This week Blizzard Entertainment has released a new feature for their popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft, which could potentially have a huge impact on the game’s future. This new release, however, has little to do with WoW’s game play, and more to do with how players pay for their game time. Instead of paying the typical $15 every month, players will now have the opportunity to pay in-game gold to purchase a “WoW Token” which can be redeemed for a months worth of game time.
WoW Tokens will work similarly to Eve Online’s “PLEX” system. A player will be able to purchase WoW Tokens from the in-game shop for the price of $2o. These players will then be able to sell these tokens in the Auction House to other players. Blizzard is setting the initial price at 30,000 Gold, however this will fluctuate depending on in-game supply and demand. In short, players who are willing to pay extra money will be able to make extra in-game gold, while players who do not want to pay to play will have the option of trading in-game gold for game time.
This new WoW Token system will help address two issues that face World of Warcraft. The first is that it will allow more players to play the game. The gaming industry, and particularly MMORPGs are headed towards the free-to-play model. World of Warcraft is one of the few games which still charges a monthly subscription, and giving some players a way around the subscription fee will certainly help more people play WoW. The second issue that WoW Tokens might be able to help combat is gold-farming. For a long time, players have sought ways to buy gold from third-party sites, meaning that people have incentive to farm in-game gold. This can often negatively impact the in-game economy, and can also sometimes lead to account-theft. Though Blizzard official condemns such activity, there is little that they have actually done to stop gold-farmers. The new WoW Token system will allow players wishing to trade real money for in-game gold a safe and reliable way to do so.
Blizzard seems to understand that this new system may have a huge impact on the game and they appear to be cautious. Though they are allowing the gold price of these tokens to fluctuate within game, they will be controlling the number of tokens being sold. Each player will only be able to purchase 10 tokens over a 30-day period of time, to ensure the market is not over-saturated. It is still far to soon to tell whether the addition of WoW Tokens will actually have a huge impact on World of Warcraft, but it is nice to see that Blizzard is taking steps to ensure that the system succeeds.