Tuesday, July 9, 2013

WoW Cash Shop Opening in Asian Realms

Yeah, you heard that right.

WoW will be taking another step toward having a cash shop like (just about) every other MMO out there by opening up an In-Game Store for Asian realms in patch 5.4.

Considering that the majority of their subscription loss has been in Asia, I'm sure this was a move to directly counter it.  However, unlike other MMOs out there with a cash store, Blizzard will not drop subscriptions.  Instead, they're going to offer XP buffs via the store.

Given that Blizzard has shown a) no desire to destroy their cash cow and eliminate subscriptions and b) this is at present only implemented in Asia, this sounds like a non-starter.  It seems that Blizzard is hoping that people will open up their wallets a whole lot wider and not only maintain a sub but pay for items out of the cash store.

I do have to wonder about the primary reason subs are dropping in Asia, however.  If it's strictly an economic issue (cost of internet time vs. time to play), I can understand giving a new player a boost to get to L90.  A new player won't have access to heirloom gear, and believe me, I lamented that way back when in 2009 when I was struggling to get to L80 in Wrath.  There is also the issue of trying to level a lot of alts, when most heirloom gear doesn't work in the Pandaria range of L86-L90.

Still, I wonder whether Blizzard is reading the tea leaves right.  This entire focus on XP buffs enforces the notion that the important part of WoW is raiding at Endgame, when WoW has thousands of quest between L1 and L90.

Even then, I don't see how an XP boost is going to help a player that much.  I got to L90 in the middle of Kun-Lai Summit, and I still had 3.5 zones to go.  My gear wasn't even close to being able to get into LFR (if I wanted to), so I would have to grind dailies to get raid ready.  There's not much around that, unless they provide a buff for dailies.  (And I don't see that happening, either.)

My last concern is whether Blizzard didn't get the various Asian cultures well enough in Mists.  Every time I was impressed about something they stuck in --some of the tales echo stories about the Monkey King, for example-- they'd have a quest name that made a joke using the differences in Asian pronunciation (substituting Pei-Back in place of Payback, for example).  If you turn off players because they feel you're making a joke about their culture, they're not going to be coming back.  Before you ask, no, I don't have any data.  But when I read that it was Asia --where Mists was marketed heavily-- that had the largest drop in subs, this was the first thing that popped into my head.  If Blizzard is fighting this problem, then putting in a cash store isn't going to help.


  1. The region they're discussing uses time cards, not monthly subscriptions. My guess (and it's just a guess, nobody seems to be doing any digging) based on Blizzard's response is that most of the user count drops were due to the cost of playing since that's what they're directly targeting with these perks. They may also be having issues getting new players to join, those perks may be necessary to get over that hump.

    1. To do some of the data mining would require a lot of independent research. I'd love to see the data, but I'm sure I'd be muscled out of the way by investors who have a monetary stake in the company.

      Even if they use timecards, the assumption is that a new user will want to get to endgame as soon as possible, ignoring all of the prior work that Blizz has done. I really suspect that's just a portion of the account loss --a portion that has been willing to shell out money hand over fist to be sure-- but just a portion of the overall picture.

      Hmm... Something I haven't thought of before but is a possibility is that we might be seeing gold farmer accounts moving to another game. Not sure where they'd be moving to, but that is a possibility.