Recently, I saw a funny post on the WoW Forums where a user asked Blizzard why their paid services cost so much.
He made an interesting point: on the PTRs, faction changes, server transfers, and customizations were completely free for all players, the process is very quick, and it doesn't seem to take up that many resources. So why are paid services so expensive if it's such an easy task?
Check out Blizzard's response. There's nothing like getting an answer from Customer Service in a confusing and condescending tone.
If you got a little lost while trying to read that, don't feel bad. Customer Service professionals are "supposed" to be trained in proper communication with customers - but apparently, Nephadne wasn't. So here's a translation from asshole-into-English for you:
Why do paid services like faction changes and migrations cost so much if you're already doing it for free?
As I understand it, you want to know why paid factions like faction changes and migrations cost so much if we're already doing it for free.
Unfortunately, I'm totally the wrong person to answer this. But, I'll answer anyways.
The reason for this is because these services are non-essential and therefore SHOULD carry a hefty charge.
If that sounds fucked up to you, please remember that it cost us a lot of money to put these automated systems in place.
It also costs a lot of money to maintain them.
Once again, because these services are only for cosmetic or for personal preference reasons - that's why they cost so much.
Other people know better though, especially those who have worked as Database Administrators.
Populating information across multiple databases or servers is not a very difficult operation, nor is it very expensive or challenging to setup. After all, that's the entire purpose of databases and how they were designed from the ground up! Blizzard makes it sound like a "QUERY" is a very difficult and expensive process.
All of their automated mechanisms are already in place and they HAVE been in place for several years now. They probably even recuperated all of their "development costs" on the first day that the paid service was made available.
Funny how they also said that the services were non-essential and only for personal preference alone. (Character Re-Customizations cost $15, Transfers cost $25, Faction Changes cost $30, Name Changes cost $10, etc.)
I agree that Character Re-customizations are mostly for preference reasons. But what if you want to change your character to make it more intimidating in PVP (a very useful tool), or changing race/gender combinations so that you're harder to target?
What if you're being stalked by another player? Or constantly grieved or harassed? Transfers and Name Changes then become essential services.
Faction Changes? Those are VERY essential if you actually want to progress in the game or collect Honor Points. Realms are so imbalanced, that this becomes an essential service for those trying to join Dungeons or Battlegrounds (or want to avoid 2-3 hour waits, whereas opposite factions wait 5-10 minutes.)
Blizzard claims that only non-essential services are paid.. does that mean that essential services should be free? =]
So why do the paid services cost so much? Quite frankly, they're good marketing numbers. The prices are _just_ high enough so that people who can afford them will pay for the service. And those who can't afford them will just pay Blizzard over a longer period by their time invested in leveling new characters on new realms.
It's also set pretty high so that it seems like it's a premium service which is very expensive for Blizzard to maintain. If you're paying the same amount that you paid for the Cataclysm expansion pack, that must mean that the service is VERY special indeed.
It actually reminds me a little of this scene from "The Invention of Lying". When Edward Norton (the cop) is asked why his bribes were so high, he responds: "I feel like when I set the price up higher, it takes it out of the realm of petty crime and helps me preserve my sense of personal integrity."
It's not just Blizzard Paid Services that does this though, it's a standard practice everywhere and you can apply this to almost any service or product. (If you work in a certain industry, you'll know how much something _really_ costs to manufacture or service.)
Many services are overpriced and given the illusion that their services are worth the price, or because they are unique or special. It's the primary reason why cartels were created too - if you goto a competitor, they'll have the same prices too. Gasoline, food, automotive mechanics, web design, applications development, technical support, etc. Hell, even DVRs (for security systems) would cost $50,000 from vendors - but if you knew what you were doing, you could buy the equipment for less than $800 and install yourself.