If there’s anything that Blizzard excels in doing these days, it’s taking a slam-dunk publicity announcement and turning it into a hurricane of poop. As a fan of MMOs in general, I hate it when I see studios totally botching what should be a moment of shared excitement.
I mean, hey, we have a date for Burning Crusade Classic – and it’s really, really soon! Yeah, the pre-patch period isn’t as long as I would’ve liked, but I can’t complain about getting into the expansion on what my mind considers to be the first day of summer. I’ve been ready for this transition for months now, so bring it on!
But then here comes Blizzard’s marketing team, derpy derpy do, and it releases information about “enhancing” your WoW Classic experience. “Enhance” is a marketing phrase for “tack-on microtransactions” that once again twists the arm of the English language painfully behind its back. And these “enhancements” have made pretty much nobody happy, except perhaps sweaty Blizzard accountants who are hoping for a Q2 miracle.
Let’s take a step back and look at the overall picture from Blizzard’s perspective. The studio is still profitable, but it’s bleeding players in mind-boggling amounts and hasn’t been able to put out a new product in ages — nevermind the first major content patch for WoW’s most recent expansion. People aren’t being fed new stuff, and so they’re leaving, and that looks really bad.
So instead of Burning Crusade Classic being some nice side attraction in a busy year, it’s now being burdened with being the single big release for the studio until, presumably, Diablo Immortal comes out later this year. Blizzard needs those crowds of players to come back, and more importantly, a huge influx of money.
Hence why June 1st for the release date. This gives WoW Classic a full month of Burning Crusade to prop up those numbers and revenue for the Q2 earnings report. And if all of those people are coming back and can’t be charged for an expansion box price, then by gum, the studio’s going to figure out another way to fleece them.
I do think it’s really important to pause and recognize that you can ignore all of these “enhancements” and get Burning Crusade Classic for free as part of your WoW subscription package. You don’t need any of this other stuff. I’m not going to buy any of this other stuff. It doesn’t get Blizz off the hook for this conversation, but in the interest of fairness, it needed to be said.
But yeah, these prices are bad. I guess the least objectionable price point is the $40 character boost, although that simply existing is a sore spot with many players. The $35 cloning option, however, is vastly overpriced for such a service, however. One of the things that I used to love about RIFT back in the day is how it’d just let you zip between servers with nary an additional cost. It was a nice service that Trion saw as a benefit that players should have for free. Blizzard? Blizzard can’t see any beneficial service without putting some sort of premium price tag on it, and this is Exhibit A.
Financially, the goal for a subscription-based MMO is to keep players engaged with your produce over the long haul so that you keep raking in that sub. It’s a no-brainer to facilitate players in creating character copies across your two Classic versions so that they have even more of a reason to keep playing. I’d propose allowing people to do it for free, but even $10 would’ve been acceptable. $35? Thirty-five dollars is squeezing players for a one-time fee in exchange for making them very grumpy or (more likely) not electing to do it at all. And now you’ve lessened avenues for future engagement.
I almost don’t even want to talk about the Deluxe Edition, because it’s just kind of a joke. It’s a bundle of microtransactions and services that could be sold separately, but nah, let’s lump everything together and make a collector’s edition of a product everyone gets anyway. It’s way too expensive, what it contains isn’t a must-have, and this edition’s sole existence is due to getting a one-time influx of cash to boost the quarter.
It’s so regrettable that this is souring the mood of the Classic community on the cusp of a lot of summer fun ahead. Blizzard’s greedy, the sun comes up in the morning, and the ocean is wet. It’s the same-old. But it didn’t have to be. This studio needs to take a hard look at its falling userbase and start to consider what it might do to put its players rather than its profits first.
It might actually benefit the company’s bottom line and overall morale better. That’s my take, at least.