I have earlier promised to tell a bit about my dark past which lead me to joining the World of Warcrack... I think now is perfect time, as I have something in mind connected to that.
I started on a private server. Yea, the unofficial server run by someone with good virtual server and connection. Running the game client as the server by an emulator. Why? There wasn't any trial back then and I wanted to see what I was getting if I subscribed. That was... some years ago, the game had been around for over a year back then.
To be honest, I got lucky, because the second server I joined proved to be a social goldmine. I mean that the people were a great bunch of people. I never knew them by their names, only their nicks, which is pity as they would have provided a good connection to the game later. The server was called Fairplay, and it was run by a guy with nick "Linux".
It was a 'Blizzard like' server, the exp rate was about the Blizz but loot was a bit, sometimes a quite bit, better than Blizz. Of course, there were never more than 40 players online at a time due to bandwidth and emulator, but still you could get the hang of the game. Because of my style of sacrificing my own playing to help others, Linux popped in to see me from time to time. Then he asked me to help him on testing some things he was implementing and all of a sudden I was asked to join the GM team. Me, total noob back then!
It was a blast: free game, loads of things to do outside the game and always people who thought it was nice of me as GM to pop by.
Which lead to the fact that when Freeplay disappeared, like all good private servers do, I was left with only one choice...
I subscribed to WoW.
Fast forward to this date. My son and his friends have been playing on a private server for sometime now because his friends parents don' t want to pay the meager monthly fee. They have had a blast playing on a Fun Server with exp rate at *10.000 (times ten thousand, yes). One kill makes several levels. I think it was so that the first kill takes the toon to cap or something. They have seen all the instances, they duo them pretty decently and sometimes I've been a bit jealous because of the fact that they have taken the easy mode to see all the sights in the game.
But then again, do they really know how to play when their gear is so much better than the best gear ever available in the real game? When everyone is wielding Illidan's dual blades?
The main thing is that they were enjoying their game a lot.
Then the 3.0.2 patch came. And the realmlist.wtf, which tells the game the sites to connect to, disappeared. At first I didn't believe it when my son came and asked what had I done with it, but when I checked, I couldn't find it either.
What happened? The guys have managed to extort, whine and cry the real subscription to the same server I'm in. My son's character, which he hasn't played during the time on the private, is their highest and they have to run all the lower level instances to gain what they had earlier.
And they are having fun. Partly maybe because of the fact that I can see when they login and can give my son the opportunity to join them. Partly because they had never seen the lower level instances nor had experienced the challenge in doing them.
But will this be seen in WoW's general subscription rates? There are bound to be loads of people who lost their past time because of this, even if it will be only temporary before someone comes up with a solution, who are hooked on "gears and raids".
It's not 11 million, though. Not maybe even the first million. But it's something especially because the privates I know of are mainly US/EU/Aussie-based.
I just wonder whether this has been a clever marketing thing from Blizzard: free playing till the finances start to look grim, and boom! get them on the payroll.
Could they be so clever and shrewd?