Blizzard announced today that along with the upcoming Cataclysm expansion, Blizzard would be offering a World of Warcraft Premium account. For a monthly fee of $29.99, Premium account holders would get the following benefits:
- Players may start new characters at any level up to and including level 80 (Death Knights can start between 55-80)
- New level 80 players begin with:
- Four 16 slot bags
- a complete set of custom purple iLevel 200 gear
- a unique class specific epic ground mount
- a unique class specific epic flying mount
- a talisman of translocation (which may be set to teleport the player to any level appropriate meeting stone; 30 min cooldown)
- Professions. The first two primary professions and all secondary professions learned will begin at skill level 300.
- Earn Realm Transfers. All new characters on premium accounts will earn a free realm transfer every 90 days.
- Tokens of Redemption. Every 30 days, premium accounts will earn 10 tokens of redemption which can be used to purchase Bind on Account items from in game vendors. (All BoA gear items will scale to Level 85).
- Heroic Quests. Premium accounts will have exclusive access to unique scalable epic storyline quest content designed for solos and small groups.
- Unique Companion pets. Premium accounts will receive a choice of two new companion pets– the Zhevra pony or Talbuck fawn.
- Unique hair styles. Premium accounts will have access to two new unique race specific hairstyles (e.g., Worgen mullet and Goblin pompadour).
Ghostcrawler had this to say about the announcement:
“As World of Warcraft continues to mature, we are constantly listening to our players to accomodate as many different playstyles as possible. We want Azeroth to be a place where new players, long time players and returning players can experience the best that WoW has to offer with their friends.
We recognize that WoW is (and should be) many things to many people. Premium accounts offer one way to give players more choices about how they experience Azeroth, whether they want to explore the world solo, with just a few friends, leap straight into high level progression content, PvP, try out a new class or join old or new friends on a different server. Premium accounts will give players more choices about how they can experience the Cataclysm.”
Of course, this is a complete fabrication and totally false (as far as I know). I just made it up. Completely. Fiction.
But it was inspired by a few recent experiences. There seems to be a renewed hardcore/casual/who-gets-to-access-content discussion floating around on several blogs. With WoW’s Cataclysm expansion and its likely gear reset looming in the distance, the discussion inevitably turns toward progression and content gates (i.e. in WoW’s case, iLevel of gear at the level cap).
The second inspiration was my recent experiences with a Death Knight. I had rolled one initially when the expansion came out but haven’t really played one much. With our group’s move to a new server and new faction, I was beginning to feel the pain of not having a reasonably high level solo player to collect materials, to PvP and otherwise go about the world and explore in my “off group” time. So, the DK solved a few of those problems. Too bad I dislike the TBC content so much. If DKs got popped out of the intro at 68 instead of 58, I would have played one ages ago.
Couple the DK model with the complaints about hardcore/casual, progression, lack of tanks and healers for raids, etc. etc. and the solution to many problems became obvious to my work addled and whimsical mind– premium accounts to solve many of the pain points of the current game now getting longer in the tooth. Level disparity, class deficiency, travel inconvenience, gear/gated content ilevel/disparity, etc. Of course, in true pseudo-Blizzard fashion, you don’t actually get to play at the level cap with a new character under my fictional account. You still have to play through the five new levels coming with Cataclysm.
I doubt that WoW would adopt such a model, but if the hurdle keeping people away from the game (or leaving sooner than they otherwise would) was time, and time equals subscription revenue, then why wouldn’t Blizzard make the revenue neutral decision to let people leapfrog progression hurdles in exchange for more money? I’m I’m Blizzard I should be agnostic whether someone pays $30 and plays two months or they play only one but pay the same. The cynic in me of course says that most people would pay AND play giving a big revenue win to Blizz. If its all about fun and player retention, then heck, why not?
If a new player rolled today to play with my already level capped characters, it might be a month or two of casual play for that person to be able to actually join me in a group. Why not let me pay more to bypass that content if I desire? If the game “starts” at the cap, then get me there. If I want to wander Azeroth as a lowbie noob and smell the peacebloom, I still can. I have more choices. If that new player quits a month or two in because they can’t catch up to their friends or find someone to group with, Blizz has left money on the table.
Of course, I’m more about the leveling game than the end game as our instance group experiences have shown, but how many of you would opt for a premium account if Blizzard offered one? Nonetheless, being an altaholic, I’d love to roll up a mid or late level character and play through my favorite parts of the game, or join someone else already leveling up.
I think I’d buy it and I have no real intention of not experiencing at least some leveling content. Particularly with upcoming old world changes and new races.
If you could basically buy and play only the latest expansion and only play the “real game” that starts at the cap, would you? If players now are soloing to cap without ever having grouped (i.e. the mythical level 80 warrior who has never used his taunt), would it really be such a detriment?