With the coming of Burning Crusade Classic we get to make a choice. Anybody logging into WoW Classic after the expansion pre-patch hits on May 18th will have to decide between keeping their character in vanilla WoW or advancing it to the world of The Burning Crusade expansion.
While I plan to move forward, I am sure that others will want to hold back and stay in vanilla. As with EverQuest, there is a faction who just wants to live in the early game forever.
Moving forward… or staying behind… is free, at least for specific definitions of the word. I bought a copy of The Burning Crusade back in 2007 and I pay a subscription fee in order to play the game, but I am not being asked to pay anything additional in order to advance through the dark portal.
Likewise, staying behind in vanilla WoW incurs no additional cost.
But for people who want to do both, that is another story.
As we were told back at BlizzConline, when the expansion pre-patch hits and the choice of paths needs to be made, there will be two copies of your character, one in vanilla and one in Burning Crusade, and you get to choose which one you want to play. However, like some sort of Star Trek teleporter malfunction, the clone that remains behind sits in suspended animation, waiting for you, waiting for all of us.
If you want to release that clone and have that second Riker or whoever running around free in the timeline you did not initially choose, it is going to cost you $35.
This has made some people angry. PC Gamer says players are furious about the price. Massively OP says players have begun to “riot,” though can’t be bothered to do more than link to an Icy Veins thread. Seriously, it seems a pretty considerable breach of the five Ws of journalism to not even mention the price that is responsible for these alleged riots. An extremely lazy piece of work there.
Extreme hyperbole aside, $35 does seem a bit steep. It is certainly enough to prove a barrier to me, though having to play characters on a third version of WoW, after retail and Outland, was already a pretty big barrier for me. Like I have time for that.
However, when a character transfer on a live or classic server is $25, activating and already created clone… Holly said that when the split happened there would be two versions of your character… doesn’t seem like something that justifies a $35 price tag.
But that is always the problem with these sorts of services. In the end, the actual operation to get you want you want is generally a trivial exercise. Back in the early EverQuest days, when SOE was charging $50 for a server transfer, the price was there to be a deterrent as much anything else, because the process wasn’t automated and a dev had to go in and move your character manually. It was still only a database operation, but somebody had to devote time to actually getting it done and the bandwidth for transfer operations was limited.
Once SOE automated the process, the price went down. It is still not valued relative to the cost of doing the operation because there has to be a support mechanism around the whole thing. People make mistakes. They pick the wrong character, they pick the wrong server, they change their minds, they could have sworn they had this or that piece of gear when they hit the button. It can be a tech support nightmare, and all the more so when people are paying the monthly subscription fee that often makes them feel the company owes them. (A subscription fee that hasn’t gone up in fifteen years by the way.)
I’ve been in guilds where people have abused the support line, calling up to undelete characters or items or whatever. And support has generally been very accommodating to those requests. The company would like you to stay subscribed.
So at some level the price of these services is also to fund support and limit their use. They seem likely to be price elastic, so if you change the price from $25 to $5, use would go up, and if you raised the price use would go down. So, it is possible that $25 for a character transfer represents an analysis of the cost to support and the number of people likely to use it. Or somebody just thought that sounded like a good number or seemed to be the market price based on what a competitor was charging.
None of which explains why Blizz thinks $35 is the right price for activating a clone. It seems like the support cost would be lower and that usage might be higher if the price was in the $10-20 range. I don’t see a downside to greater usage, as the clone has already been made, so the “work” has been done. But I am also not exactly bent out of shape at the cost. It makes my staying behind with a main character much less likely, but the likelihood was pretty low already.
If enough people are worked up about this perhaps Blizz will tinker with the price and make it more reasonable. I suspect, however, that the stay behind crowd was already planning to do just that and are not all that interested in going through the dark portal to Outland, while those like me looking to progress are happy enough to leave vanilla WoW behind. I enjoyed the stay, but it is time to go. Those left in between… those who want to do both… well, we’ll see if they make up a big enough crowd I guess.
Addendum: The price has been reduced to $15 since I wrote this.