The WOW Annual Pass was quite an interesting new announcement at Blizzcon.. it's actually quite brilliant and I have to commend the marketing team.
Here is more information on the Annual Pass which I will be referencing.
From what I understand, this was a last minute change. It was probably an idea developed (or just implemented from an earlier idea) within the past 3 months or so after they decided not to make the surprise Christmas announcement.
It's being marketed just like a mobile contract. If you sign up with us, you get this fancy new phone for free.. and you only have to pay month to month! Cancel anytime you want! (Many view this contract scheme as a scam, but it's pleasantly ignored when it comes to a video game.)
Just like mobile contracts, users on jumping on board without considering the consequences. And, it's a common human trait not to fully understand long term consequences (which is being exploited by clever marketers) after all.
Here are some things to consider:
- You CANNOT cancel the monthly payments, so you better make sure you don't run out of funds and save up in advance (in case of monetary emergencies.)
- In order to be eligible, you need to pay for a recurring subscription already. Meaning that it will cost you an additional month (13 months) to get the offer: "Prior to accepting the offer you must have a recurring World of Warcraft subscription active on the associated account."
- You are stuck with the 12+1 month subscription, and it's deducted on a month to month basis.
- You are buying the standard digital copy only. You do not get a retail box.
- If you fail to make a payment: you lose the items, your account is disabled, you are charged the full amount for Diablo 3, and Blizzard is within their right to sue you: "If your World of Warcraft subscription lapses during the Twelve Month Commitment, or if you fail to make any required payments or timely payments, Blizzard reserves the right to terminate your participation in this offer in addition to any and all other remedies that may be available to Blizzard at law."
- Because of the guaranteed beta access, other WOW players are penalized access for this. It further encourages them to participate in the offer.
- You're locked into playing WOW even when D3 comes out next year. It's a limited time offer too, so you need to act fast!
- You are stuck with an entire year's subscription during a time when new games will be coming out: Skyrim, Guild Wars 2, Tera Online, SWTOR, Torchlight 2, Path of Exile, The Secret World, etc.
- When you're stuck with a subscription, you feel obligated to play the game to avoid a wasted expenditure.
- It's a great way to keep Blizzard players away from new MMOs and more importantly, their competitors.
- It gets Diablo 3 players to play WOW, and gets WOW users playing Diablo 3.
- Having so many players locked into a 1 year contract increases their subscriber counts (vanity figures for impressing shareholders) even if the accounts aren't being played. It's "Subscriber" counts, not actual players.
- Michael Morhaime stated that "their margins are higher when we sell direct." It's in Blizzards best interest to get you to use their digital downloads.. they are saving a ton of money by you not buying retail (they also lose a major cut from the retail sale too.)
- This is also why the new D3 RMAH and PayPal relationship is so important.. by building up B.NET bucks, their profit margins are going to skyrocket compared to retail loss. This is the future of all of their games. Keep your money within Blizzard, buy digital. Degrading the quality of retail boxes is a great way to encourage digital purchases too. (Remember the quality of materials that retail boxes used to carry?)
(Blizzard will be selling even more pets in the Blizzard Pet Store now, with special pets having new abilities. Since it's not "game impacting" and only for "vanity pets", then it's perfectly acceptable to start selling weapons and armor.. but just on pets. (I don't literally mean real weapons and armor.. I'm talking special skills and pet stats.) It's also opening up WOW to a younger crowd, whereas Diablo 3 is targetting a more older/serious crowd. They'll have a couple games now to hold over the various demographic groups until Titan comes out for a more larger demographic.)
I wouldn't recommend the WOW Annual Pass for anyone.. unless either you're rich or you live in Australia. $100 for Diablo 3 is a pain in the ass, I'm so sorry for you guys. This deal is much more beneficial to you guys than everywhere else.
For everyone else though, please consider the repercussions.
The big problem I have is that you're FORCED to start paying for the WOW Subscription right away, during the time when Diablo 3 and other MMOs come out. It would be much more fair to players if you could buy the WOW Annual Pass now, but start using it at any time you want. But, their plan is to get users paying monthly fees for a year, knowing fully well that they'll never actually be playing WOW. Brilliant marketing strategy.