty overfilled wallets came to a slow trickle. Player activity had spoken, and the pricing responded similarly.
Competitors such as CCP’s EVE Online have been selling in-game time that can be sold for in-game currency for years. PLEX, however, differs from Tokens in that players can determine the price they set, rather than everything being automated. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a way for developers to deter gold trading and help bring in extra money.
In many ways it’s a win-win (Blizzard profits and players gain a safe way to buy gold), but some players don’t see it like that.
By introducing WoW Tokens, Blizzard has further lessened the barrier between real life and the virtual world. The argument is as follows: assume that an individual, in the real world, actively plays WoW, and has a high income that is mostly disposable. They can then use their real world advantage to gain an in-game advantage; since gold can be used for thing such as high-end gear, and even mythic runs, there is no disputing that there is an advantage of some sort. All the while, the sudden influx of gold causes the market to spike somewhat, only hurting players that cannot afford to shed their incomes.
Of course, there is a limit on how many tokens you can buy per month. At 10 tokens max, and at the current market value, players will be spending about $200 monthly for 200k gold. Other players are saying that this could very well be the first step toward more pay-to-win tactics. It is the opinion of this writer that the first step was long ago.
Lil’ Ragnaros is one such example. The $20 purchasable in-game battle pet is one of the most powerful, highly rated, and easily attained additions to pet battles. While it is not the most highly ranked, scoring 5th place on warcraftpet.com’s listings, it still ranks more highly than a vast number of more easily obtained pets. Although minimal, and for many insignificant, the advantage here is real, and again is one of the first major moves made by Blizzard on impairing players with limited incomes.
Where do you stand, player? Voice your opinion in the comments below.