Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Fee to Play with Friends

In case you missed it Blizzard made a new announcement today that they are working on a new service that will allow players to group with friends on your Real ID friends list even if they are on another realm. There's just one catch. You'll have to pay extra for it. Here's the entire announcement:
With the continued popularity of the Dungeon Finder, many players have been asking for a way to group up with real-life friends who play on other realms to take on instances together. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about a new feature currently in development that will allow players to invite Real ID friends of the same faction to a party regardless of the realm they play on, and then queue up for a 5-player regular or Heroic dungeon.

As this is a fairly complex service to develop, we don’t have a release date to share quite yet. It’s important to note that as with some of the other convenience- and connectivity-oriented features we offer, certain elements of the cross-realm Real ID party system will be premium-based, though only the player sending the invitations will need to have access to the premium service. We'll have more details to share with you as development progresses -- in the meantime, you may begin to see elements of the feature appear on the World of Warcraft PTR.

Those of you who've read by blog for a long time may remember that I'm not against Micro Transactions and Premium Services as a general rule, but I do think there is a line that shouldn't be crossed.
  • Micro Transactions: Being able to purchase pets and mounts doesn't bother me because they have no game impact.
  • Mobile Services: The Mobile Auction House and Guild Chat don't bother me because they extend the game to device beyond your computer and they are fairly small aspects of the game.
  • Premium Services: Fee's for server transfers and race changes also make sense to me because they are a bit of an extraordinary situation. Plus you want some disincentive to prevent people from using them frequently and fees are good at that.
My general rule is that as long as it doesn't have a big impact on a core function of the game or doesn't charge a fee for a core feature of the game I don't have a problem with it. This new service cuts dangerously close to that line in my opinion.

On one hand this really doesn't have any impact on how we play the game. If you don't buy the service nothing changes for you. Nothing is preventing us from starting a toon on a new server or transferring a toon to play with friends. It's also worth remembering that this is a bit of functionality that players have been requesting since Real ID and the LFD tool were created. Creating it costs money and without the fees it might have not been a priority for Blizzard to create it now.

On the other hand, it really feels like a fee to play with my friends. I've played this game for a very long time and have friends from almost every guild I've played with on several different servers. It is literally impossible for me to be on the same server as all of my friends because they are on multiple servers. The only other solution would be for me to level multiple toons on the different serves which I feels is both an unfair and impractical solution. The Real ID service was designed so that players could more easily stay in touch with their friends. It doesn't feel right to monetize it by charging people to be able to group with people on their friends list.


typhoonandrew said...

This feels like the start of being nickel and dimed.

Bolder63 said...

Only one person needs to have the premium service, the one who initiates the invites, for the rest of the group it costs nothing.

I fail to understand why people are upset when a company offers a new service and wants to receive compensation for it, it costs resources to implement and maintain.

I will not use the service as I have no friends who play this game off my home server not because there will be a nominal subscription fee.

Compared to my other primary source of home entertainment, cable television, the pittance I pay for WoW and the entertainment I get from it is a great value.

Anonymous said...

The thing that's really annoying to me is that they say "regardless of the realm they play on"
Which is a false statement!

I was really excited when Real ID came out because I'm French and moved to the US a few years ago so I'm now on a US server.
When Real ID came out I tried to connect with my friends in France and couldn't do it.

I contacted Blizzard and they told me that they did not support cross-server Real ID.

I'm not sure if it's really hard to implement or just legal/lazy/not enough incentive but it find it really frustrating.

Elye said...

Speaking as a computer science major, this would be a nightmare to actually do there even be physical barriers you would have to overcome such as the fact that
The servers are location specific so eu are hosted in france ,and the US in the US .. " lets simplify this a little and put it into home networking terms

if you imagine your wow server as a computer , then the router its connected to would be the datacentre, real id communications are a service run on that router letting all the different servers communicate with each other like home pc's

But .. getting letting one sever talk to a another server who is connected to a completly differnt router would require a link between the two ... this could be implemented but you would face some pretty steep barriers to doing it such as the cost of implementing it and the latency between the two as the communication went across the Atlantic. Add the fact very few people would actually benefit from this service excluding people like yourself couple this with the time zone issues. I understand why they didn't do it

Anonymous said...

Oh you know don't get me wrong. I understand why they didn't do it and that I'm a very small minority. Frankly if I wear in their shoes I most likely wouldn't do it either.

But it's disappointment in relationship to the thrill of expectation when I discovered real ID.

Although to my point they sill say "regardless of realm" and it's pretty much false advertising :)

m said...

Well, I am not looking at the new service with a benevolent eye.

We all pay a monthly fee, which is not a little fee too, considering the millions subscriber they have. So any attempt to drain more money from us is evil in my mind.

Yes we can just refuse to use it, but still I feel they should give us more fun for the some fee we actually pay, just because the game is getting annoying year after year and nothing really new is happening...

The "pay for the premium" is ok on free base game like LOTRO and many others, not so ok if you pay a monthly fee. I am playing from the usa beta and probably i am over 4000 euro payment total... which is just foolish.

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mushu said...

They're hurting because of Rift and also because the Cata content has already been consumed by players and many are canceling their accounts to put more time into Rift and other games. They need to make more money for their shareholders, so this type of payment system will only get worse as time goes on...

mr levelingguide said...

I think this is a nice new service but if it's going to be paid then I will not use it. it would be nice if they made it available to all players, I mean I pay over $150 per year for the game, some people even more.

Duskstorm said...

@Elye - I actually think the cost is more to ensure that, say, < 5% of the population uses it.

Either they copy your character data to the real-id instance servers (ala PTR), and then sync real time with your realm server... or your realm server and the instance server sync in real time. In any case, this will create a substantial amount of load.

As a premium server they can budget in adding hardware capacity, but the big win is simply knowing that when they turn on the feature their datacenters won't crumble.