I’ve said it before in various ways, and I’ll probably say it again, but I wanted to get it down here, for future reference. I would pay fair money for a single player, offline version of World of Warcraft.
This is the culmination of a few thoughts:
- I’m cheap. I refuse to pay a monthly fee to play a game that I also have to pay for up front. Beside the fundamental distaste that I have for double dipping in such a way, I don’t play obsessively enough to make it worth my while to pay a subscription fee. It’s a simple economic decision for me, a devoted husband, father of two, and full-time technical artist.
- WoW is largely single player these days. I’ve played the free trial a few times over the past two years, and the “old world” is getting less and less populated. I’m OK with that, but to be blunt, the game is consequently less of an MMO, and more of a traditional grindy RPG. I’m happy to play it that way, but if I do so, I want to pay for it that way. If Blizzard is OK with abandoning the old world to trial accounts, twinks and farmers in their focus on the endgame for the hardcore, why not toss the casual gamer the scraps? And no, I wouldn’t want to bring my offline play online, so there’s no reason to worry about hacking; it would be my little “instance” of the world, if you will, and would never interact with other players.
- The world of WoW is intriguing. There are the inevitable trolls who snipe at my desires with something to the effect of “L2P, nub, it’s a freakin’ MMO, dood! Get with the internets, looser!” Beside providing an example of why I generally loathe the internet model of multiplayer gameplay, these people are missing the point. I’m interested in the lore, the art, the craftsmanship and the game design of WoW. There’s a great big world in there to explore, and I want to explore it. I do not need other players around to do so. I consider it a compliment to Blizzard’s efforts that the game interests a great many people. Not everyone is interested in internet ego inflation, however, and the sub cost (along with internet access) and social cesspool are real barriers to entry.
- I’m honest, and I expect the same of others. Apparently, there are ways to hack the game and play on “private servers”, but I will not pirate software. Yes, I’m staunchly opposed to the subscription model, but I’m not opposed to paying Blizzard for their work. Thing is, the “old world” has been done for a while now, but they are still charging sub fees for playing in it. If I refused to pay to play it when it was the shiny new kid on the block, I doubly refuse to pay to play old content. Cars depreciate as soon as they roll off the lot. Games depreciate pretty rapidly. It’s the bane of consumer goods, and our little hobby is fueled by Moore’s Law, which makes the depreciation even faster. I wouldn’t charge someone $15,000 for a four year old PT Cruiser, or $40 for my copy of Titan Quest. Savvy consumers wait for prices to come down, letting early adopters take the economic hit of impatience. I’ve waited for four years, Blizzard. (This is where I can admit that a lower sub cost for the “old world” alone, say $5/month, would be something that I can agree to meet halfway on.)
- Most of my gaming time is offpeak, offline. I don’t always have a functional internet. I don’t have scads of free time. Life does that to a working stiff with a family. I love that I can pick up Valkyrie Profile 2, admittedly a grindy game at times, and chug away at it late at night, after the kids are in bed, in what little time I have. I bought the game used, and I can play it effectively indefinitely for just the initial investment cost (plus niggling things like electricity, I suppose). The ROI on the $20 that I spent for it is huge, compared to the 30 days (or so) that would get me in WoW. That old hack “cost of a dinner and a movie” argument (notably, just the movie these days) for the subscription model is not only apples to oranges, but it’s arrogantly assuming that the player spends the equivalent of a part-time (or full-time!) job in WoW. I’m a casual player, doggone it, and I don’t want to be charged as if I’m hardcore, and then be told that it’s my failure that I’m not leet (or addicted) enough to make it worth my while.
I’ve also conceded that making the old world completely free to play would pull me in. It might even be a good way to get some fresh blood for the game, since people are leaving all the time. (Churn is inevitable, I’m not proclaiming doom and gloom here.) WoW has overstayed its old business model, to the point where its success has warped the expectations of a whole generation of MMO game designers. Blizzard is content to rest on its laurels, which is always dangerous. Perhaps they aren’t desperate enough yet to either open the gates to free players or to make an offline version of the game, but I do think that it could compete well with other products. I loved Titan Quest, for example, but Diablo has never been interesting to me. WoW offline could scratch that itch for some good Blizzard gaming for me.
Maybe I’m just a freak, but I, probably arrogantly, believe that there are more players like me who Blizzard could tap into for goodwill, and even to monetize an aging game. MMOs can’t live forever, especially not when they burn bridges. Offering something, even the leftovers, to players like me, might just be a good move for Blizzard. Give me the “old world” of the game for even $30, and I’d be a happy little Blizzard fanboy again. I’m just not interested in lining up for a fleecing in the current system.
Note that I’m not proclaiming doom for WoW, or ranting about my undying hatred of Blizzard. I actually really like WoW. I wouldn’t think of this sort of thing if I thought it was garbage. I just have limits to my fanaticism, and I don’t think that “one size fits all” is always a valid business model. It’s certainly wearing thin when it comes to WoW.