WoW! Thoughts! — On the True Price of Warlords of Draenor

Thoughts on how the box price of an expansion does not tell the true cost of the game.

Now that Legion has been announced and Warlords of Draenor is effectively done, one of the complaints has been that subscribers paid more for less content.  While Warlords unambiguously has been shorter than any prior expansion, containing only two patches and two raid tiers, the concept of paying more for less content is a lie.  While it is true that the price of the expansion was raised to $50 for Warlords, after Mists of Pandaria and prior expansions all cost $40, that $10 difference is not all there is to consider regarding cost.

First, purchasing Warlords of Draenor included a level-90 boost.  While this feature is a character service offered by Blizzard, the out-of-box price for a character boost is $60.  Even before factoring the cost of content, Warlords was already offering players a $10 discount on a character service.  Admittedly, Blizzard has complete control over the price of features and expansions, so they could set these price points as desired, but to purchase Mists of Pandaria and a character boost would have cost $100, so a $50 sticker price for Warlords seems cheap in comparison.  Still, the arbitrary value of a character boost make comparing prices in this manner inadequate.

The real way to evaluate the price of expansions in not to just look at the price on the box, but to consider the total price paid for the expansion.  One of the reasons players dislike paying for expansions is because they pay for content already with their monthly subscription fee.   In theory, it is this fee that enables Blizzard to continue to provide content throughout the life of the game.  Assuming an average developer salary of $100,000, Blizzard can support a developer for every 556 subscriptions.  With subscriptions still hovering in the 5.6 million range , (and sure to go up after Legion’s announcement), Blizzard could provide for roughly 10,000 employees (which is well more staff than they have, and also does not account for the budgets of their other games).  The subscription fee certainly allows Blizzard to create as much content as they would desire for an expansion.

Given that, the only limiting factor is time.  If Blizzard is going to produce expansions faster, then expansions will have to be shorter.  This means that Blizzard will collect less overall during the lifetime of a shorter expansion than they otherwise would from a longer expansion.  For example, Mists of Pandaria was released on September 26, 2012.  Players paid $40 for the expansion, and then paid $15 for each month they remained subscribed throughout it.  Anyone who survived the lengthy Siege of Ogrimmar and paid the whole time, paid their subscription from September 2012 to November 2014.  That’s 25 months of monthly fees, since the October 2014 payment would have covered the player through Warlords’ mid-November launch.  In my case, I buy the 6-month subscription, so my monthly cost is only $13.  Therefore, Mists of Pandaria cost me $365.  For anyone paying $15, the cost is $415.

For Warlords of Draenor to cost me as much, given the $10 price differential, the expansion would need to last roughly 20 days less (⅔ of a month) than Mists did.  Legion would need to come out in January of 2017.  Given Blizzard’s history, I cannot say that is impossible, but that would seem highly improbable.  Most conservative estimates have Legion being released as late as July of 2016, which means Warlords will have cost me $128.  That number seems absurdly low, but it factors in my reliance on the WoW Token, which has allowed me to play subscription free since May.  For anyone who actually pays the full $15 fee for the lifetime of Warlords, a July 2016 Legion launch means 20 monthly payments, so the price is $350.  That is a $65 price difference from what the same player would have paid for Mists of Pandaria.  Given that we were effectively discounted the price of a full expansion and one month’s game time in paying for Warlords of Draenor, it seems irrational for anyone to complain that we received less content.

It is hard to evaluate the true price of an expansion, because players do not play for the entire time.  Subscriptions rise and fall, although there is always a base (currently 5.6 million) who play the entire time.  That said, it is important to factor in your subscription costs when determining the price of content.  We are going to wind up paying less for Warlords of Draenor than any prior expansion, so it stands to reason we are going to get less content, even if the initial box price went up.  The only people who were impacted by the price increase are those who play through the leveling content and then leave, which works to their favor as the leveling experience in Warlords is generally regarded as exemplary, while the max-level content was underwhelming.  (Except for raiders, as the raid content in Warlords has been solid as well, although most raiders would have stuck around longer than a few months anyway).  It will be interesting to see how much Legion costs.  The perception that Warlords was a rip off should allow Blizzard to price Legion similarly as long as they promise more content.  Given that the post-expansion announcement hype train is in full swing, players should not be looking to complain.  Much.

WoW! Blurbs!

Get out your oven mitts because its time for HOTFIXES!

Patch 6.2.2 drops on September 1st.  Unless it doesn’t.  But it totally has to because WILL EVERYONE PLEASE SHUT UP ABOUT FLYING NOW KTHXBAI.


Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz

Senior Producer

Host of WoW! Talk! and The Tauren & The Goblin. Sometimes known as the Video Games Public Defender. Wants to play more Destiny and Marvel Heroes but WoW is all-consuming. Decent F2P Hearthstone player. Sad that he lost the Wii that had Wrecking Crew on it. Would be happy if the only game ever made was M.U.L.E. Gragtharr on Skywall-US. Garresque on Ravencrest-US.

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