Blizzard has revealed their new pricing strategy for the Curse of Naxxramas expansion to the popular Hearthstone card game, and it looks like it could set the bar for many other pricing models to come.
Venturing Back to Naxx
The expansion proposes to simulate World of Warcraft’s recurring raid dungeon Naxxramas by offering players the chance to face off against an AI controlled, card battler version of the bosses from the raid, and granting victorious players new cards for their decks. These bosses will be spaced out in five different “wings”, with a new wing being released each week, that imitate the different sections of the Naxxramas raid themselves.
Freedom for the Patient
Instead of having to pay for each new version of the game, like the Magic the Gathering series of online card games, Blizzard, with the Curse of Naxxramas expansion, is aiming to allow players the chance to get the entire expansion for free. Players can buy each wing as it is released for either $7 USD or 700 gold, the game’s built-in currency. With the first week’s wing, the Arachnid Quarter, being free during the launch window of the expansion, this essentially means that players amassing a total of 2800 gold could purchase the entire expansion for free. There are of course, other options, including a flexible pricing plan that allows players to purchase some wings for free, and then buy their way into the remaining wings for graduated sums of money. For example, a player could get the Arachnid Quarter for free, buy two wings for 1400 gold, and then purchase the remaining two for a discounted $10. The details of the pricing plan have been laid out by Blizzard here.
Buying new content for in-game currency has precedent, namely from League of Legends’ Influence Point system that allows players to build currency from playing the game to spend on playable characters and enhancements, but, at least in the fledgling digital card gaming realm, buying an a new expansion entirely with in-game currency is unheard of. It essentially opens the door for a truly free-to-play experience; one in which content is not locked behind microtransactions, or gameplay mechanics designed to be unfun in order to encourage spending, but instead can be earned with a little patience, while at the same time having fun with the game. Especially with the announcement of the upcoming MOBA foray “Heroes of the Storm”, Blizzard seems to be holding true to their track record of redefining genres in which they choose to develop.