6 Mar 2012

My Annual Pass Regret

Warcraft Annual Pass Banner

Back in October last year I made a bold move and signed up to the Warcraft Annual Pass. I figured to myself that it’d be a great deal – I’d still be playing Warcraft, I’d get a free copy of Diablo III and I’d get access to the Mists of Pandaria Beta without having to strike it lucky or jump through hoops. All I had to do was keep paying what I was paying and keep my subscription alive for a year.

After a single quarter-year, I’m really regretting making that decision.

It’s partly a time thing – I don’t have the time to log into Warcraft nearly as often as I’d like. But there’s another aspect to why I feel I’m done with the current expansion pack. My opportunity to pick up the Mage Legendary Staff was cut short with the release of the Dragon Soul raid, with the resultant consequence that my desire to raid was deflated like a misfiring zeppelin. The next tier was little better for me, with Deathwing And Friends lasting all of two weeks until I’d managed to pug my way to LFR victory.

My natural response at this point would be to unsubscribe and wait until the next expansion comes out. But a deal’s a deal – I promised to sign up for a year and I’ll stick to it. But I can’t help but feel that I’m not getting as much out of the deal as I’d hoped. Diablo III still hasn’t made it to release – the European beta didn’t launch until earlier this month. And although Mists of Pandaria looked more complete than any other expansion first-reveal so far, there’s no assurance that beta will arrive here any time soon.

Since I made that year-long subscription commitment, I’ve seen SWTOR launch, TERA move into open beta and Guild Wars 2 provide a press closed beta. The Secret World is also bubbling away in the background. By the time my commitment is up we’ll have probably seen three new launches. As Sypster points out, even RIFT is rolling out the welcome wagon to entice players back.

Warcraft has always suffered from the long drought of content between the final content patch of one expansion and the launch of the next one. But if my Annual Pass loyalty assures me of a spot in the MoP beta, why would I rush out to buy the expansion when it finally launches? By getting the opportunity to play the content before I pay for it, Blizzard’s next expansion might switch from a day one purchase to a patch 5.1 purchase, assuming that none of the other MMO releases swallow me whole.

Even Blizzard’s new Scroll of Resurrection doesn’t help those players currently teetering on the edge of unsubscribing. As spotted over on MMO-Champion, this service now gives the recipient a free boost to Level 80, free realm and faction transfers and a free copy of Cataclysm. While this is great news for old-timers from Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King, there’s nothing to help with the void of content between now and Pandaria.

If Blizzard ever hopes to put an end to the rise and fall of subscription numbers it needs to work on the consistent, reliable delivery of new content to keep players engaged. Without it they risk becoming irrelevant in a market climate where every other game is fighting hard to attract players. It also means that Annual Pass subscribers like myself won’t be looking to escape as soon as our commitment is finished.

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