Starcraft II's latest allied commander is... locked behind a paywall
Hello everyone! RR-sama here with some big Starcraft II news!
Patch 3.3.0 for Starcraft II has finally been released, and with it came balance changes, bug fixes, and a new UI screen. Most important for casual Starcraft fans, however, is the addition of Abathur to the list of Allied Commanders in Co-Op mode. Here's everything you need to know about the mad alien (scientist?) before setting out onto the battlefield!
At least, this would have been what I started with if Abathur wasn't locked behind a $4.99 USD paywall...
$4.99 for next to no content? Madness!
That's right. Players who were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the creepy crawly commander will have to dish out $4.99 USD to unlock Abathur in Starcraft II's Co-Op mode. While many players who trawl the blog posts to the very end will already know about this, people who skimmed through the Abathur blog post probably weren't expecting this.
While a $4.99 USD (about $7 CAD) paywall doesn't seem that bad, the price far exceeds the amount of content players would receive. For comparison, $4.99 is what some might expect to pay for a full indie game on Steam, or even the Dying Light Ultimate Survival Bundle that includes just about every DLC Pack for the game so far.
Meanwhile Diablo III - another Blizzard title - doesn't charge for content updates at all. To date several areas, seasonal content updates, and more have been released for free. Meanwhile, an in-game comparison for Starcraft II can be found in "Nova Covert Ops Mission Bundle". This short campaign which equals about one-third of a campaign's typical amount of content costs $14.99 while individual "Mission Packs" are $7.49 each.
While this might seem like a bit much, the Nova Covert Ops mission packs provide interesting single player campaigns that feature new gameplay mechanics, full voice acting, animated cutscenes, and more. To make matters worse, anyone who has purchased Digital Deluxe versions of the Starcraft II expansions or the Nova Covert Ops Bundle won't be getting a discount on Abathur.
Considering the fact that Abathur is just one commander, and the price does not cover anything beyond this, it hardly seems fair. This is especially true when considering the fact that Karax - another commander - was released for free to owners of Legacy of the Void.
Karax was released for free as an update for LotV players. Couldn't Abathur have been released as a Heart of the Swarm bonus?
In retrospect, it should be expected of Blizzard Entertainment at this point. Heroes of the Storm sells its heroes for about the same price, if not more. However, one would think that Blizzard would take the hint based on search trends for the game that this might not be a wise route to take for Starcraft II.
"So what do you think about all this, RR-sama?"
While Blizzard has been making tracks with their upcoming release, Overwatch, it's clear they still don't know how to monetize their other IPs properly.
Based on my own assumptions of how their money is handled, I'd assume that World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm were supposed to be their main income earners. Meanwhile, Starcraft II and Diablo III were supposed to ride the cash flow of these games to create with free updates for otherwise one-time-purchase games.
The reason why Starcraft II is getting microtransactions now might be in part due to the declining player counts for World of Warcraft and Heroes of the Storm. Considering the fact that neither game has had a recent unique player count publicly released, I'd assume that the player bases have been abysmal compared to the years long since gone. After all, World of Warcraft hasn't seen a strong player base since Wrath of the Lich King.
(Image courtesy of MMO-Champion)
As clearly seen in the image above, subscriptions for World of Warcraft have been on a constant decline ever since Wrath of the Lich King. The short spikes that have happened since then have all been for new changes to the monetization system such as WoW Tokens or going Free to Play. I think we can safely say that if going Free to Play isn't saving your MMO, you're probably doing something wrong.
The decline in players in World of Warcraft has been the result of many things ranging from player disinterest, to a wider MMO market. However, the forefront of the issues is none other than the major gameplay changes that happened around the time the Cataclysm expansion pack was released.
It was the changes that this pack made in particular that spawned legacy private servers such as the recently shut down Nostalrius server. It really goes to show that Blizzard - or at least certain teams at Blizzard - don't understand their fan base. This in turn lead to a shortage of incoming funds, and likely the increase of microtransactions across their games in general.
This, of course, is all assuming that my theory on their money handling is correct.
In the end, one angry rant isn't going to change anything. Chances are that enough casual players who haven't really put the money into Starcraft II will buy the character regardless. In truth, I would have likely bought Abathur on day one if he was a bit cheaper - maybe around the $0.99-1.99 range. However, on a personal ethics note, I will not be paying $7 CAD (possibly more depending on credit card fees for foreign exchange) for a single hero that will take less than a day to level up to maximum.
Considering the serious lack of success their high-priced heroes have had in Heroes of the Storm, I would like to think that Blizzard will eventually realize that their prices are too steep. I remember in math class that there's a certain point where consumer satisfaction and prices meet to make the most profit. I'm no economist or accountant, but I don't think Blizzard has found that point, and they don't seem to be trying to.
What do you think about microtransactions coming to Starcraft II? Do you think Abathur's price is too steep? Maybe you think I'm just a cheapskate! Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!