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Shut Up And Take My Money: Thoughts on Blizzard's paid services


After playing for almost eight years, I've become accustomed to the fees that accompany World of Warcraft. It's just... part of the game. We pay a monthly fee so the developers can bring us new shinies and dragons to slay. We pay a monthly fee so our Community Managers can wrangle cats and serve as our voice. We pay Blizzard to keep WoW going. At what works out (in the US) to be about $0.50 per day, in my mind, there's never been a cheaper night of entertainment.

Now, I wouldn't pose an argument against our monthly fee, but it's common to see complaints from the community about Blizzard's paid services for WoW. A character transfer is $25 USD, name change $10 USD, appearance change $15 USD, race change $25 USD, faction change $30 USD, and let's not forget about the various Guild Services offered at a price. Select services combine a few changes -- an appearance change allows a name change as well, for example.

What is reasonable? Well, for cosmetic services like appearance, race, and name changes, the prices are fair. They're things that aren't necessary in order to play. If you're in a top 100 guild, at some point you may gain an extra edge in changing race to benefit from a racial. Who knows. If you're being harassed by someone in-game, it may be necessary to name change, even. Other than that, I can't think of a situation in which those services would be "required."

Character transfer charges, on the other hand, should be looked at. Over on the EU forums, Taepsilum posted a great response to a thread on paid services that got me thinking.

Taepsilum -- Cost of paid services

these services are completely 100% optional and are in no way needed to play the game.

It's partially because of this. Another reason would be to keep things somewhat stable, if these services were free or extremely cheap, communities could lose social and economic stability.

Social stability - Because realms are supposed to be somewhat insular, and that's a good thing, one of the best qualities MMORPG's have going for them is the social bond created between players, and those require time and a stability to create. Players would also become less accountable for their actions (realm reputation would be very hard to assess), and we all know that unfortunately LFR and CRZ already hinted on how that can be a problem; we still we think the benefits far outweigh the risks in these two specific cases though, as they're limited to the use of those features.

Economic stability - because not all realms are exactly the same and this would effectively allow the most enthusiastic traders and speculators to explore the global economy to their own best interests, which could have negative effects on a global scale or at least on the more economically vulnerable servers.

We could talk for hours about this, but that would be beyond the point of this topic, I'm sure you understand the logic behind this argument, some won't agree with it and that's ok, this can be quite an interesting and complex topic, just think about reality and global economy, opinions on that are far from being unanimous.

Now I understand that nowadays it's much more common for players to have a lot of alt characters and when someone chooses to migrate, most of the times that player would like to take all his characters with him and that would come at a high cost.

Sometimes players will choose not to migrate at all due to not being able to afford it or simply not wanting to pay for all those migrations; now, although there's not much I can tell you about this, I can say that we're aware of all of your suggestions and requests regarding services, as you can probably realize, this is not the sort of thing that can be decided on-the-fly, but if we believe that there is a real need for some sort of change or improvement on our character services and that it could potentially improve gameplay, then I don't see why we wouldn't consider it, evolution and change has always part of Blizzard's culture, especially when we talk about WoW, we're nothing if not adaptable and iterative, so all I can say is that I'm not currently aware of any plans to change these services, but that doesn't mean we won't have them in the future, keep providing us with constructive feedback about it, I can assure you it can/will speed things up.

Although there are many good points in the response, I don't agree with all of them. And that's the beauty of this topic, there's no black and white solution. Blizzard has to make choices that affect millions of players, and character transfers touch on the complexity of the game's economic and social aspects.

Removing the cost of a character transfer completely could create issues that Taepsilum addressed, including effects on social and economic stability, but it's hard to predict. For now, it's "safer" to keep things the way they are. What about a compromise?

My guild, like many others out there, has been recruiting for 5.2, and character transfers tend to be a prickly point in the process. At some point, recruiting off-server is the best option, but paying for a character transfer -- at least how it stands now -- can become an issue. In the past, we've paid for recruits to come over depending on how badly we're hurting for a class, but that's not always doable.

What about a single free server transfer per account once every month? Or three months? A discount on purchasing a faction transfer with a character transfer? You can purchase both at the same time currently, but there's no discount offered. Maybe even a transfer package for those who are planning on a larger move of more than one character?

The options are many, and it would be nice to see changes to a few character services.

When it comes to server transfers and other paid character services, what would you like to see from Blizzard?

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