How Blizzard Makes Money From World of Warcraft

wow, world of warcraft, money
Greetings from Blizzard HQ!

How does the biggest MMO in the world make money?

World of Warcraft’s fame and success has brought Blizzard enormous revenue throughout its lifespan. Since they are a business, it’s natural that Blizzard would seek ways to increase their profits; and on the other hand many MMORPG developers nowadays make the mistake of forgetting the fine line between obnoxious cash grabbing and optional paid bonuses for personal game enjoyment.

But how does WoW make Blizzard its money? Let’s take a look.

1. Pay To Play 

Let’s see that money before you hop on!

Ever since its launch in 2004, WoW has been running off a subscription model. Once you gave $50 for the base game, you’d need to buy game time. There are four main subscription plans offered by Blizzard, with the most basic one starting at $15/month. Every time a new expansion comes out, players need to pay an additional fee, which over the course of WoW’s lifespan went from $35 for Burning Crusade to $50 for Legion.

During Wrath of the Lich King, WoW was played by 12.5 million people, and the expansion sold for $40. All it takes is a simple calculator to realize that during the month of November 2008 alone, Blizzard made about 678 million dollars.

Halve that number and you’ll get what they make every time an expansion drops these days. That’s a lot of Thrall statues. 

2. Paid services offered to players

You can switch from that ugly race you made the mistake of choosing.

Some of the paid services provided by Blizzard.

Want to move your character to another server or change its race? No problem, just hand Blizzard $25. Tired of playing Alliance and want to try your luck as a Tauren? That’ll be $30. Something as ordinary as a name and appearance change will cost you up to $15. Why these prices? Who would even pay for these? As it turns out, Blizzard did this on purpose. They want to prevent players from doing constant server and faction hopping, and make you think really hard before making a certain character.

This has resulted in limited interest for these features, but they are still used by the player base. Recently, Blizzard added another service: instantly level your character up to the maximum attainable level of the previous expansion, giving you the opportunity to jump straight into current content.

The price? A measly $60. This feature has received some backlash from the community, because WoW’s leveling is one of the game’s cornerstones and a very enjoyable experience which no player should miss. This option is meant for seasoned players of WoW who cannot possibly bear to run through the world for the hundredth time on a new character. The price, however, highly discourages them from doing so. 

3.  Mounts and pets and… gold?!

The Winged Guardian, one of the mounts available on the real money shop.

With the introduction of the Celestial Steed in 2009, Blizzard finally caved in and opened a real money cash shop in WoW. It has since then grown, and today it offers many vanity pets and cool mounts for the player to choose from. Pets go for 10 and mounts usually go for 25 dollars. If you take a walk around any capital city, it’d be strange if you didn’t see at least a dozen of these virtual companions.

These mounts and pets have no impact on gameplay and purely serve as eye candy. Blizzard’s latest addition to the real money shop, and probably its most controversial one is the addition of the WoW Token. Priced at $20, it is an ingame item that either adds one month of game time to the account or can be sold on the auction house for gold.

Blizzard introduced the Token in order to combat gold selling businesses which were rampant in the game. Also, it provides an opportunity for players to play the game without paying the monthly subscription, as many already do since gold is relatively easy to come by in the game.

World of Warcraft is still performing great and earning Blizzard a lot of cash. It is why the game is still a very successful project and why great care is shown when designing every future expansion – there’s still money to be made.

Need more WoW? Check out these great articles:

15 Things You'll Understand Only If You've Played World of Warcraft

10 Most Legendary Characters In World of Warcraft

WoW Legion: 10 Most Important Characters In The Game

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Gaming since 2000, ever since I could reach the Street Fighter arcade cabinet. Student, athlete, writer.
Gamer Since: 2000
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Top 3 Favorite Games:Battlefield: Bad Company 2, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Total War: Rome II

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