Wednesday, July 4, 2007

How much would you pay per hour for WoW?

I used to play World of Warcraft over 100 hours per month, thus paying less than 15 cents per hour. When I cancelled my account, I was down to about 1 hour per month, just logging on here and there for alchemy transmutations and the auction house, thus paying 15 dollar per hour. I mentioned it as the first reason why I cancelled, although that got lost in the discussion about attunement. World of Warcraft has a regressive pay model: The less you play, the more you pay (per hour).

Now this isn't true all over the world. In China World of Warcraft is payed per hour, at a rate of 0.45 Yuan per hour. At today's exchange rate, that is 6 US cents per hour of World of Warcraft. But of course the wages in China are lower, and 6 US cents buys you more stuff in China than in the US. So at purchasing power parity (PPP) the 0.45 Yuan per hour correspond to about 25 US cents per hour. Which isn't quite that cheap any more.

From 1991 to 1997 AOL ran the first graphical MMORPG, called Neverwinter Nights, which cost $6 per hour to play. The text-based Island of Kesmai also cost $6 per hour. I paid something similar for my first month of Ultima Online, because I was still on dial-up then, local calls aren't free in Europe, and the telephone bill cost me more than UO's monthly fee. I stopped after the first month because I just couldn't justify paying $500 a month for a game, but then came back once I had flat-fee ADSL. I haven't played anything with a cost per hour since. But in principle I like the idea. Only, how much I'd be willing to pay per hour for World of Warcraft or a similar game?

Obviously if World of Warcraft cost 10 cents per hour, I would gladly pay that. Even if I played as much as before, I'd pay less than before. But I don't think that this price is very realistic, because then Blizzard would earn significantly less from WoW, because most people play much less than 150 hours per month, and would end paying much less than $15 per month. I think I could live with the PPP adjusted Chinese price of 25 cents per hour. I'd pay more than before in months where I play a lot, but less if I play just occasionally. The advantage for Blizzard would be that I wouldn't feel the need to cancel my account, which makes it easier for them to get me back into the game. A monthly fee constitutes a barrier to entry, if you aren't sure that you like the game, or that you will play enough, you're reluctant to pay a monthly fee. I certainly wouldn't play anything that costs $1 or more per hour.

So how about you? How much would you pay per hour for World of Warcraft or a similar game, if there was no monthly fee?

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