Blizzard dismisses microtransaction model

At a press conference during the BlizzCon convention in Los Angeles yesterday, Blizzard stated firmly that it had no plans to implement real money transactions in World of Warcraft - or any of its other games.

At a press conference during the BlizzCon convention in Los Angeles yesterday, Blizzard stated firmly that it had no plans to implement real money transactions in World of Warcraft - or any of its other games.

It is an increasingly popular trend in Asia to run free-to-play MMOs where players buy in-game items with real money, and the these games are now starting to appear in the West.

But when it was put to him that Blizzard lost money by not charging for items, company co-founder Frank Pearce, senior vice-president of product develepment, argued that subscribers have a better experience and are more loyal.

"Can you show us a profit and loss statement that shows that we lose money on that?" he challenged.

"I would say that that's arguable, because part of protecting the integrity of the game is ensuring that the subscribership has a reason to continue playing and feels good about the experience that they have.

"You could potentially say that we'd do an RMT [real money transactions] server, but at the same time you might find that the average subscriber life on an RMT server is lower than on a normal server."

The company also feels that World of Warcraft hasn't been too badly hit by farming and real money trading in its currency. "The good news for us is it doesn't break the WoW economy," said Rob Pardo, vice president of games design.

"If you look at the auction house and the prices of items, they haven't grossly inflated over time. The economy has managed to survive."

Its impact is still felt, however, and still unfavourable, according to Pardo. "The biggest impact is that it cheats players out of their experience. They don't bring in any trappings of the outside world, and they want an even playing field."

Responding to concerns about player addiction, Pearce noted the parental-control 'alarm clock' that has been implemented in WoW, but stressed the personal responsibility of players to manage their time.

"At the end of the day the game should be played in moderation, just like anything else in your life should be done in moderation," he said.

"But we're conscious of the fact that the game's compelling and we're always looking at other features to add to the game to help people moderate their play."

Blizzard was characteristically tight-lipped about its future plans. But lead designer Tom Chilton was keen to stress that Wrath of the Lich King will not be the last WoW expansion pack.

"There's all kinds of other Warcraft lore gods and heroes and villains we can use in future expansions. And once we run out of those we can make new ones," he said.

Pardo added that Blizzard plans to overhaul its online service and support the esports scene "vigorously", in both Korea and the West.

"We have lots and lots of plans for Starcraft II to expand and get a really great game for esports," he said, adding that work was being done to make WoW's arena combat more suitable for esports.

This is the second annual BlizzCon event. It spans two days and is held in the Anaheim Convention Center, next door to Disneyland.

Pardo said it was an opportunity for the company to spend time with players and "find out what motivates them", and also to announce new products directly to its fans. "We really think they deserve to see stuff for the first time," he said.

Attendance is in the region of 13,000 people this year, up from 8000 in October 2005.

"My first impression of Blizzcon was 'holy sh**!' when I walked out on the stage," said Pearce.

"It's surreal. To have so many people so passionate about what we're doing that they're willing to travel here to see what we've got and hang out with us is awesome."

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Latest comments (1)

Dan Taylor Manager, fatfoogoo11 years ago
If I get this right - Pearce does say that Blizz would consider experimenting with a RMT server running in parallel with a subscriptions server? Now THAT is some data I'd love to see.
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