Last year World of Warcraft turned 10 years old. That’s a huge milestone for any game that relies on paid subscriptions to fuel its growth. I joined up about 8 years ago, so I’m by now one of the Vanilla crew but I know my way around the game and I’ve invested a great deal of time into it as well as a huge amount of money. I was thinking about the vast expense that World of Warcraft has caused me that led me to the question: why do I still keep paying for it?
Monthly subscriptions for games are dying out. Plain and simple. The payment model just doesn’t suit the modern gamer, let alone the modern gaming market. There are constantly new IP’s being released as well as countless re-masters and sequels to already popular titles. With so much choice and variation of game out there the modern gamer doesn’t want to be tied into having to pay a fee each month just to log in even after shelling out for the game in the first place.
So my first thought was “am I just clinging to the past?” Well, yes and no. Whilst I do still recount tales of my first adventures in Warcraft I don’t completely rely on them to justify the subscription. It’s an ever evolving game set in an ever expanded world. Blizzard, despite what you may read on various forums and message boards, always tries to innovate and explore new ground when it comes to presenting content in the game. Take a look at how the story element to The Burning Crusade was presented and compare it to that of Cataclysm, look at the way questing was dealt with in Mists of Pandaria and compare it to Warlords of Draenor. So in terms of clinging to the past, I don’t think that’s the case as the game remains relevant to me today.
I’m a firm fan of massively multiplayer online games so my next thought was maybe I just haven’t found the right alternative to Warcraft. And there are so many. From Guild Wars 2, which I still play from time to time, to EVE online which was too big and too complicated for me, The Secret World, TERA, ESO and many more, there didn’t seem to be a game that held me in as well as Warcraft. I spent a while on Star Wars: The Old Republic and while the main story was presented in a fantastic style, true to form for BioWare, the end game was lacking and bugs throughout the game sapped a lot of enjoyment out of it, not to mention the fact the whole game never once lived up to that awesome video intro. The Lord of the Rings Online took my interest straight away but at the time that came out I was knee deep in raiding in Warcraft and couldn’t justify two monthly subscriptions. Then it went free to play. I lost months of life. A huge world, an intricate story weaving in and out of the core plot line and eventually mounted combat and epic scale battles. Set in a world I love with characters I was familiar with, I was certain this would replace Warcraft for me. But it didn’t. The quests began to drag, I never did feel fully connected with my character and the lack of online buddies who played the game dealt a huge blow to my enjoyment.
So people then? Maybe that’s the reason I still pay to play online? Whilst that was definitely the case when I started playing it has changed recently. I used to work with the people in my guild so we’d spend break times and down time talking about the game, planning raids and discussing what was going to happen next in the story. We’d meet up online and duel and compare damage per second, PvP together and blast through old content. But over time, these guys, predominantly Vanilla players who twisted my arm into joining them in the first place, have left the game. Some have kids, some have kids but play other games now, some just don’t like the changes that have been made and just miss “the good old days”. So Warcraft for me more recently has become a more solo experience, relying on group finder and raid finder tools to take on the current content. I still bump into buddies from time to time and do things in groups but it isn’t like it was before and I’m not good at making new friends.
I think it all comes down to the world itself. I’m a sucker for stories in games and in World of Warcraft there are so many stories. There’s the huge over arching story that’s taking place throughout each expansion but then there are thousands of little stories in the many many quest lines and beyond that there are stories you make yourself, adventures with people and situations you find yourself in and while you can say “yeah but all MMO’s have that”, the fact is I’ve seen all of these stories, I’ve been a part of them and I’m ready to be part of the next ones. I think the reason I keep playing World of Warcraft is because I’ve been in it for so long now. There are elements of story telling that are better in The Old Republic, there are PvP elements like world versus world that Guild Wars 2 really gets right and there are visuals that The Elder Scrolls Online and Final Fantasy XIV have that are gorgeous. But none of them are home to me. The time I’ve invested and the experiences I’ve got out of it are worth the subscription for me and while that may not fit with the opinion of many of my fellow Warcraft players it’s enough for me.