Blizzard announces WoW Premium

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?


Dig in.

23 thoughts on “Blizzard announces WoW Premium”

    1. Is being more about ‘The levelling game” then the ‘Endgame” a smoke and mirrors way of saying you’re no good at PvP/PvE?

  1. Thought provoking stuff.

    I think ultimately although many players want this it’s not actually an effective retention strategy. Strutting around being uber is only of worth if there’s people to impress. If anyone can just buy it, who’s going to be impressed?

    1. Of course the same could be said about other status symbols too like cars, jewelry or fancy electronic gadgets.

      One effect though is not to permit the purchase of an I win character, but rather simply start the game where you find the most entertainment….

      Under my fictional scheme, you’d be ready to start the expansion and participate alongside others who have already progressed there.

      If getting to cap and getting geared to a raid ready state is as trivial as everyone says, then what’s the harm?

      1. I think there’s a fundamental difference between virtual items and real items.

        If everyone could have a Ferrarri that would be a straightforward improvement. They’re lovely cars.

        Of course you would no longer be driving a babe magnet but real aspects like speed, road holding etc would still be there.

        If you give everyone a 100 damage item to start with but let them buy a 200 damage item if they pay double you risk people noticing that these are just all arbitrary and made-up numbers. Why 200? Why not a thousand or a million?

        Once that particular piece of immersion is broken a loot-driven game will become pointless for many people. Betrayer of Humanity was exciting when the stats on the weapon were exciting, the whole “wow, I just crit that guy for 5K” feeling. When your numbers stop meaning anything many players will stop playing your game.

        Games require faith.

      2. Fair point but that’s not really what I’m suggesting in the fake account scheme.

        Blizz has already gone pretty down this road with paid char transfers, faction changes, name changes, triple xp refer a friend deals and of course BoA items for purchase in game.

        If I can honor farm my way “solo” if you will to a full set of ilevel 200/213 pvp gear which is not ideal but likely passable for heroics or use the marks/ honor for boa gear which is probably equivalent to normal five man gear at the cap, then there is no real achievement other than the investment of time to get it.

        Blizz has been careful so far not to put uber gear on easy offer so I expect that they still wouldn’t even in my fictional example. But ithinl they might consider giving players what they want– start the so called real game with a fresh level 80 with adequate gear and take it as read that they could have just as easily spent month or two leveling a char and got to the same point with only the addition of time to the equation.

        And that is part of my underlying thought– at some point blizz can only make the content so accessible before the new limiting factor becomes each players time budget.

        If they want to expand or increase retention, without completely trivializing the leveling game, they need to address the time gap like they have the skill or gear gap.

  2. One thing

    “With WoW’s Cataclysm expansion and its likely gear reset looming in the distance”

    Would you not include the 3.2 patch and the 3.3 patch as gear resets though? People can basically run trivial content to completely re-gear their character effectively allowing people to all catch up, I’d definitely call that a gear reset.

    As for a pay for option, it just feels wrong to me, your fictional announcement was very believable though.

    Its not the lack of epeen strutting that I think makes it feel wrong but the potential to burn out players allowing them to churn through the content at an accelerated rate that goes against at least traditional MMO design. It also means people have less time invested in a character and therefore could value it less, even worse there could be a nagging pressure of the high fees that encourage a player to quit.

    On the lack of character building though, although WoW has and is moving a long way from its EQ1 RPG roots recently and this did contribute to the believability of your post.

    That said there I agree there is a real problem in all MMO’s with the levelling model, EQ2’s mentoring is one solution, Champions temporary levelling up is another, WoW’s multi-server merging via battlegrounds/PUG dungeons is a different take on the problem (one that I think potentially is very dangerous socially, but has some good advantages), none of them is a silver bullet though when it comes to getting people to socialise in groups in my opinion.

    Making everyone the same level like this feels very akin to the current WoW PUGing solution, dangerous but has its advantages, another thing that made your idea so believable since these days Blizzard are certainly bold when it comes to the changes with their games.

  3. I just subbed to WoW. I’m 5 years late to the party. If Bliz offered me, a gamer in my 40’s with a wife, full-time job, numerous week-night and weekend commitments, the opportunity to pay a premium and enter content where I wanted to, you can bet I would pay for the experience.

    I have no doubt I would be lampooned and derided by all the ‘real’ players who had to walk from one end of the zone to the other. In the Snow. Uphill. Both ways. But you know what? I don’t really care. I’m old enough and ugly enough not to let name-calling upset me. And I believe that there would be enough players our there like me, and enough with the maturity to not get totally twisted out of shape over a scheme like that and ban playing with all Premi-twinks or whatever we would be called, that I could group, play, guild and hang out with a bunch of folks.

    So, Blizzard got my $15 bucks this month. They won’t get it next month. Laboring through the lowby zones on solo mode because everyone else is either:
    1. A little immature for my gaming delight. (Nothing wrong with being young. I’m just … not anymore.) I don’t want to spend my slim time in game being den-mother to a bunch of kids.
    2. An alt with bulk money, bulk items and a drive to burn through content in 72 hours to reach Cap so they can play with their friends
    3. A dick.

    It’s not hard to find a PUG. It’s hard to find a good PUG and harder to find one that you’d want to play with again. Most of them are objective-oriented and focussed on the singular goal. They don’t operate like a guild where exploring content together seems to be a valid activity.

    So, I have no doubt that I would be exposed to purist rage, called 2nd class – all the BS that comes from not sitting at the PC for 6 months whack-a-mole style to be able to spend a night with a good group of folks interested in not just the most ruthlessly efficient way to advance their own solo-quest – but exploring the content together in game without the carrot/stick of needing one more level. One more Level. JUST ONE MORE LEVEL.

    1. Couldn’t have put it better. Taking your time through the leveling content is very enjoyable with a likeminded group.

      That said they are few and far between. Even if you do find a decent guild or group of friends, there is level creep to contend with. Inevitably, everyone doesn’t have the same play budget so it very hard to maintain parity with friends.

      Our group has only been able to do it by reserving set times to play which works for all of us and we have dedicated group characters that we don’t play without the group present so we don’t out level each other.

      Any other play time we have is spent on alts. With five middle aged adults with real life commitments, we progress painfully slowly sometimes but in the end it’s worth it.

      We never have to rely on pugs and there is a genuine sense of shared accomplishment when we all cap out together.

      Blizzard has few tools that facilitate this kind of play unfortunately. No doubt if they did, people like you would be incented to stick around and explore.

  4. If the “real game” starts at the “endgame”, why make players who want to actually *play* go through the qualification process to get there? I prefer the leveling content, myself, but I’ve always thought that players should be able to buy directly into the endgame if they want to.

    Of course, I play MMOs to actually *play* the things, not to gain status among fellow gamers. When they turn into a gating grind, and the actual *play* is brain-numbingly repetitive (usually around the midgame when leveling slows down and the grind pads out subscription time), I tune out. I like exploring and experimenting, but when new places to explore are gated by level and leveling is slow, I bow out. The Achievements and loot aren’t enough to keep me doing something I don’t find fun any more. If I could jump right into the raiding game, I might actually like it… at least for as long as it’s actually fun to play.

    1. I wonder how much improved the leveling experience and pugs would be for us if the endgame-is- the-only-game types were released from their purgatory…

  5. I don’t think that having chars starting at high level is such a great idea.

    A much better solution in my opinion would be to up the speed you get xp while levelling, so at least players would learn a little of the game as they do it.

    if quest xp and gold rewards were increased by 4x for example then players would find that they would normally out level an area well before they had finished all the quests, which would hopefully let them miss some of the longer travelling ones and speed up levelling.

    having someone new start wow with all the spells/abilities/talents/glyphs/multi spec/professions/enchants and more would be too much and could put players off by the complexity of the game.

    1. Fair point, but permitting starting at ANY level (not just the cap) would soften the disorientation a bit, if there was any IMHO. Simply superspeeding leveling misses the point really. There are many playstyles. Many players never step into “endgame” content and for them the entire game is the leveling game. Shortening that experience for all players would force all players into the same paradigm– grind whatever content remains at the level cap. That’s fewer choices rather than more.

      1. Of course, then we start running into the idea of the “ding” button that lets players manually level up whenever they would like. M’self, I’d make a game with a narrow level band that is fun at all levels and let people shuffle around as they desire to whatever level… but that’s *too* anarchic for most. *shrug*

      2. I agree and would like to see something that would allow more players to play together but also provide some kind of progress mechanic.

        How do you provide a way for characters to progress that doesn’t separate the player base but is still fun?

  6. The post about the new gearscore add-on…completely true.

    If you do not have the “uber” gear everyone is looking for, you’re SOL, plain and simple.

    Those people with absolutely no playing skills, and all gear get into the raids, and then the people with relatively less gear, but more skill have no way to experience this content.

    As a player who quit in early 2009, i came back in full NAXX and before gear, to find that most heriocs provided better gear, and the fact that i would have to spend another month trying to prove my way into a guild without their 1337 skillscores.

    1. I am currently editing a dub of this article and I hope you watch it.

      I’ve been talking with a friend about premiums and when i read the part as ghostcrawler i used the voice i used for the entire audio of this video.

      so thanks
      and sorry i flubbed lines :P

  7. I really like the new quest design that came with cata, but what I do miss, is the urge to keep questing with the intend to level. It went way to fast. Also the levelling between 80 to 85 was to fast, and I only got past like ½ of the quests. I went throu the tabard equip to get rep so I could get the gear and enchants. Now I do HC raid on 25 man – is fun and all, but.. cant really stop missing the magic levelling moments.

    Why did I start play wow, well it was the magic, the experience of levelling throu different continents, discover new places and quests. Still you do that, but it last way to short.

    Have made a few chars my self in my time of wow. The last char I made, was a rouge and really enjoyed the levelling of that char, and actually was a little sad when he reached lev 70, and was rdy for Northrend. Again – so many questlines I never saw or needed.

    My suggestion is the opposite of the premium pas, with starting at lev 80.. make it more difficult to get exp, make it last longer, make it worth my gametime. And the extra benefit you get, is the educational thing, people learn to play their chars.. and learn that nothing comes for free. Might sound really old- school, but im sure wow will get more happy players, maybe a few less players overall, but on the long term wow will not die with a bang: When the new wow with premium accounts starts to look like the old private servers.. where you could level in a split second, and kill a raid boss solo. Wow will die fast.. it was the challenge that was the magic!

  8. I have no idea why this old (2009) post has been garnering so many comments of late… The point of the original post was satire and intended to make a point…

    As I stated in the original post… “Of course, this is a complete fabrication and totally false (as far as I know). I just made it up. Completely. Fiction.”


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