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The Social Hub: The WoW Token Rollercoaster - Price Hikes or Effective Option?

Columns By Christina Gonzalez on April 20, 2015

The WoW Token Rollercoaster - Price Hikes or Effective Option?

When we last looked at the topic of WoW token for World of Warcraft, Blizzard hadn’t yet unleashed the new subscription option onto the market. Now, after more than a week of availability in North America, the option has seen a rollercoaster in the market as those looking to make some cash came up on the demand for the first time. With the tokens costing $20, does this really provide a good service, giving players more options? Is it a good way for Blizzard to effectively raise prices for some? Let’s examine the first week or so of WoW token activity.


Blizzard is the latest game to try this kind of model, and certainly the largest. WoW has fought off free to play rumors and demands for years, and despite the aging nature of the game, it retains enough familiarity and content on offer to keep many players around the world subscribing. Subscriptions tend to be counted differently in certain territories, but for the sake of discussion, let’s consider a monthly subscription to be the definition here. This option for players to use in-game currency to buy items from other players that cover the cost of a monthly subscription follows EVE Online and WildStar, and for those games, especially EVE, it remains a popular option. The angle of ‘giving players more options’ is something that companies can tout, even as the item in question costs more than a monthly subscription and the company takes its cut for the service.

Some criticize this as a price increase on some of the playerbase. The ability to pay for your subscription with gold would’ve certainly resulted in subscription losses, especially for veterans with a gold pile to rival Scrooge McDuck after extended years playing the game, but with the additional cost for the tokens, not only is this prevented, but the extra money rolling into Blizzard’s pockets can’t be a bad thing from its perspective. The tokens do add additional options for players, specifically players with a lot of time on their hands or veterans, but for those without a lot of gold or who are newer to the game, it’s not going to be much of an option.

The gold price for tokens opened at 30,000 on April 6th but quickly slid down to the low 20k range. As of this writing, the price sits at around 22,000 gold. As with any new release of this sort, things will take some time to settle within the game’s economy. Yet the loss of almost a third of the gold value could possibly be attributed to too many profit seekers. Yet, it’s also a big plus for those seeking to buy with gold. The price will likely rise after a little while, especially once more subs begin to expire and people change their methods. Some won’t be swayed by this, but it works to both give Blizzard more money and take more gold out of the in-game economy. It’s a slick move that still manages to give (some) players additional options and not caving to those who would rather see the game go free to play. Players can make the game effectively ‘free’ by using the gold they’ve already earned, or buy a month of subscription time and then farm if they would like to keep going on a gold basis.

So who wins? The community does get an additional option, and those prospectors looking to make a profit might need to hold off a bit until things stabilize and demand opens up. You can’t use tokens to gift to other players (though, with game time cards, why would you want to spend more than the monthly fee to do that?) and tokens aren’t usable by the person who buys them with real money. The winners here in the WoW token market right now seem to be veterans with lots of flexibility and earned gold and Blizzard, for opening up this new avenue that costs more than a monthly subscription does regularly, and attempts to remove some gold from the system. Since any sub paid with gold requires the purchase of a token in the auction house, these subscriptions are currently going for $20. If Blizzard had merely instituted a price hike, many would’ve probably been angry or considered canceling. While the new option does offer something for the players and the in-game economy, it’s simply a smart step whose time has come.

With WoW still such an important revenue stream for Blizzard, we can understand the length of time it took to get to this point. Although the company has diversified in finally embracing free to play models for Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, WoW’s ability to sustain subscriptions over time has been the feast the other dogs in the race have been chomping at, trying to reach for the past decade. That said, while some might be jaded about the state of MMOs now, the various economic models that have arisen and been refined over the years (anyone else remember what F2P was like in...2006?), have given the community many options. Some might say too many, leading to living in the same old games versus new ones that last.

While it will take some time for the WoW token to stabilize, it’s already off to a promising start for some, and it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Christina Gonzalez / Christina is a freelancer and contributor to, where she writes the community-focused Social Hub column.