Monday, December 22

Blizzard considering gold-for-game-time trades in World of Warcraft

For its more-than-10-year existence, World of Warcraft has operated in two parallel economies: the in-game economy of gold exchanged for items, and the real-world economy of dollars (or others hard currencies) exchanged for monthly game time subscriptions. Now, Blizzard says it's considering bringing those two economies together through some sort of exchange in 2015.

"We’re exploring the possibility of giving players a way to buy tradable game-time tokens for the purpose of exchanging them in-game with other players for gold," Blizzard writes in a preview of next year's World of Warcraft plans. "Our current thought on this is that it would give players a way to use their surplus gold to cover some of their subscription cost, while giving players who might have less play time an option for acquiring gold from other players through a legit and secure system." Blizzard goes on to say that many players have expressed interest in the feature and that the developers "agree it could be a good fit for the game."

As Blizzard points out, some other MMOs have a similar option. EVE Online might be the prototypical example, where the relationship between in-game Aurum and game-time-granting Pilot License Extensions helps create a robust economy where virtual items have real world value. On the other end of the spectrum, many free-to-play games simply let players buy in-game perks and currency directly with real money, a phenomenon that has turned the term "pay-to-win" into an epithet in most game design circles.

Let's not forget the last time Blizzard tried to integrate its real-world and in-game economies in a similar manner.Diablo 3's Real Money Auction House was a debacle that almost single-handedly ruined the game's balance before it was finally killed for good earlier this year. Outside of that kind of official exchange, there have always been plenty of grey market ways to buy your way to riches in Blizzard games, through gold farmers or even players that will level up your account for you, for the right price.

Elsewhere in its 2015 update plans, Blizzard discusses upcoming features like new Legendary quest lines, garrison improvements, additional focus on e-Sports tournaments, and new in-game models for certain character types.

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