World of Warcraft Introduces WoW Token Into Wrath Classic, Sends Community Into Chaos

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World of Warcraft Introduces WoW Token Into Wrath Classic, Sends Community Into Chaos

Blizzard has just made a major change to how World of Warcraft Classic: Wrath of the Lich King's economy works, and the community is completely furious. Yesterday, it introduced WoW Tokens into Wrath Classic.

On its face, the announcement looks relatively innocuous:

"The WoW Token is now available in Wrath of the Lich King Classic," it reads. "This in-game item is a great way to exchange gold for game time in a convenient and secure way."

Blizzard first introduced the WoW Token to World of Warcraft retail back in 2015, during the Warlords of Draenor expansion. Here's how it works: players can buy a WoW Token with real money, and then sell the WoW Token in World of Warcraft to other players for in-game gold, effectively allowing them to "buy gold" in a legitimate and authorized way. Players who purchase WoW Tokens with their in-game gold can then exchange a token for a month of game time, effectively letting them spend in-game gold to avoid paying a regular subscription fee with real money.

The idea at the time was to curb illegal gold farming operations WOW Classic Gold by offering a legitimate way for players to sell in-game gold, while also letting those who had time to play but were low on real-world funds continue spending time in WoW. While the move was somewhat controversial within the community at the time, and it was never fully able to stop the illegal gold selling economy. Plus, there was a significant upheaval of the system again in 2017 when Blizzard started letting players exchange WoW Tokens for Battle.net balance, temporarily throwing the in-game economy into chaos.

Not So Classic After All
WoW Tokens did eventually become a normal and accepted part of World of Warcraft's economy and community, and the economy stabilized around them. But now, with their introduction into World of Warcraft Classic: Wrath of the Lich King, the community seems even more torn over the issue than when the token was first introduced.

While WoW Tokens in Wrath of the Lich King Classic work exactly the same as they do in the retail version, there are a few key differences that have the Classic community in turmoil.

For one, Blizzard neither hinted nor otherwise communicated that this change was coming — many players have expressed feeling blindsided by the news and are angry that the in-game economy is going through such a significant upheaval without warning.

But the bigger issue is that many players feel the "integrity" of World of Warcraft Classic is being thrown aside for a quick cash-grab on Blizzard's part. Blizzard gets a cut of every WoW Token WOW Classic Gold purchase, so adding the tokens to Wrath Classic is a pretty obvious additional revenue source for the developer. But the original Wrath of the Lich King expansion, released in 2008, didn't have WoW Tokens. And while Blizzard has made some changes to how the expansion works for its Classic release, up until now its most significant shifts were largely quality of life adjustments that the playerbase (largely) was fine with. But it doesn't seem like many people asked for WoW Tokens.

Rule 4, Suspended
The frustration is so palpable that yesterday, the official World of Warcraft Classic subreddit "officially suspended" its rule prohibiting discussion of private servers and cheats for older versions of the game, resulting in a wave of advertisements for alternative playing methods. It's a bit ironic, given that World of Warcraft Classic originally started as Blizzard's answer to players creating private servers because the original version of WoW was unavailable in an official capacity.

All that said, not everyone is angry about the tokens. Some people within the community are pointing out that World of Warcraft Classic has had a severe botting problem for some time now, and given that bots tend to be associated with gold farming, this is a logical way to reduce that issue. They also point out that if gold farms were so successful as to need curbing, people who play the game were clearly buying enough gold to warrant them in the first place. Those who are angry, however, have countered that Blizzard didn't appear to be doing enough to address the major botting problems prior to this, and feel frustrated that seemingly the developer's first resort was to introduce monetization, rather than using other methods.

While previous upheavals around WoW Tokens have eventually settled, the issues with this specific rendition of it seem poised to change the Classic community for the long haul, though it remains to be seen exactly how. We've reached out to Blizzard for comment on the issue and will update if we get a response.

Update 5/25/2023: Blizzard has released a blog post explaining its thoughts on the WoW Token's addition into Wrath and responding to community frustration around the change.

In the lengthy statement, Blizzard breaks down the history of the gold economy in WoW Classic up until now, tying it into the ways in wihch the black market for gold sales impacts in-game economy. Blizzard claims economic disruption isn't just down to botting, but also includes "compromised accounts, credit card fraud, scams, hacked clients, and the tools that illicit third parties use to fuel the engine that is the RMT trade."

Blizzard goes on to say that it does "ban thousands of bots a week", acknowledging its communication around its actions has been wanting and pledging to address this. And yet, people involved in illicit activities have "never been better at coming up with new methods, schemes, farms, and exploits to work around our efforts."

Hence, WoW Tokens:

While we can’t completely “win” the war, what we can do is mitigate the impact it has on the game. Is WoW Token the be-all and end-all to solve this? No, but it is a tool. It’s just one tool, though, among many. There is clearly a demand for gold for certain types of players, and that demand is only increasing. So, we are engaging a tool that we’ve used before to help mitigate the impact that illicit RMT has on the game. The more tools we employ, and the less lucrative we can make it for third parties to do what they do to make a profit, the less likely it is that new malicious actors enter the illicit RMT scene, and the more likely that existing malicious actors will exit the business. Ultimately, it’s taking incremental steps and using a multitude of tools that will reduce how impactful those third parties will be in Wrath Classic and beyond.

Blizzard concludes the post by revealing that it closed 248,105 Buy WoW Classic WOTLK Gold exploitative Battle.net accounts in the last two weeks, over 73,000 of which were in World of Warcraft alone, calling the issue one of "sheer, staggering scale" and again pledging to publicly surface its actions against bots more frequently.

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