Blizzard Entertainment's massively multiplayer role playing game World of Warcraft will be implementing a "cross realm Real ID party system" that will allow players from the same faction but on different servers to run instances together but of course, you're going to have to pay extra to do it. WoW uses microtransactions already for cosmetic things like pets, mounts, name changes, and faction changes, but this is the first time that players will have to pay for something that seems like it should be part of a "massively multiplayer" game.
According to World of Warcraft U.S. community manager Nethaera, "With the continued popularity of the Dungeon Finder, many players have been asking for a way to group up with real-life friends who play on other realms to take on instances together. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about a new feature currently in development that will allow players to invite Real ID friends of the same faction to a party regardless of the realm they play on, and then queue up for a 5-player regular or Heroic dungeon."
She goes on to say that, "as with some of the other convenience and connectivity-oriented features we offer, certain elements of the cross-realm Real ID party system will be premium-based, though only the player sending the invitations will need to have access to the premium service."
I have to admit the prospect of being able to group up with cross-realm Real ID friends is extremely intriguing and something that I have been dying to do for years now, but I'm not thrilled at the thought of a price tag being attached to it. You won't be able to run raids with your friends, only 5-man instances and Heroic dungeons. Still fun, but not as epic as a raid.
What worries me the most about the news is the prospect of what's going to come next. There has been a lot of speculation over the years of the potential of World of Warcraft going with a free-to-play model like Vindictus or Guild Wars and this is a step in that direction.
Blizzard announced that WoW, while still ridiculously popular, had started to see a slump in subscribers from 12 million down to 11.4 million during their financial call earlier this month. Along with pumping out faster free content patches it seems the developer is also trying to implement more premium content and microtransactions to help spur sales.
Nethaera didn't give players a time frame on when to expect the cross-realm service to be implemented, saying that's it's a fairly complex service to develop and that the feature will appear on the World of Warcraft Public Test Realm (PTR) in the future.
I'm so torn about this. Once again I feel like this is Activision stepping on Blizzard's toes and that doesn't bode well. On the other hand I like the idea that they're innovating to add features like this because let's face it, Real ID chat is awesome. Being on StarCraft and talking to your friends on World of Warcraft is really neat.
But enough about me, how do you feel about the prospect of being able to play with your friends in World of Warcraft but having to pay for it? I guess it depends on the price too. A $10 one-time price tag to play with friends, while still annoying, would be worth it I think. Although knowing World of Warcraft's price points for similar transactions I'd bet on a $15-25 price tag on this sort of thing.
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