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Warlords of Draenor to be a $60 Expansion? And Something About Insta-90s February 25, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: , ,

A controversial bit of information slipped out last week when Blizzard accidentally let the “boost to level 90″ option show up in the in-game store at one point during patch day.  The error was quickly fixed, but the word was out.  WoW Insider had a screen shot indicating that Blizzard was not only officially on-board with insta-levels as a paid character service, but that the price to get to level 90 appeared to be $60.

The alleged price of level 90

The alleged price of level 90

There were discussions on various sites as to whether that price was right or not and whether it was too much or not enough.  Lots of theories were put up that seemed most based on who the assumed audience was for such a service really was.

My gut feeling on the price previously was that it had to be more than any current individual character service… so greater than $25… but less than the cost of the Warlords of Draenor expansion.  After all, if you made it more than the price of the expansion, which comes with an insta-90 character boost, why wouldn’t I just buy multiple copies of the expansion to boost multiple characters if the expansion costs less?  Since I assumed that the expansion would be the usual $40, I pegged the level boost at $35.

Over in the comment thread at Herding Cats I added in two additional thoughts:

Conspiracy theory: It will be $60 for exactly that reason, to push more WoD boxes to set an expansion sales record.

Fear: This is actually a signal that the expansion will be $60.

Today however, Blizzard has been over talking to EuroGamer about the price point, defending $60 for the insta-level 90 in terms of maintaining the value of leveling up yourself, and one of the first items put out there in the article is that the expansion itself will be $60. [Addendum: As noted in the comments below, EuroGamer has since deleted that from the article without any notice of a correction.  Because EuroGamer.]

And my initial response was, “Really? We’re going $60… the defacto price of a new AAA game… for an expansion now?”

See you guys in the fall?

Orc Chieftains don’t work cheap

The sad part is that I will pay the price anyway.  Heck, I was already toying with the idea of the collector’s edition and I never buy the collector’s edition.  But with past CE’s being double the price of the standard ($40/$80) I have to wonder if Blizzard is now going to go all the way to $120 for the CE, or just cap it at $99.99 to stay within the realm of sanity. (Said the guy who bought the EVE Online Second Decade Collector’s Edition.)

$60 for an expansion.

On the one hand, you can always argue that I will get at least as much entertainment value out of the expansion as I will from any new AAA game you care mention.  On the other hand, I am also paying that subscription fee every month to play, so it isn’t like I am not supporting Blizzard enough as it is.

You charge what you think the market will bear.  Of course, into the mix is the fact that expansions aren’t holding their price point nearly as long.  Burning Crusade was still $40 a year after it shipped.  Mists of Pandaria was on sale at half price a few months after it launched.  As I have been trained by Steam sales on this sort of thing, I now have to ask myself if I need the expansion on day one, or if I can wait… as I did with MoP… until the price comes down.

I don’t actually need a level 90.  I will easily have three by the time the expansion hits.  Maybe they will throw something else in with the pre-order to sweeten the deal a bit.  Or maybe I can just think of it as buying the expansion and getting two-thirds off of my first insta-90. ($40 + $20)

What do you think?  $60 for an expansion?  Even with a level 90 boost?

As for selling the insta-level 90 for $60, I am somewhat indifferent.  It isn’t a service I expect to use… I cannot even decide what to do with the one I will get with WoD… and I find any argument about it being too expensive to be more foot stomping than anything else.  How much should a level 90 character cost?  It is a luxury item after all.  And anybody returning to the game who wants a level 90 will likely buy WoD to get one along with the new content.

And what happens when the price of the expansion comes down, as it inevitably will?  Eventually Warlords of Draenor will be $40 or $20 on sale and then will end up as part of the World of Warcraft Battle Chest.  What happens to insta-90s then?  Will Blizz remove the option from the expansion at some point?

I suppose we shall see how this plays out.

Addendum: I like where Ars Technica says “Only 67 cents a level” in their Economic Reality post.


1. Ming - February 25, 2014

Just so we’re clear:

2. Ming - February 25, 2014

man what

I wasn’t expecting that to happen, that’s no help at all! And I don’t think I can edit it or delete it or whatever. Sorry. Let’s try this again:

If it doesn’t work right this time, basically Ion Hazzikostas says he never said $60 for the expansion.

3. Wilhelm Arcturus - February 25, 2014

@Ming – EuroGamer totally wrong on something? Never happens!

Anyway, if they are wrong, that just puts the argument about insta-90s back into the “why not buy the expansion” column. Did the quote about not having to buy another copy of the expansion get mis-quoted? The questions never end!

“Speaking to Eurogamer, World of Warcraft lead encounter designer Ion Hazzikostas said Blizzard decided to sell the boost separately because it didn’t want players to have to buy two copies of the expansion in order to boost more than one character.”

I suppose you could see how they might derive the $60 price from that statement.

4. Teo - February 25, 2014

Most likely, the insta-90 boost will be part of the WoD game code, which can only be applied to an account once. Thus buying multiple copies of WoD at a lower price won’t help, as the insta-90 boosts wouldn’t be accessible. The standalone pricing would this be independent.

As far as $60 for WoD goes, I’m reminded of Bobby Kotick’s speech to investors in which he blatantly made it clear that fleecing the crazy obsessives who’ll such with WoW no matter what was easy money.

5. Yamael - February 25, 2014

I think the idea is it needs to be less than:
base game up to MoP + WoD expansion + character transfer between accounts
WoD is only a part of the $60 tag in that.

6. BlueFletch - February 25, 2014

@Ming – Thanks for putting the question to Blizzard

@wilhelm – We don’t know if Eurogamer is wrong or not yet, just that Ion ‘never said $60.’ Wouldn’t be surprised either way.

@Yamael – While it’s true that a wholly new account would have to be brought up to MoP + WoD, I’m willing to bet that a significant number of the people who would be looking to use the character boost already have multiple accounts of various levels, having used/abused the recruit-a-friend system to power level characters as well, so the price of the additional account will in part already be a sunk cost for those people. Plus sales on the expansion and battle chest will make the price more comparable, even counting the character transfer.

7. bhagpuss - February 25, 2014

I’m no expert in how Blizzard does things but I was surprised from the start that people seemed to think you would get a standalone code with WoD that could be applied to any existing account independent of the expansion itself. I would have assumed that you’d get one code that you would apply to the Account of your choice and that Account would then be able to access the expansion and all content in it, which would include an option to raise one character on that account to 90. If you bought another box and tried to apply the code to the same account you would get nothing but an error message telling you the account was already upgraded.

Intriguingly, the short Massively article on the interview actually adds that specific gloss and makes it sound as though it’s from the original interview – “…instead of spending the $60 on an expansion and juggling multiple accounts, players can spend the same amount and use it on a toon on their existing account.” If you click through and read the full thing on Eurogamer, however, nothing about “juggling multiple accounts” is mentioned at all.

As for whether an expansion is worth the same price as a game, I would say it depends on the game and on the expansion. I would say that the first three Everquest expansions, Kunark, Velious and Luclin, were each at least as large and rich in content as the base game and therefore I would say that charging the same price would be fair enough. When, as often happens, the expansion also comes with the base game included then it seems even more reasonable, although the waters get muddied when the company is already selling the base game for next to nothing or giving it away for free anyway…

In the end as you say it comes down to a combination of what the market will bear at the top end and what the optimum return on investment is by price point, which usually won’t be the same thing. There’s no point leaving money on the table from people who would pay more so long as their extra dollars come to more than the dollars you’re losing from the people who find your price too rich.

Anyway, just you WoW players count yourself lucky Blizzard’s willing to sell you an expansion at all. ANet won’t make us one for GW2 at any price, not even our tears.

8. Wilhelm Arcturus - February 25, 2014

@Bhagpuss – While I do not know for sure if you can apply a second code for an expansion to an account, I wouldn’t bet against it being possible. I am sure we will find out at launch.

Another aspect of this is how Blizzard has merged all account activities together under the Battle.net banner. Even if it rejects the code, you can merge accounts for free. So you create or use that second (or third or fifth) account you created to get that refer a friend mount, apply the code, and merge it into the original with an boosted character. Your mileage may vary, but I suspect that is what Massively was alluding to.

Basically, there will be loopholes through which people will attempt to squeeze if there is any sort of price differential. And I wouldn’t bet against getting that boost all the same if you called up customer support and told them you bought a second expansion expecting to get the boost. Customer support knows it needs to keep you paying that monthly subscription.

In fact, if I were Blizz, I would allow any retail code to work and give you the insta-90 boost. That would solve problems and boost sales of the expansions, as I noted in the post. I would simply not allow people to buy a digital download version of the expansion once their account is so flagged.

And how can you worry about a GW2 expansion? Aren’t you burning down Lion’s Arch every hour, on the hour already? Where would you find the time?

9. Balkoth - February 25, 2014

I, For One, Welcome Our New $60 Overlords

And you’d likely have to do character transfers ($25 each) to move it to your main account and/or have to buy Vanilla/BC/WotLK/Cata/MoP PLUS WoD to unlock the 90.

$60 is more than reasonable for many factors.

10. Wilhelm Arcturus - February 25, 2014

@Balkoth – All I know is that Blizz is teeing up a situation where customer service hilarity will likely ensue… and that they want to charge more for expansions… maybe.

11. Balkoth - February 25, 2014

Let me put it this way — ignore the cost of the actual expansion for a moment. Is $60 unreasonable for a boost to 90? That’s less than $1.50 an hour, probably less than $1.00 an hour for most people.

12. Wilhelm Arcturus - February 25, 2014

@Balkoth – I would argue that “reasonable” is so subjective as to make no sense arguing over.

At this moment in time, with two level 90s and a 3rd on the way… and perhaps a 4th by the time the expansion drops… $60 for yet another level 90 does not seem reasonable, it seems like a waste of money. As noted in the post, I don’t even know what do to with the insta 90 I am going to get with Draenor. How can you argue reasonable in that situation?

Furthermore, there will be a point in the future where I will likely have 2 or 3 level 100 characters, and $60 for a level 90 will seem even less reasonable.

But that is specific to my situation. I am, as an example, not dying to play a Warlock and lacking in time to get it up into Pandaria. But if I was in a tight guild and was asked to take one for the team to round out a regular 10 person raiding group, I might do it without qualm. It could be reasonable, in the right set of circumstances. I just cannot foresee me being in such circumstances.

And you should say “thank you” when I fix your link to turn it into something usable. No “http://” and it doesn’t work.

13. Balkoth - February 25, 2014

“I would argue that “reasonable” is so subjective as to make no sense arguing over.”

Why? Did you read my blog post that I linked with the points that I made, especially regarding server/faction transfers?

“How can you argue reasonable in that situation?”

So you’re claiming “How can you talk about what’s reasonable for a good that you don’t care about getting in the first place?” From that angle you could claim $0.01 for an instant 90 is unreasonable since you’d never pay it.

Which clearly is a problematic conclusion to draw. So we have to start from the perspective of someone who WANTS to buy an instant 90, not from the perspective of someone who DOESN’T.

14. Wilhelm Arcturus - February 25, 2014

@Balkoth – I would argue that hounding somebody who said they didn’t really care about the feature to endorse your point of view is a pointless endeavor.

Am I angry that it is $60? Am I arguing that it should be less? If you think so, I suggest you re-read what I have written. I mean get real, didn’t I even put up a set of circumstances in my comment under which it might be reasonable?

Meanwhile your jump to a price of one cent… you’re attempting to make that prostitute joke, aren’t you… is just silly.

Your view of reasonable… by which you clearly mean too expensive… wouldn’t enter into it at one cent, it would simply be stupid for Blizzard and the community as a whole. So it would not reasonable, but for a different set of reasons altogether.

And yes, I did read your post. I like this quote the best.

“We’re already paying $15 a month, Blizzard, obviously that means you should give everything to us.”

I expect that you put me in the category.

15. Asmiroth - February 25, 2014

So is $60 the price point for skipping 9 years of content now? What tremendous value they place on their product.

Clearly the product isn’t aimed at me, even though I enjoy WoW. It just seems so ultimately defeating. I mean, why not just put everyone at 90 and delete the previous world content? Is it even relevant?

16. Jenks - February 25, 2014

“Anyway, just you WoW players count yourself lucky Blizzard’s willing to sell you an expansion at all.”

Well every expansion has made the game less enjoyable so I wouldn’t count myself lucky at all. I’m currently playing on a private WoW vanilla server that has all sorts of weird pathing issues and crashes a few times a night, and it’s the best WoW experience I’ve had in close to 10 years.

The company changed direction and went after a different, bigger demographic, and didn’t leave anything for the original fans. As far as WoW’s expansions go, I’d consider myself the opposite of lucky.

17. sleepysam - February 25, 2014

It was nice only paying $10 for panda land. I will miss that this time around.

18. sleepysam - February 25, 2014

Heck – look at this way – we are all buying insta 90s and you get a free expansion with it! Sorry if that is a repeat from above. Feels like a different way to say it.

19. zaphod6502 - February 25, 2014

Let’s not forget no one will be forced to spend $60 on insta-90’s. There is still the option of levelling the traditional way. Plus it isn’t that hard to level with the availability of heirloom items which give experience point boosts.

I am with Balkoth. If you have no intention of using the insta-level option why is it an issue? I don’t see complaining about the $27.50 mounts that everyone seems to be spending money on (and a lot do looking at the major player hubs in WoW).

20. Wilhelm Arcturus - February 25, 2014

@zaphod6502 – It isn’t an issue, except that Balkoth has tried to make it one. It isn’t even the main point of my post. I’ll ask you the same think I asked Balkoth; where am I complaining about it? Direct quote from my post:

“I find any argument about it being too expensive to be more foot stomping than anything else. How much should a level 90 character cost? It is a luxury item after all.”

Balkoth seems to think that isn’t enough and that I ought to endorse his claim that the price is universally reasonable. Since it isn’t something I would buy at that price, I declined and gave my reasons why. That would, to my mind, be considerably different that complaining about the $60 price.

21. zaphod6502 - February 25, 2014

My apologies. Your reference (which I just re-read) was to the expansion price creeping upwards.

I am not sure where I stand with expansion pricing. If Blizz adds value through vanity items it would seem to be reasonable. I notice they do tend to offer bonuses for all their games when you buy collectors versions of their products.

22. Wilhelm Arcturus - February 25, 2014

@zaphod6502 – Yeah, with two things potentially priced at $60, there is room for confusion.

And even the expansion price isn’t making me angry or anything. I am sure I will pay it, if it is going to be $60. I do wonder at a 50% price jump without anything said about additional value. But, maybe the insta-90 is the additional value. I’m sure we’ll find out once Blizzard actually announces pricing.

That’s pretty much the TL;DR for the post. It was just one of those things I wanted to note for future reference while wondering aloud about possible ramifications.

23. Balkoth - February 26, 2014

“Am I arguing that it should be less? If you think so, I suggest you re-read what I have written”

You said you originally thought it would be $35 and that you’re worried about an expansion costing $60. That would seem to indicate you think an instant 90 should be less than $60, no?

“Meanwhile your jump to a price of one cent… you’re attempting to make that prostitute joke, aren’t you… is just silly.”

Quite the reverse. It would be like a prostitute trying to sell herself to a gay man — the gay man isn’t interested in the first place, which is what you seem to be saying. Doesn’t matter how cheap the prostitute makes herself, gay man still doesn’t care, so trying to use him as a judge for the price of prostitution would be silly.

“I mean, why not just put everyone at 90 and delete the previous world content? Is it even relevant?”

Excellent question.


It is absolutely relevant for people new to the game who aren’t in a hurry to get to max level. It isn’t relevant for people leveling a character for the eighth time or whatever or who want to play with a current friend at max level.

24. Stabs - February 26, 2014

Could be right on the $60 for the expansion or $60 for an instalevel.

The Economist famously used this trick, picked up by Dan Ariely

25. Wilhelm Arcturus - February 26, 2014

@Balkoth – “You said you originally thought it would be $35 and that you’re worried about an expansion costing $60. That would seem to indicate you think an instant 90 should be less than $60, no?”

Only it you ignore what I actually wrote and make your own assumptions. And while you clearly didn’t know what the prostitute joke was, I am going to bet you know the “ass-u-me” joke.

26. Balkoth - February 26, 2014

You wrote “Really? We’re going $60… the defacto price of a new AAA game… for an expansion now?”

And given that the character level is INCLUDED in said $60, that definitely indicates you think the boost should be less than $60.

Let A be the boost and B be the expansion. A is a subset of B. If you think the cost of B is too high and the cost of A is set equal to the cost of B, that guarantees you think the cost of A is too high.

Maybe you didn’t mean that, but it’s the logical conclusion to draw from your words.

“And while you clearly didn’t know what the prostitute joke was”

It doesn’t involve Wiston Churchhill and end with “We’ve already established that, madam, now we’re just haggling over the price?”

27. Shandren - February 26, 2014

@Balkoth…uhm no. The expansion (which includes a lvl 90 boost) and the standalone lvl 90 boost, are very possibly different in certain ways to make your above inference invalid. As previos posters mentioned, there might be issues involved with buying multiple WoD’s and getting all characters on the same account. I don’t know yet how this will work, but as long as the boost from the expansion cannot just be applied to any account without any trouble, then the standalone boost is not Included in the WoD “box”.
If, in order to get a 2nd lvl 90 boost on my main account, I would have to buy wow + all expansions (in order to get a 2nd WoD’ed account) and then (pay to??) merge it to my main account… That seems like a lot of additional trouble/money.
Of cause i don’t know how the free WoD boost will work exactly. But unless it works precisely like the 60$ seperate boost, your “A is a subset of B” premise is false.

28. kiantremayne - February 26, 2014

Personally, I think the price of an insta-level is irrelevant… if you’re charging money for people to skip a chunk of your game, there’s something wrong with your game. And if you’re only offering that because people want to pay you money to skip part of your game… there’s something wrong with those people AND with your game.

Or to put it another way… if people are wiling to shell out $60 to skip 90 levels of the game, please explain why I would ever want to spend $60 on 10 MORE levels of what people are paying to skip? :)

29. Instant 90s, cont. | In An Age - February 26, 2014

[…] extra interesting to me now though (and with Wilhelm too), is what Blizzard is going to do when the price of the expansion inevitably drops. I ended up […]

30. So is $60 the price point for skipping 9 years of content now? What tremendous value they place on their product. | Hardcore Casual - February 26, 2014

[…] stole from TAGN commenter Asmiroth, because it sums up my feelings on this whole […]

31. Wilhelm Arcturus - February 26, 2014

@Balkoth – And the five words before that quote are “And my initial response was,” which would do more than imply that it was not my final thought on the subject and which is certainly not supported by what I have written as a whole.

Selective quoting for the win.

At this point I am not even sure what you are trying to argue here. That I am against something? That I think one price or another is unreasonable? But you’ve gone from trying to argue something to behaving like a bit of an ass. Stop being this guy.

My own personal code on commenting on the blogs of others is that, after 3 argumentative comments, it is time to move on. After that, if I still feel strongly, I go write a blog post about it on my own blog. So please, if you still feel strongly that I am arguing for or against something that is bothering your, go write a post on your blog about what a colossal ass I am.

I won’t even go over and argue with you.

32. Adam D. - February 26, 2014

I for one will not be going back to WoD… Blizzard won’t be getting any more of my $$. On a ‘cost per hour’ basis, $60.00 for the xpac is fine, spending hundreds of hours it amounts to pennies an hour for entertainment. However, given the fact that there are companies (Grinding Gear Games with Path of Exile, for one) That are willing to give xpacs away for free for players, knowing that players will spend more on the cash shop when the xpac comes out.

(Side Note: Path of Exile’s Cash Shop is all fluff items, and a few minor account boosts like more storage space, or character or guild slots. No P2Win here. Yay!)

PoE’s releasing their 2nd major xpac on March 5th, for free. Whereas PoE’s closest competitor, Diablo III, is charging customers $40.00 (or $60 for the CE) for their latest xpac, which essentially is fixing all the mistakes they made while launching the game.

Maybe it’s the Indie vs AAA argument, but I’d rather give my money to a company that doesn’t charge me to play, and isn’t gouging me for new content every couple of years, and is basically thankful for their fans/supporters of their product.

33. R - February 26, 2014

Not sure if anyone’s mentioned this specifically in the comments above (skimmed) but I think they changed the Eurogamer article originally linked, at this point it makes no mention of an expansion price at all… although I didn’t see the original version so maybe it’s still there and I’m just blind.

Either way, I fully expect and haven’t seen anything to indicate otherwise that the expansion will be the same $40 as every other expansion that I’ve purchased at time of release.

As others have pointed out, you can’t apply more than one game code for an expansion to an account… basically, the “Upgrade” link disappears once you’ve done it the first time, there simply isn’t anywhere to put it after that. As others have also pointed out, the $60 is less money and significantly less effort than any other (T&C-abiding) way to get a L90 toon once things like account transfers are included, regardless of how you look at it. Is it possible at some point the combination of the full game, including WoD expansion, plus account transfer will be less than $60 combined and a better deal than the instant 90? Sure, possibly, but there’s nothing stopping them from discounting the instant 90 during that period, either. The thing about prices for luxury items like this is that they’re pure profit, or close to it… they can discount it as much as they want and still come out ahead. The price is meant to DISCOURAGE casual purchase so that a significant number of players will continue leveling the current way, not ENCOURAGE it and make the 1-90 world even more barren than it is. They had to offer it but they also had to offer it at a relatively high price point in order to get the best result overall. I think most of the criticism of the price is missing that core point since prices are generally meant to encourage purchase.

34. Wilhelm Arcturus - February 26, 2014

@R – Ah, they went and deleted what was the fourth paragraph in the article, which was essentially “The expansion will be $60″ and “didn’t want players to have to buy two copies of the expansion.” Nice that they completely failed to note the correction at the end of the article like a professional news service would.

35. Jonny 5iVe - February 27, 2014

Correct me if I’m wrong… But didn’t they say the insta-level 90 toon was for ~~PRE-ORDERING~~ the expansion?

I don’t recall ever seeing/reading that it would be an ongoing thing, so whether WoD box price drops below the cost of the account service is pretty irrelevant really.

As I said, this is only from memory, so I could be mistaken.

36. Wilhelm Arcturus - February 27, 2014

@Jonny 5iVe – Everything I have read has said that WoD will come with an insta-90. That was part of the base set of features announced at BlizzCon.

The pre-order thing is the promise that you will get your insta-90 as soon as you pre-order, as opposed to having to wait until the expansion launches. I took this to be a sign that the expansion wasn’t going to show up any time soon.

37. Wilhelm Arcturus - March 2, 2014

@R – You say that, but when I go to Battle.net, I see a field where you can enter any Blizzard related codes… games, expansions, store items, time cards… which seems to contradict what you have written. There is no reason the lack of an “upgrade link” would inhibit somebody from entering a second code for WoD.

38. R - March 4, 2014


The peril of responding when I’m not in front of my gaming computer, memory’s a fickle thing. I’ll try to remember to verify tonight but I do know (based on my recollection) that the last time I had a code to enter (for a second RAF account) the only place I found to enter it was via an Upgrade link from the trial account page that disappeared once I’d entered the code. If there is some sort of generic “enter code for anything here” box that’s either new or I somehow missed it.

And yes, making a major modification to a post without acknowledging the change is bush-league.

39. Wilhelm Arcturus - March 4, 2014

@R – There was a link to the generic code entry page on the front of the new Battle.net Launcher. It says something like, “Have a code to enter?”

Addendum: And there is a Battle.net support article on it.

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