When I first heard about this particular news item, I genuinely gulped. Really, I swallowed hard. This was a strategy that smacked of desperation at its worst. Though I soon got the idea that this might not have been so bad after all, it still wasn't the kind of move that inspired confidence. The move in particular is that Blizzard
was planning to raise its prices
for “World of Warcraft” players, but specifically in the U.K.
The prices went up slightly, from 8.99 pounds sterling to 9.99 pounds sterling, which is a price jump from, roughly, $14.94 U.S to $16.60 U.S. That's not a huge jump by any standard, really—the equivalent of roughly an extra $20 a year—but it's still a price hike, and when the player numbers are starting to actively drop off, it's generally not a good idea to respond with a measure that will likely end with making more users jump ship. However, there's a key point here that does kind of illustrate what Blizzard may have in mind with all this: current players who continue to auto-renew their accounts will continue to buy in at the 8.99 pounds sterling level for the next two years.
The price increase is set to hit with the launch of “Warlords of Draenor
,” the newest expansion pack for the series that will not only add some fresh content to the series, but will also jack up the level cap to a healthy top mark of level 100. There's no word as yet as to whether or not the price hike will migrate to other markets, but it's likely got a few users concerned.
Now, this looks like it might have a reasonable enough explanation. For instance, Blizzard spells out how it “regularly look(s) at pricing” and “make(s) changes in light of local and regional market conditions.” Sensible enough on the outside, and the fact that it's both tied to the new expansion time-wise and to overall conditions at Blizzard gives it a double dose of “make sense.” But trying to keep players in the game with the stick rather than the carrot is not an encouraging sign to say the least. It's reasonable enough—Blizzard needs to do something to stem its losses—but doing so with threats of higher prices to come doesn't exactly seem like a winning strategy from here. It seems like a strategy that's about guaranteed to get shot in the foot.
Still, it could well be that it will work out, that the hikes will be limited and non-migratory in nature, a simple leveling of the playing field, so to speak. Only time will tell just which is the case right now, but this whole matter might assert a weaker Azeroth than first expected.