A week ago, it was revealed by Blizzard that the WoW Tokens are coming into fruition, ending the spectacle and whimsy players have had since the rumors concerning them. For those of you who don’t follow, WoW Tokens will be available for purchase through the in-game shop for real money which can then be sold through a dedicated auction house to other players for gold at a price that continuously fluctuates and set by Blizzard from region to region. This means that one can actually play WoW and have it pay-off too, if one is inclined to be the gold-making type. But what is this exactly? Why the sudden announcement for this new method of playing the game?
The Beginning of the End of the Subscription Era?
For as long as there have been subscription-based MMOs, there have been critics of the payment method. There have been many MMOs that have opted for this through the years, but few have found the same success that WoW has had. True enough, these same MMOs end up having to rework their models into F2P ones just to be able to sustain themselves. WoW, on the other hand, has never had to, proving that it is capable of sustaining Azeroth with the good ol’ fifteen-a-month, and as far as things are going, it may never have to.
However, some other games like EVE Online and Wildstar have managed to achieve success in a system similar to that of the WoW Token. But I believe that we are at the twilight of the subscription model and Blizzard sees that as well, especially when MMOs are dime-a-dozen these days, and it becomes more and more apparent that the general populace is preferring the f2p model more than anything else.
In my personal experience, people who I’ve tried to convince into playing WoW are often turned off (graphics notwithstanding) when they find out of a monthly or bi-monthly subscription cost, citing them to be a complete waste of money, preferring to spend their hard earned money on the cash shops of f2p MMOs that tend to make them spend more in a month than a subscription would (SWTOR Cartel Packs and Tera Loot Boxes, anyone?). While the WoW Token does not necessarily entail a shift to WoW being primarily established as an f2p, it does pave the way to serve as an alluring prospect for people who want to play the MMO juggernaut, but are just too thrifty/cheap to get into it.
With the business acumen we’ve come to expect from Blizzard, the WoW Token is most likely their way of testing the waters on the further possibilities of real money trading and a further expansion of an f2p model for WoW. With Warcraft being their flagship game, they certainly would not take the same leaps and bounds they tried in Diablo’s RMT auction house, so this is definitely a step in the right direction and in the proper amount. Given time and the success/failure of this new feature, we can expect Blizzard to gear WoW further into the domain of the “free” and may, eventually, spell the end of the last. real, and massively successful subscription-based MMO.
Real Money Trading isn’t at all a foreign concept as it is as much entrenched in the MMO culture as RNG is. The WoW Token was created as a means of being able to get in the way of the gold-selling activities of third-parties as a legitimate means of dealing with real money. This won’t end gold selling – not by a long shot – but it does alleviate the stress these third-parties do to realm economies and the game as a whole.
One can often find some player spamming trade chat that he’s selling a game time code for in-game gold, and most likely, this is a scam. Quite obviously not all the time, but most of the time at least. Now the Token will cut down incidents of petty scams like these, ensuring the safety of each player who wish to continue playing but are incapable of paying for a another month or two. I can’t see this feature harming anyone other than the gold farmers and it encourages longer play for veterans.
But this doesn’t really just aim for capitalizing on all the gold-selling hubbub, but as a means as well for other players with excess cash to be able to acquire gold at a, most likely, fast and safe way. Not everybody has the time to farm Dragon Soul for a billion hours just to makes a few thousand gold that probably wouldn’t sustain players for more than a week, considering the state of current auction house prices that vary from realm to realm, as well as the current state of the massive gold sink that is Warlords of Draenor. It saves a lot of time for the time-constrained player, it’s another boon much like the instant 90, and we all know the latter didn’t really, proverbially, kill WoW. It’s just another matter of convenience.
Pay To Win?
What? P2W? How is this P2W? When has “having a lot of gold” equated to “winning at WoW”? Sure, there have been issues about the modicum of gamer-morality the Black Market auction house bestows upon those drowning in gold, or those buying carries in PvP and Heroic/Mythic raids, and one could argue that being able to buy one’s way through the endgame content would count for that, but not really. PvP ratings that matter can’t be bought because it requires the skillful participation of all players involved, and a single dead weight can set back a team at the pro leagues. PvE achievements don’t count for anything either if it the carry was dead for the most of the encounters and would be virtually useless in the proper raiding circumstances.
In any case, these sorts of carries have been around for a very long time, and with them being accessible to merely another audience that have fat wallets or their dad’s credit card will be abusing any of these, and this is but a small population of the game, and even then, it’s been available to them due to purchases from third-parties. There are plenty of people that purchase gold from both reputable and disreputable sources and get away with it, either because Blizzard doesn’t notice or simply does not care. Either way, it’s not going to get worse, it’s only Blizzard wishing to cut out the middle man. It’s far from being able to buy the best gear and better stats.
No Win For The Average Person
While this is all well and good, most people forget that the average player/person is one who’s busy with whatever and can’t stay in-game all the time, as well as someone who won’t spend anything more than fifteen a month for his/her own sub and nothing more. Clearly, not everyone is burdened by a burgeoning bag of gold, and the average person doesn’t even have enough to power level some crafting. With no massive amount of in-game currency nor the will to spend real money to buy and then sell a WoW Token, the average person does not stand to benefit from a system like this.
To the Future
In the end, this new feature will be a benefit only for those that can afford it, both in-game and in real life, but it really won’t have much of an impact to the rest of the populace. It merely becomes another method of accessibility to longtime players and to ambitious new players, without alienating how people have gotten used to the daily grind in WoW. We can expect further revisions of this system in future if all goes well, and the ramifications of economic, gameplay, and other such categorical proportions will change along with it. For a decade as a subscription-based MMO, WoW has clearly taken steps to change with the times, and, hopefully, it does so gracefully.Related: Column, Update, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday