On the one hand it's only a tenner a month and that's buried in the monthly credit card bill. I could leave it running and not notice. That would mean I could log in on a whim and play my Hunter or my Warlock or anyone else.
I could explore the changes wrought by the Cataclysm and adventure through Pandaria, which just about everyone seems to have re-assessed as one of WoW's highlights. I could try Pet Battles, take a look at my Garrison, get to 100 and open all those boxes in the bank. I could, eventually, buy Legion and join everyone else in what, by then, will be stale, old content, as we all wait another two years for whatever comes next.
The thing is, though, I'm not playing WoW right now. I was playing, almost daily, for several weeks. Before the Invasions started I was happily leveling my Gnome Hunter and once the dreadnaughts started disgorging demons I was there every night along with everyone else, battling the hordes and soaking up the xp.
Once the invasions ended though, and I decided not to buy Legion just yet, I pretty much stopped logging in. Momentum carried me through the first few days, when I took the Hunter to begin what seemed to be the start of the main Pandaria questline but it felt flat and a little bit, well, dull.
After the excitement of the invasions, much though I complained about certain aspects of them at the time, the prospect of completing dozens, scores, hundreds of quests as a way of leveling up seemed strangely unappealing. After a couple of hubs I flew to The Timeless Isle, about which I'd read some good things on various blogs a year or two back.
|Can I at least get a change of clothes before I go?|
There I had fun for a while, running around killing mobs that dropped things that might be upgrades if only they were for my class. I bought a few items on the Auction House to fill in the slots the Invasions had missed. Briefly there was a future where I'd grind quests and gear up and Azeroth would be a place I lived...
And then I stopped logging in. Mostly I went on playing GW2, which I play for several hours every day and a lot of hours every weekend. DBG announced their expansion program, handed out Level 95s and fired up a double xp weekend so I went back to Norrath, both flavors. That made me remember I was paying a subscription that included DCUO so I got that fired up and I played last night, did a couple of levels and had a blast.
This morning, home all day with the house to myself, I thought about what I might play and a whole flurry of options presented themselves. All of the above for a start. Then there's the long list of MMOs I haven't logged into for a while but still think about logging into most days - Dragomon Hunter, Riders of Icarus, Dragon Nest, Rift, Landmark... And the ones I was in the middle of and enjoying and then dropped for no reason - Black Desert, Blade and Soul, ArcheAge...
As I was thinking it over I watched a little of MJ's First Look at Twin Saga. I considered downloading that. I thought about AdventureQuest going into Open Beta in a few weeks. And round about then it occurred to me that all of these options plus dozens more were available to me for free. Even the two EQs and DCUO, for which I do pay but don't have to.
|My turn again!|
It's been noticeable how the tone has changed as people progress through Legion. The initial reaction was almost universally positive. Gevlon may have been the only naysayer and even he doesn't find that much to complain about. And there could be a simple solution to the main issue he's highlighting: perhaps Gevlon's Girlfriend could follow Belghast's lead and start the conversational ball rolling herself - or Gevlon could sub up and make it his mission to Get Azeroth Chatting. I think we'd all like to see how that might pan out...
A month in, though, and some people are already over Legion, while some still plugging away wonder how much replayability there can be. The general theme seems to be that Legion was a very good expansion and well worth the cost for the solid 4-6 weeks of intense gameplay it offers. Thanks, Blizzard! We'll all get back to you when you have something new to offer.
I guess this works as a business strategy. I mean, any software developer that could spend two years developing a product and then sell 3.3 million copies in the first week would probably consider it a solid return on investment, wouldn't they?
Mark Jacobs would probably lay any malaise in the genre squarely at the feet of the change in payment models. Mark, of course, has always been dead set against the entire concept of Free-to-Play so he's just being consistent when he says subscription gaming "is the model I have always believed in". He's been around long enough to remember how, when the handful of MMOs that existed all had subscriptions, that in itself was seen as some weird aberration by the vastly larger community of non-MMO-playing gamers.
|Even I might get a turn..and I'm an elf!|
Still, you do have to wonder whether he might not have a point. If all the games on my want-to-play list used either the Buy to Play or Subscription model, would I have unsubbed from WoW an hour ago? Might I not have thought it better to pay one small monthly fee for access to a very big, polished, stable and reliable game and just stick at it rather than squirrel around all over the place trying this and that and the other for five minutes here, five minutes there?
Well, no. I didn't unsub to WoW because of the cost. I unsubbed because the gameplay in the Free Starter edition is, to my tastes, superior to the gameplay in the paid-for game. What's more, I would actually pay a subscription to have access to a WoW that went on being more like the Free Trial but without the restrictions. And I told Blizzard that in the "Why Are You Leaving Us?" box.
I'd like a simpler, slower, less gear-focused version of WoW. One where the concerns are small, the problems human-sized (or Gnome sized). Especially I'd like a version where you don't feel that every minute is vital for Progression of Your Character and a moment missed is a failure on your part to Do Your Job. I'd pay good money for that.
In short, WoW's free Starter Edition feels like play but paid-for WoW feels like work. That can't be the right way round, can it?
So for now I'm back to being a F2P scrub. Looking forward to it in fact. I've enjoyed my paid time and as I told Blizzard in my resignation note I'm "very likely" to re-subscribe at some point. But for now I'm done.