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11-11-2010 @ 1:57PM
WoW is, by far, the most expensive MMORPG to start playing. It's $50 for the Battle Chest with the base game + BC, $40 for the WotLK expansion, and another $40 for Cataclysm - the player pays $130, and only gets one free month with it.(BTW, WoW without all expansions is just a very expensive trial, with very infrequent updates, borked class balance, content difficulty seriously under-tuned, no chance at World PvP, etc; for the most part, lacking even one expansion pack for WoW is actually worse than playing one of those F2P games while refusing to use it's online store.)I believe the most expensive competitor charges $50 for a game box with the game, all expansions, one month free time, and a pack from it's on-line store added as a bonus. Most competitors are either not charging anything for expansions, even when the game has not yet become F2P (which has the nice side-effect of freeing developers from the task of maintaining multiple clients for the game), or else giving some store content or free time as a bonus for buying the expansion.As for balance between paid and free players, seems like the best F2P games try to keep the relative power level of paid and free players close by not selling anything that can effectively increase the power of end-game players. Most offers are conveniences (or, from another point of view, the lifting of inconveniences forced unto the F2P crowd; Blizzard already sells some things in this category, like faction/realm transfers, and provides some as in-game items, such as heirloom gear), content (which is usually free for subscription players; in fact, most F2P games are even better in this respect than WoW, since there is no need to buy any content as long as the player keeps his subscription active, contrary to what happens with WoW's expansions), and cosmetic items (like the pets and mounts in WoW's store; other F2P games often deal with gear appearance customization as well).All said, I believe most WoW players would greatly benefit from a move to a payment system similar to Turbine's; no need to buy the game itself or it's expansions, keeping all content available to the subscription crowd, and having a F2P option to fill the place of the free trial, but with way less restrictions. Store content would probably stay mostly the same (perhaps with some things like Heirloom items and potions making an appearance, and perhaps also some kind of gear appearance customization).Besides, it would be foolish to just disregard F2P games as meaningful. Both Turbine games which went F2P reported a 4-5x increase in player base, and a 2x increase in revenues during the first F2P month, and they both seem to still be better of than previously. Zinga, who thrives on F2P games, has also passed EA in market value. WoW, the single largest subscription MMO in existance, has increased it's player base by only 5% in the last two years. Perhaps this is not the best time for Blizzard to convert WoW to a F2P model, but since they are not fools, they should be at least evaluating the potential gains and losses from such a change.
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