Pay-as-you-play pricing for World of Warcraft


The only thing that could make me play WoW right now is a pay-as-you-play subscription plan.

I tried playing WoW four times. Three trials and two months of paid play. On average, I find perhaps 2 – 3 hours of time to play per week, since weeks are busy. The price they’re asking for a WoW subscription, something like CHF 19.00 per month, is much too high for such a short amount of playtime. People like me get better mileage from free-to-play MMORPGs with RMT systems, such as Runes of Magic or Dragonica or donation-based ones like Shards of Dalaya.

What would fix all this is a pay-as-you-play plan for WoW. With the above numbers, based on current monthly WoW subscription costs, we’re at about CHF 6 per hour. Ridiculous! Silly! Nasty! Now how about CHF 0.50 per hour? Much better. For people like me, that’d be CHF 1.50/month for WoW, savings of 17.50. Until I’d reach the 19.00 of the current subscription plans, I’d have to play for 38 hours. Seems roughly fair to me. For anyone playing more than 38 hours/month, the normal subscription would be cheaper.

I have doubts that Blizzard would ever consider such a plan. Since they’re a North American company, they’re probably not so open to pricing models that work in Europe and Asia. But they’d at least have busy people like me as players and could make a few bucks a month off of us, compared to not earning anything from me at the moment. If the CHF 0.50/hour is high enough to be profitable, they’d be making money that they are not making now. Even if it isn’t profitable, it would drive up revenue, something that might be nice to report in a time when the North American economy is down.

One can dream. But until something like that happens, WoW is not for me 😦

Update, 2009-05-25: Tesh let me know that I’m not the only one with an opinion on WoW pricing, here’s Wolfshead’s reaction and there are some other crazy-slash-funky ideas out there as well.

What’s up with all of us posting about MMO pricing in May 2009 and not any earlier? 😛 Thanks, Tesh, for the heads-up 🙂

12 thoughts on “Pay-as-you-play pricing for World of Warcraft”

  1. I’ve argued that WoW really needs to have a new pricing model for a long time now. So have Wolfshead and Chris F(ihaspc) on their blogs. Wolfshead’s comments even prodded Tobold to muse about it, though the predictable hardcore “happy with the status quo” responses piled in.

    Market segmentation works, and if Blizzard’s not careful, the MMO business will shift under their feet. It’s already doing so, ever so subtly, with Guild Wars, Puzzle Pirates, Free Realms and Wizard 101.


  2. Whoa, thanks! We all had the same idea (or at least the same rant topic) this month in that case? How does that work? 😐

    I agree, Blizzard has to look out. Here in Europe it seems that Runes of Magic has taken the ball and is running, running, running… Any place that sells magazines has a few Runes of Magic special editions of gaming mags that include the game and a beginner’s guide. Some label it “the free WoW”, even though we know the designs are quite different beyond the basic MMO building blocks, but the general public doesn’t know that (yet).

    There are MANY German-language servers, and now Frogster/Runewaker have hired Eva Widermann, the artist that did all sorts of D&D and general fantasy illustrations over the last few years, to help improve the look of the game.

    WoW is huge in German-speaking Europe as well, probably because it was the first MMO with a half decent German translation and the Germans up there don’t play anything that isn’t in German. But Runes of Magic has all of that as well. I think it’s the best candidate for sticking a dagger in Blizzard’s back in this market.


  3. Thanks for the pingback =)

    My whole private-supported WoW server thoughts stem from my Battlefield 2142 experiences. Great game, and my clan “owns” a few servers and members pay $5 a month to play on them. We get to control some rules (we have a pretty strict profanity filter built in, for example) but the core gameplay is the same as everywhere else. The best part is, we get to control who plays on our server. It makes for a better overall gaming experience x100, and shouldn’t be neglected as one of the best features of the game.

    I’m like you ~3 hours of WoW a week if I am lucky to muster it. I make good money, but I also want value for my cash. $15 to barely play isn’t value. I just want options. The easiest is pay to play hourly with a cap, so long time players are hit with $50 bills a month. Of course, wow can’t change now (public company sold for what 5b? Shareholders need a ROI!) but upcoming MMO’s can capture a huge “casual time” market (not casual-player – I used to be pretty hardcore and am only held back by my time investment available)

    It all depends on how many people out there are like you and me. Honestly, I can say without a doubt that right now under the right pricing model I would be subscribed to 3-4 MMO’s to play around in and have fun. Because of the sub restriction it’s either 1 or 0. I am pretty sure WAR, AOC, LOTRO, etc would love $5 a month from me instead of zero.


  4. Hi Chris 🙂

    It’d be interesting to run your own WoW server — somewhat similar to how the Shards of Dalaya guys run Shards of Dalaya, although they can’t use the EverQuest lore for copyright reasons.

    On the other hand, what would still be “massive” about a server like that? If it would be possible to simply share leaderboards and the like (quickest raid, lowest number of raid members to succeed etc.) but otherwise run each MMO world as its own instance on your own server.

    I agree, I could also afford the 15/month, but on the other hand, that buys you 150 digital cable TV channels plus a digital PVR box. Or unlimited free phonecalls. Or other nice things that you can get more use out of than from an MMO you won’t be able to play for more than a few hours.

    I’d also be trying multiple MMOs, because I like to explore, but since I don’t have time to build up my character to ridiculous levels I wouldn’t get to explore very far anyway! Although that’s more about game design than pricing, and Tipa has an opinion about Free Realms in this regard, since it’s safe to explore 🙂

    It’s a good coincindence for us that most free-to-play MMOs are rather casual as well, though 🙂 Runes of Magic, Dragonica and Luminary for example don’t demand a massive time investment and have no fixed subscription fee. I really see me playing more of these, and no WoW or other 10-15/mth MMO ever again.


  5. The MMO tag on WoW (specifically) is a pretty grand illusion. Honestly, you don’t need more than 25 people to see 100% of the content. You can even experience all the content with just 10 people. Heck, if you count content on a one time basis, 90% of WoW is a solo experience =) Cramming thousands of people on separate servers and calling it a MMO is a bit of a rouse =)

    So, take my 10/25 friends, pay for our own Blizzard sanctioned server, and enjoy the game fully without the ‘distractions’ you are forced to deal with on a daily basis and the game is improved (for me, anyway – I suspect a lot of other people)


  6. Oh, that explains things 🙂

    Well, then I’d be all for run-your-own-server style WoW.

    There’s Neverwinter Nights and there’s Diablo that already do this to some extent, but I know that’s not what you mean.

    To keep people from cheating in such a system, perhaps run item storage systems centrally at some company anyway, and exchange encrypted item information? We’re very soon moving into a kind of system like the distributed hash tables and world servers that Charles Stross imagined for Halting State 😀

    But anyhow — I’ll be keeping a very sharp eye on Runes of Magic. I hear the endgame is unbalanced and the boss encounters arne’t quite as strategic as in WoW, but I haven’t found too many other sharp edges. Which is amazing, considering how new it is.

    I’ll be watching the run-your-own-server idea too 🙂 And with Shards of Dalaya, we do have a prototype of such an environment. It *does* work!


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