On July 18, World of Warcraft developer Blizzard announced a major change to how new players buy the game. Instead of purchasing a “battle chest” with the original World of Warcraft and its previous expansions, the company gives subscribers access for free. The only purchase necessary is August’s Battle for Azeroth expansion, and even that’s ‘required’ only when you hit level 110, the cap in Legion, the game’s prior expansion.
Blizzard’s decision is good for players. Those who’ve fallen out of love with World of Warcraft won’t have to purchase previous expansions to jump back in. Yet the move sends an even better message to first-timers. No longer does World of Warcraft feel inaccessible to those who haven’t played for a decade or more. World of Warcraft is better without the battle chest, and other online games should consider following in the game’s footsteps.
No longer does World of Warcraft feel inaccessible to those who haven’t played for a decade.
Once Battle for Azeroth releases in August, there will be seven available expansions for World of Warcraft, as well as the original 2004 release, giving newcomers 14 years of game to play. That’s a daunting task for even the most dedicated players, but as veterns know, the the current expansion is where the action happens.
By removing the battle chest system, Blizzard acknowledges this. The vast majority of the game coming in Battle for Azeroth is aimed at players who have enjoyed the game for years, and rather than make the barrier to entry even greater for newcomers who won’t even enjoy it to its fullest, Blizzard is giving them a running start.
Blizzard’s parent company, Activision-Blizzard, would be wise to consider this strategy for another of its popular games, Destiny 2. This fall, the game will launch its first major expansion, Destiny 2: Forsaken, bringing along a new campaign, weapons, and abilities. Yet those who haven’t kept up so far must purchase not only Destiny 2, but also its minor expansions, Curse of Osiris and Warmind. We’re sure Bungie will release a bundle that includes all of the content together, but if prior pricing is an indication, it’ll remain around the $60 price of a new game.
The biggest difference between the two is the subscription cost – buy Destiny 2 and you can play it forever, while World of Warcraft sets you back $15 a month. This undoubtedly plays into Activison’s decision to not give away past expansions for free in Destiny 2, but with microtransactions already present in the game, it stands to reason something else could be done.
Another publisher is already one-upping Activision with its own shared-world business mode. Ubisoft’s The Division 2 is doing away with paid expansions completely in 2019, instead releasing future expansions for free.
Expect other games to take a similar approach.
As we continue to head further down the “game as a service” route, expect other games to take a similar approach to World of Warcraft. Perhaps the only thing more important to publishers than you buying a game is you continuing to play a game, as we see with popular shooters like Overwatch and Rainbow Six Siege. By lowering the barrier of entry for ongoing titles, they’ll have more players, and you’ll have more friends to play with.
That’s as close to a win-win as we see in the video game industry, and until we discover a hidden chest filled with enough gold to fund all future games for eternity, it always will be.
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