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Against all odds, World of Warcraft's subscription price hasn't changed in 20 years: 'I'd rather have a big, healthy, happy audience' than risk driving players away with a price hike, Warcraft boss says

 World of Warcraft Paladin character.
World of Warcraft Paladin character.

World of Warcraft's subscription price hasn't budged in most parts of the world for 20 years. Long before our collective nostalgia birthed WoW Classic, you had to pay Blizzard $15 a month to spend hours auto-attacking wolves in Elwynn Forest. The only difference now is that the wolves are in high-definition.

John Hight, Warcraft's senior vice president and general manager, spends more time thinking about adding value to the subscription than asking for more money. "As of yesterday, we have three games you can play under the same subscription, which hasn't changed in price in over 20 years," he told PC Gamer in an interview at GDC. "Take that, inflation."

Hight says a price increase "gets brought up during discussions from time to time," but points to things like WoW Tokens—items players buy for in-game currency that convert to game time—and regional price adjustments, like in Australia, as examples of Blizzard trying to work around it.

"I'm kind of proud of the fact that we've been able to maintain this price point," he said. "I'd rather have a big, healthy happy audience, than have the risk that the audience gets smaller, but the subscription went up."

Today, a WoW subscription buys you access to modern WoW, WoW Classic, Season of Discovery, and, as of this week, a limited-time battle royale mode that anyone can play. Every flavor of WoW is available for the price of a Netflix subscription, with one small asterisk for the cost of keeping up with the latest expansion. Dragonflight is $30, but will be replaced by The War Within's $50 price tag when it launches later this year. While the rest of us take $70 gut punches for major new releases, WoW players—at least those in North America and the UK—continue to dodge price hikes.

I think having that variety of things to do adds to a diversity in the player base.

Hight says the consistency of WoW's pricing affords the team more room for the kind of experimentation that led to Plunderstorm. "The wonderful thing about having a subscription model is that we can really double down on the gameplay itself. We don't have to create any means to try and get people to engage and give us additional money or unlock things, everybody has access to everything."

His definition of "everything" is a little generous considering Blizzard has sold exclusive mounts and other cosmetics in its shop for years, but it's true that nothing you can buy outside the game gives you an advantage over other players. The $15 subscription fee is all you need to experience every version of the MMO that started it all, including every successful or controversial feature Blizzard has put into it over the last 20 years.

"We have some parts of the game that a small percentage of players actually engage with on a regular basis, but they engage with it all the time," Hight said. "They love it. And I think having that variety of things to do adds to a diversity in the player base, and that diversity when you bring people together, especially in guilds and communities, is what makes the game special."