In which Blizzard figure out how to charge social players more

Always the contrarians, Blizzard announced plans yesterday to charge players more for the ability to group with people on their realID list who play on other servers.

The idea, as I understand it, is that the person who has paid for the service would be able to form LFD groups out of their own realID friend list (you already have the ability to chat to them while playing).

Basically, you could reap the benefits of LFG without ‘having’ to group with the great unwashed.

Since people who actually form their own groups are likely to be the more social players anyway, Blizzard effectively will be going the opposite way from Valve and charging the people who most want and are able to build social networks for their friends. I am sure people will pay for this. But clearly it is cheaper to just be friends with someone who pays for the service and hang on their coat tails, assuming you like the groups they form.

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36 thoughts on “In which Blizzard figure out how to charge social players more

  1. In one way, this makes sense – being grouped with people you actually like instead of thrown in with random strangers (who are automatically suspected of being ninjas, “bads” or just plain assholes) is a benefit to the player. If it’s a benefit, it’s worth something to the player, whivch means the player wiol be willing to pay for it – why shouldn’t Blizzard pick up that money?

    On the other hand, it’s shortsighted. Blizzard already get a benefit from this because players who can group with their friends, having more fun playing the game and building social ties in-game, are more likely to keep subscribing.

    Also, just announcing this scheme causes Blizzrd to take a hit to their reputation – anything that smacks of charging people extra for having friends just makes them look like the Corporate Goblin. “Welcome to Azeroth, it costs $15 to visit our world… enjoying yourself here costs more”.

    • The more I think of it, the more I see this as an appeal to the elitists and anyone else who really really doesn’t want to mingle with the rest of the playerbase in instances.

      And the clever thing is that once this is in the game, it’s actually to Blizzard’s advantage to have people complain about the community. Because it would help to sell more of these premium ‘avoid the community’ services.

    • As someone who maintains more than two gear sets on paladin and druid characters, and hates manually updating binds/bars to switch to the third spec: I’d buy that immediately.

      • Ditto (says the Paladin). I would just find it difficult to imagine that they didn’t already build that extensibility into the dual-talent system.

  2. What I don’t get is why they haven’t touched on the biggest possible cash-in with this; cross-faction grouping.
    My biggest problem was always that my Real-Id friends where horde.. and on a different server.

    Maybe they are just waiting to see if this is a hit first

    • Yes, I wonder if there’s a technical issue with this because I think you’re right. There probably are a lot more people who’d want to group cross faction with friends.

      • If I have to call things that they’re thinking of:

        -Cross server raids eventually(does this feature include this? I might have missed it)

        -Cross faction grouping(Give it time. It will happen I think once they can get past the technicalities. This would likely be premium as well.)

        -Character Copy on Live Realms. Not paid Transfer-paid Copy. Where you copypasta the character in its form onto another server. Yes, with achievements intact.

        That’s just three things so far. (I still have some strong believe that we’ll be getting some model updates for the next expansion. Though I would actually like that.)

        Gotta wonder what they’ll come up with here.

  3. However, just because you have friends on another server doesn’t mean they are any good at the game and you may end up with worse players than if you just LFD’d it. I can sense the drama Llama powering up already.

  4. FWIW, I’m not a fan of levying an additional fee on players wishing to take advantage of their own social networks in the game, especially as there’s likely no significant upkeep cost for the service. Some of the more recent ‘premium subscription services’ have smelt all too much like nickel-and-diming the customer, but this is by far the more obvious example.

    Anyway, as far as functionality is concerned, it seems unlikely that it will restrict players on only those on their RealID list. At the very least I’d expect inviting via “Friends of Friends” to be possible (hence social ‘network’) and perhaps some further cunning linking system. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see this service become the backbone of organising pre-arraigned PvP match-ups, if only to leverage it as a Premium Service, though it may have some privacy issues of it’s own.

    I’m sure the service will be a competent one but it won’t be one that I’ll pay for.

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  6. The only issue that I have with this is that there is a difference between RL friends and friends that I have made through the game. I have been in a number of guilds in my time, but I can’t say that I necessarily want those people to have my real name or personal information to become RealID friends. We get along and have been through some things, but it’s not that serious for me to do that.

    I still feel there are too many holes surrounding RealID that make me not want to use it and are why I haven’t used it and I don’t feel an option this would make me cave on that. I can’t say the same for others, though. I can see people who were pitching a fit about RealID privacy being very eager to sign it all away just to group with friends from other realms.

    Irony, for the win.

  7. The irony for me here is that if this feature is successful, it will remove even more people from the “random” aspect of the LFD tool, driving queue times back up again. Considering the effort they just went through with the “Call to Arms” feature, this seems rather counterproductive to the goal of keeping queue times down. I guess some Activision accountant decided that this would make them more money than they stand to lose from people unsubscribing over long queues.

  8. I hope you can make piece with this, Spinks, because the ability to play with your friends is a feature that MMORPG’s *need* to have (and I’m imagining in the future most will).

    Really, though, a next-gen MMO would do away with “realms” altogether (though regions would probably still exist). There’s little reason (other than some seemingly surmountable technical issues) to have realms in a theme park MMO. Playing with any friend or anybody else in your region would be fantastic, though some would surely be irritated at the thought of a hundred instanced Orgrimmars and Ironforges.

      • It’s not so much a case of make peace for me because a) I’m not playing WoW at the moment anyway and b) I never had any problems finding friends to play with on my server (plus AD is the bestest of all servers anyhow :P ).

        I agree about doing away with realms/ servers in the next generation of MMOs though.

    • The main reason for having separate realms isn’t so much technical as social. An individual server is a village where it’s possible for everyone to know your name. You or your guild can build a reputation that most of the people you encounter will know about (for good or ill). If you have one mega-server then you’ve moved to the big city where nobody knows who you are and nobody really cares.

  9. I haven’t read the announcement, but I think I’m their target market.

    I have an old RL friend (so no worries about being linked with Real ID) who plays on a different server. My wife and I tried to roll alts on his server so we could all play together but we just didn’t like it. Likewise, he doesn’t want to play on our server. Something like this sounds like it would let us all play together on our mains without leaving the servers we call home.

    We’d still need a couple puggers to fill out a group but it would allow a connection that isn’t possible today. And once I’m signed up for such a thing, I might enjoy bringing an alt on a different realm to a heroic. That would help me gear up alts on other servers.

  10. If i wanted to fork over money to hang out with my RL friends, id go out to the bar or to see a movie. I dont enjoy my friends company enough to pay for it in game haha

  11. I’d like to see a show of hands of all the people that would use this even if it was free.

    How many players really know multiple players from other servers that they would want to, need to, or be able to group with to run a heroic?

    This seems like a nitch, albeit important, functionality primarily amied at BlizzCon fans. I meet follks at a convention and I can group with them at the convention. That’s pretty cool, and those that go to BlizzCon likely wouldn’t blink to fork over a couple bucks to do that.

    And it’s certainly cheaper than a server transfer.

    I’m of a mind that anything new they roll out is progress.

  12. They didn’t mention if WoW will continue to be a subscription based game or if they’ll change to F2P. I wouldn’t be surprised if they would change to F2P at this point. Maybe the premium account will be the 13 euro/month account which gives you access to raids and some other selected premium features like this.

  13. The timing is interesting. Maybe they feel that old Luddites like me will no longer care about our real names being out there now that Sony has spilled our personal details all over the web.

    I think Blizzard sees Real Id as their future and this is simply one step in a number of measures we’ll be seeing to convert fans from “WoW players” to “Blizzard players”.

    Personally I’m too private by inclination to want my raid guild to know that I’m up at 4 in the morning playing Diablo 3 because I can’t sleep but I think that’s where they’re trying to take us.

  14. I just can’t understand how they think it is viable to charge us additionally for a feature which is a logical part of the development path.

    How much will patch 4.4 cost?

  15. i think Game by Night nails the motivation for this – i won’t post the link, as then the post will get eaten by your spam filter – that this is about WoW monetising players like it’s going out of style.

    Valve’s model of paying connected customers only works when you expect to keep them – you’re making new games and you want to maintain or continue the community of users. Blizzard’s model works well when your game is in decline and you are looking to extract the maximum possible revenue from your user base.

    Because this IS a form of asset-stripping: letting the players with established friend lists skip the random LFG tool, or minimise their contact with it, necessarily means that the remaining population in that LFG pool is more and more toxic. which would be a huge problem if you were trying to build your community; but if you are accepting that your community and player population is decreasing *anyway*, then it makes no difference – the population is decreasing and the LFG population becoming more toxic anyway – so offering an additional service to allow your well-connected players to keep playing while avoiding the pool of toxicity is win-win. except for the leftover LFG-ers of course, but they’re decreasing in number anyway, so it’s time to start monetising the hardcore/ long-termers.

    • Added the link for you (I’m not sure that would have put it in the spam filter btw, think people have posted links before.)

      I think you make a good point though. When you’re building a new community in a game is when you really want to lure in the more social players. Once you have them hooked, then you can milk them.

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  17. I lean toward the explanation given on Blessing of Kings — that there was enough skepticism inside Blizzard that this would be worthwhile to add that the skeptics forced the advocates to make the feature pay for itself. The analogy given was the barbershop, which blue posters have indicated isn’t being used very much.

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