Blizzard Adds Another Scarcity To Sell Around World Of Warcraft: 3D Figurines

from the it's-the-little-things dept

We're always looking for interesting examples of companies using infinite goods to sell scarcities, and George Johnston points us to one side business that Blizzard Entertainment seems to have gotten into to make more money from World of Warcraft. The company already gives out its basic software for free, but sells the (scarce) service of connecting to its game servers to play (even though there are "free" servers out there, many end up paying for the official one, because it's better, more stable, and has many more players). However, Johnston noticed that Blizzard has also done a deal with a 3D printing company (usually used for things like rapid prototyping) to allow game players to buy 3D models of their players. This is unlikely to ever become a really big business, but it highlights, yet again, that there are numerous different scarcities around any particular product -- and a good business is one that goes out and explores that wide variety of options to figure out what they can sell.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Ben, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 5:27am

    Free Software

    Blizzard's software is not free; the base software package is inexpensive, but then you have to purchase two expansion packs to play at the maximum level. Overall it's an $80 investment if you're new to the game.

     

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  2.  
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    Chris Becke, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 5:53am

    Depends on which ... geographical location.

     

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  3.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 5:55am

    Re: Free Software

    Yes but I know of how to setup a WOW server for free. I almost did but I don't like mySQL. With a free server you don't even have to pay for the software if you know how to do it. Blizzard doesn't even care about the free servers since it more than likely drives more people to the pay servers.

     

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  4.  
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    Chris Becke, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 6:01am

    Depends on the geographical location.

    Blizzard market World of Warcraft differently to at least 4 different markets.

    US and European players have to buy the game - which includes a free month of play, but the game is (US figures) $30 compared to the monthly subscription of $16. Additionally, the two (so far) expansion packs have both cost an extra $20 without granting a free month. Its possible to buy the x-packs online directly - but its still a purchase that needs to be made over and above the monthly subscription for the account.

    Asia - there the game is as described - the download is free and subscription time is purchased separately. You're still paying for time whether or not you actually login and play though.

    China's billing is similar to Asia except there time can be purchased in even smaller increments effectively enabling a pay as you play (as I understand it).

     

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  5.  
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    ScytheNoire, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 6:05am

    Very old news

    Not only is it not free software, as pointed out, but these 3D FigurePrints have been around for over a year now.

    This is nothing new, but it's not using free as a model, as you have to pay for the software, pay for the subscription, pay for realm transfers, pay for character re-customization. Nothing about WoW is free, at all. Not even close.

     

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  6.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 28th, 2009 @ 6:06am

    Re: Free Software

    Not really. the expansions are completely optional, and if you're truly "new" to the game, why would you need to get the additional content past level 60 anyway? Some people might want to get everything start with, but nobody's forcing them to. The game and all the expansions have 10 day free trials, which should be more than enough to work out whether or not you want to fork out for the main game (and the expansions can come later on).

     

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  7.  
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    Cjaine, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 6:10am

    Has basic fact checking become obsolete?

    This is about as bad a bit of "reporting" as I've ever seen.

     

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  8.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 28th, 2009 @ 6:10am

    Re: Very old news

    Read the article again. nobody's saying that the game is free.

    What's being said is that it is *possible* to run the game for free (i.e. "pirated" servers) and that non-scarce goods such as the play experience on an official server and the 3D models are being used to encourage people to pay for the game rather than using the free services.

    It's the same argument that's always here. Instead of complaining that people are "pirating" your product, give them reasons to pay. Blizzard are just another example of a company who understand that unlike, say, EA who are still trying to punish paying customers to try and cut down on "piracy".

     

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  9.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 28th, 2009 @ 6:12am

    Re: Has basic fact checking become obsolete?

    I dunno. Has identifying the actual problems you have with an article - rather than making vague allusions - also become obsolete?

     

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  10.  
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    Steven, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 6:39am

    Re: Re: Very old news

    Actually I think Mike got confused on this one. You can download the basic game for free, but you can't actually play it (other than maybe the limited trial period) without purchasing an account. So I think the statement "The company already gives out its basic software for free..." is at best misleading.

     

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  11.  
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    Monarch, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 6:43am

    Old News Mike

    Those 3D sculptured figurines have been around well over a year now. Blizzard was advertising them before the 1st expansion pack "Burning Crusade" came out.

     

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  12.  
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    Gozza, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 6:45am

    [quote]This is unlikely to ever become a really big business, [/quote]

    Ha, there has been a waitinglist for these figurines since day 1!

    At the moment it's still only available in the US market I think. But there are other options through different companies not especially affiliated with blizzard that can also provide figurines of your wow characters.

     

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  13.  
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    Lucretious, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 6:52am

    I beleive the company that makes the figurines is headed up by former MS Games division head Ed Fries.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 7:02am

    Am I the only one confused by all the comments about the game being free? Where was that the topic? Did anyone even understand the point of the article?

    I can go to the website, download the client, and never have to enter information (I have done it many times on many systems). That is the game, it is free. Just because you can't play it on their systems without a subscription, doesn't change the fact that the software is free to download.

    Nothing about the price of the game is really relevant here. The point is that a non-scarce product (Software) is being leveraged to sell a scarce product (figurines). The software being given out for free is in reference to the download of the client, which, is in fact free. The stipulation happens to be that you have an active account to reach the easy download site for it. It doesn't change the business model, or the point of the article.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 7:07am

    Re: Re: Re: Very old news

    Actually I think Mike got confused on this one. You can download the basic game for free, but you can't actually play it (other than maybe the limited trial period) without purchasing an account. So I think the statement "The company already gives out its basic software for free..." is at best misleading.

    That is entirely wrong. The software, which is the game client, is what can be downloaded for free. No one said the service was free or the server software was free, but the game it's self is free for download. Rather than the article being misleading, I think you do not understand what constitutes a "product". The game client is in fact a product. It contains everything you need to run the game, all you lack is a server to point it at. If you want to use theirs, pay the subscription for the service, otherwise, point it at your own server and use their product without their service.

     

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  16.  
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    Murdock (profile), Jan 28th, 2009 @ 7:15am

    The figurines aren't made by Blizzard

    FYI that is a separate company, that struck up a license deal with Blizzard. Its not a Blizzard/Activision owned company.

     

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  17.  
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    some old guy, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 7:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Very old news

    No, you've still got it wrong. You can't dl the product unless you have the license keys.

    You still need to spend money to get anything at all.

    The only thing is you DONT NEED to have a physical cd.

     

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  18.  
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    Murdock (profile), Jan 28th, 2009 @ 7:31am

    Re: Very old news

    You can download a trial even without a key. That trial is essentially the full software. You don't have to spend any money for 10 days, and you get the game.

     

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  19.  
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    Szamboti, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 7:36am

    Re: Software for free...

    Where do you get the game software for free? Sure, you can download it for free, but in order to play, besides needing an paid account, you need a CD Key. You must purchase the original game either online or in a retail store. You can't simply download and then buy time to play. The 10 day trial is the only thing that is free. When that's over you still need that CD Key.

     

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  20.  
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    TDR, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 7:37am

    A better example of an MMO effectively using free as part of its business approach is Guild Wars. You buy the game itself, but from there on it's free - no subscription fees ever. Which makes prospective buyers much more willing to part with a modest $30 knowing that's all they'll ever have to spend on it unless they want to get the additional campaigns, which are totally optional, or additional character slots - which are pretty cheap to get - if they want to have more characters than the four you can start with. Two of the newer campaigns, Factions and Nightfall, each give two extra character slots free, as well.

     

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  21.  
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    long island girl, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 7:42am

    the price is just right for the quality of the game. It is also fair if we pay them to what the company deserves. I was able to try their games and they are really fun.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 8:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Very old news

    No, you've still got it wrong. You can't dl the product unless you have the license keys.

    You still need to spend money to get anything at all.

    The only thing is you DONT NEED to have a physical cd.

    That's not true, maybe you haven't explored enough, but I download the full client all the time, without CD keys or an active account.

     

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  23.  
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    Brouhaha, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 8:14am

    Meanwhile, LOTROnline (and probably Warhammer) is just better.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 8:24am

    Re: Re: Software for free...

    Where do you get the game software for free? Sure, you can download it for free, but in order to play, besides needing an paid account, you need a CD Key. You must purchase the original game either online or in a retail store. You can't simply download and then buy time to play. The 10 day trial is the only thing that is free. When that's over you still need that CD Key.

    What? The CD key is used to generate an account. You don't have to have one at any step other than a CD install and account creation via CD install. Beyond that, if you create a test account and make it a full account, all you do is pay the $19.95 and it changes up. It never asks for the CD key. They do provide one when you pay for the upgrade, but it is just for your records to prove you purchased a full account subscription.

    The CD is more or less just to validate your CD, so if you do everything via the digital download, there is no need for a CD key at all. Likewise, if you download the software, then run it on another server, you never need a CD key... therefore the software is a complete product and all you need a CD key for is to validate the account your are setting up for the subscription.

     

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  25.  
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    Ex-Wow-ite, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 8:43am

    Old news

    I quit the game almost a year ago and you could buy these 3D figurines back then. This is old, not news.

     

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  26.  
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    El Cucuy, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 9:18am

    Several companies have gotten in on the 3D figures act. I know that Rock Band now offers those as well.

     

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  27.  
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    iNvEStMeNt CoMpLiaNcE, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 9:20am

    WOW is so greedy. Anything to make a buck and exploit their fans huh?

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 9:27am

    Re:

    WOW is so greedy. Anything to make a buck and exploit their fans huh?

    How is it greedy to offer another service to your fans? Isn't this the kind of thing we keep complaining that the music and movie industries fail to use to capitalize on their infinite goods with a scarce good? To me this a just like the t-shirt concept. You are leveraging an infinite good to sell something your customers want, that is a scarce good. If there is a market in the World of Warcraft customer base for figurines, I would expect Blizzard to look to fill the niche or contract with someone to do so. Not to leave their customers "under served".

    Now, if they required you to buy one of them to keep playing the game, it would be greedy.

     

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  29.  
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    Rose M. Welch, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 9:32am

    The company already gives out its basic software for free, but sells the (scarce) service of connecting to its game servers to play.

    As many have noted, it's twenty bucks to download the game or twenty bucks to buy a CD and install the game. Either way, it's twenty bucks to play.

    Further, you generally need to buy the expansion packs to follow most of the story lines and, in some case, to level above certain amount. The expansions are anywhere from twenty dollars (Burning Crusade) to forty bucks (Lich King)

     

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  30.  
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    Rose M. Welch, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 9:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Very old news

    Why would you download the full client 'all the time'?

     

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  31.  
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    Ariel, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 10:46am

    Re:

    WOW is so greedy. Anything to make a buck and exploit their fans huh?

    The company that makes the figures isn't Blizzard. They have Blizzard's blessing, but they are their own company. They are advertised on the WoW website, but so is J!NX. They also are not Blizzard.

    How is it exploiting a fan if the fan chooses to pay for their product? I suppose you think that all the places selling NFL jerseys are exploiting football fans?

    Someone filling a demand is not exploiting. And trust me, the demand for these figure prints is there. I bought one, after being on the waiting list for about 6 months, and I don't feel exploited at all. Rather, I have a nice souvenir of my time in WoW.

     

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  32.  
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    Jack Sombra, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 11:37am

    bad example

    Mike, you picked a seriously bad examaple with wow to push your point because the argument that you can download the client without paying does not make the game "free" as the client is useless without a server (and using the software on a non bliz server is against the toc you agree to on opening the client so that is a moot point).

    The client without an server account is of less use than a proverbial electronic paperweight

    There is really nothing of use that bliz don't charge for.

    "Not really. the expansions are completely optional, and if you're truly "new" to the game, why would you need to get the additional content past level 60 anyway?"
    They are optional, but unless you go to "end game" you will be playing most of your time solo, which pretty much kills the whole point of a MMO

     

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  33.  
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    Jack Sombra, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 11:42am

    Oh yeah..

    ...Forgot to add, Bliz are not the first to offer game figures, many MMO's have been doing so for years, with one of the earlyest examples i remember being Tod Mcfarlane designing some for an Ultima Online expansion way back in 2001

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 1:09pm

    The more important result...

    Customized on-demand 3d printing is just on the verge of exploding. It's pretty amazing, but just a little too expensive for a normal person to use. This sort of thing might just push the economy of scale to the point to where it because useful to the masses. Once it does, it'll be revolutionary.

    For instance, the little plastic bracket (purely ornamental) around my inside car door latch is broken. It's 25 cents worth of plastic, but would probably cost me $100 to get fixed. Once on-demand 3d printing takes off, I could just whip out a version in a cad program and get the piece in the mail a week later.

    Unless they put some law in place forbidding that, of course.

     

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  35.  
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    Ex Casually Hardcore player, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 5:17pm

    Scarcity backfiring?

    I played WOW for many years, clocking huge amounts of hours. I would have paid for a figurine of one of those characters in a heart beat, but the scarcity and hideously underpowered production of these figurines meant that they have been so scarce it isn't worth most peoples time to pursue...The queues are long and last I saw drawn by ballot to see whose gets made next!

    I'm not quite sure how the scarcity thing is working for these guys when they can't convert it into production. As has been mentioned above the service has been around for a long time - a year or more.

    I would pick that with 12 million players around the world it could be a very lucrative market for these guys if they bothered to put the effort in. As such my money sits in my account and I've stopped playing WOW since.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2009 @ 7:10pm

    Re: Re: Very old news

    How is play on a server non-scarce? The server providers (even those pirated ones) have to pay for the servers, find people to maintain them, employ people to update the software on them (Blizzard does this every Tuesday) and do backups, and pay for data connections. If more people want to play, they have to buy more hardware, hire more people, beg for players to accept "free" character moves (that requires hiring more staff) to reduce queues, etc. Multiplying the opportunities for customer's to play is far from non-scarce or free to the provider.

     

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  37.  
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    purpleslog, Jan 29th, 2009 @ 7:39am

    souvenir

    These figurines are a great idea - they are a tangible souvenir for the players of the game. I don't play but I have a buddy who does. I had forwarded this link to him. He was aware of them. He is trying to figure out how he can purchase one...with the approval of his wife.

     

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  38.  
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    Sniperz, Jun 23rd, 2009 @ 12:24am

    Something Tangible

    An action figurine would be cool as this would be a tangible thing for WoW players even if they sell or give up on their account. I have nothing against people who buy or sell the accounts as long as they don't get it back once they've sold it. Blizzard's EULA is way to confusing and even if I don't agree with it, I don't have a choice but agree for me to get what I paid for. Apparently, there's an article I read that agreed with me. http://www.free-articles-zone.com/article.php?id=230555

     

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  39.  
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    Bookaroo, Jan 22nd, 2010 @ 5:03pm

    World of Warcraft action figures & statues

    You can found a huge batch of fantasy action figures from World of Warcraft here: http://myfantasyweb.com/warcraft/world.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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