Monday 22 December 2014

Plexing Warcraft

Blizzard announced that they are now considering a version of Plex for the World of Warcraft: a game-time token that is exchangeable for gold in-game. In other words, I can buy with earthly euros a token that I can then sell for Azeroth gold. Or in my case, the other way round. I have to let that sink in. This would be immediately advantageous for me, since I am as rich as Croesus in Azeroth gold. I have already bought whatever useful BoE epics I can get. But I did this through in-game means. World of Warcraft, essentially, is a collector's world. Even those who are only interested in collecting boss kills must do so by first collecting gear. If that gear will soon be purchasable for euros, the point of most in-game activity ceases. Why bother skinning, mining, inscribing and so on to make gold, when its available on your credit card?

Then we need to look at the remaining activities, and ask if they are interesting on their own. Raiding with my guild is fun. We are not very hardcore and we raid once a week, sometimes twice. I spend the rest of my week preparing for those raids: collecting apexis crystals in order to buy better gear, gathering, crafting and selling stuff at auction to buy food and flasks, running heroic dungeons and LFR and killing world bosses in the hope of better gear drops.  There is a sense of being in a living world with all of these activities (except the random dungeons and LFR). Will that be enough to sustain in me a desire to continue with those activities? Knowing that I can buy whatever I need with my credit card probably renders them pointless. And what is the value of a living world in which your activities therein are pointless? Will I continue to remain in an Azeroth where I can buy the Sword of a Thousand Truths with my credit card? Of course, soulbound gear isn't purchasable like that. But the precursors will be: the crafted BoE gear that you need to even stand a chance of killing a boss and acquiring that better soulbound gear; all the buff food, potions and flasks that all make the difference between a kill and a wipe. They can all go on your credit card. So will I continue to be interested in an Azeroth in which I only need log on for raid night?

Edit: Alex tweeted "This article should have drawn more examples from Eve Online". That's probably true. Eve, which I don't play, has quite a different economy, based on constant destruction of ships through warfare. The replacement of these ships is what drives economic activity in Eve, and all economic activity is bought and sold in a currency called ISK, which an Eve PLEX can be sold for. In contrast, WoW's economic activity comes in waves, as each new patch makes obsolete the equipment of the previous patch, driving adventurers to to re-quip with the better gear. Sometimes that gear is valued in gold, and is freely tradable. Much of the time the new gear is not tradable (this in itself is a major drain on immersion), but upgrades to the gear (in the form of enchantments, gems and other enhancements) are. Eve players seem to have no problem accepting PLEX, as many feel that buying ships with ISK doesn't make you more powerful: it's personal skill that matters. I have my doubts. A pilot with lots of skill and no ship is not a match for a poorly skilled pilot who actually has a ship to pilot.

Many EVE veterans will say that far from paying to win, inexperienced players who buy top of the range ships with PLEX-bought ISK are simply paying to lose, as they lack the skill to use the ships effectively. That's a good point: buying better gear in WoW generally does improve your damage or healing output, or survivability, no matter how bad the buyer is.

Anyway, if it has worked for Eve, perhaps it will work for WoW. Perhaps an EVE player might put the case for PLEX in Eve? I'm willing to give Blizzard the benefit of the doubt, for now. Let's see if it actually gets implemented, and how.

Tomorrow, I'll look at how much a WoWPLEX would be worth.


  1. That will kill off a certain amount of gold farming, but it will merely confirm the pay-to-win bias that some feel is extant in the game.

    I'm kind of meh about it; normally I'd be against it but I'd like to see a lot of the gold farming sweatshops disappear. If nothing else, it will mean that the amount of subs will more accurately reflect the real players in the game vs. the gold farmers.

    That said, I still see gold farmers hawking their wares on SWTOR, where all it takes is Slicing and a couple of days of diligent farming to get the amount of credits they're selling. (Hell, just farming Nar Shaddaa will net you a ton of credits.)

  2. I don't think that WoW has previously had much of a pay-to-win attitude, at least as far as earthly riches are concerned. Sure, it's possible to buy Azeroth gold by selling TCG mounts or the guardian cub pet, both of which can be acquired with dollars. And it has long been possible to trade with illegal gold-sellers. But those are really marginal sources of gold, I think.

    However, once this is available, everyone who has a pile of gold in Azeroth will be buying wow-plexes as soon and as often as they can. I certainly will. And every plex I buy will be giving a competitive advantage to sellers. Their characters will be able to buy competitive gear without any in-game mechanism to explain how they got it. For me, these worlds are at their best when they are immersive worlds that we enjoy living in. This is another step in reducing that immersion further.