Short of being rich, we all have to budget our money. Money has to be set aside for housing, utilities, automobile expenses (unless you are in a city and take a bus, in which case you still need to budget for the bus), clothing, personal care and of course food. Those of us with kids have to budget for diapers and all other child related expenses. Some people have profession related expenses. There is also a small budget for entertainment. That entertainment budget comes at the end as all the others are a bit more necessary. It can include books, going to the movies, DVDs/Blu-rays, TV, video games, renting movies/shows/games, board games, and a whole host of other stuff. For most of us, that entertainment budget is tight, for some of us it is very tight.
Blizzard‘s World of Warcraft isn’t free to play. You have to buy the game. As I write this, the World of Warcraft Battle Chest which includes the game, the first expansion and two strategy guides is $29.99, which is a steal since the game itself is $19.75, the expansion itself is $29.82 and the guides another $19 each. Then you will probably want the expansions (as I noted, the Battle Chest includes the first one for a few cent over the expansion itself), the second one, Wrath of the Lich King is another $29.99. They have a third expansion coming out called Cataclysm (available for pre-order for $39.99.
After you buy the game, install it, download all the patches (this is something that for us took overnight), setup an account and then you get to play the game for 30 days… after that you have a monthly fee. This fee runs $14.99 a month and goes down if you buy a 3 month plan ($13.99/month or $41.97) or a 6 month plan ($12.99/month or $77.94). Friends and Family, or those without access to a credit card to pay the fees can use a World of Warcraft 60 Day Pre-Paid Time Card for $28.99 (about $14.50/month).
So how does one justify spending that kind of money? After all, a year of WoW on the 3 month plan is $167.88 is a huge amount of money for some of us. Well, let us look at some other common entertainment expenses.
We don’t have cable, but if we did, the local cable company charges $55.50 a month for basic cable, realistically you probably would want the $64.00 a month plan for basic plus as that includes a few essential channels. One could save a TON of money using Direct TV (the dish is already in the back yard). That is $34.99/month (there is a cheaper $24.99/month plan but again to get the essential channels one seems to need to step up a tier). Already WoW is providing hours of entertainment for much less than cable/satellite… then again the Direct TV provides more entertainment for the kids… mindless entertainment that drains their brain cells, but entertainment for them non-the-less (although Direct TV subscribers can buy access to BlizzCon, an event where Blizzard talks about what is going to happen in WoW, Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty the other Starcraft II series, Diablo III and many other topics). Ari is a bit young to play due to the reading involved, but he can do some of the farming tasks if one sets him to it. (Farming in WoW doesn’t refer to having a farm and growing crops, but to kill certain mobs (creatures) to get stuff needed for quests or professions, etc.)
Renting movies… Netflix costs $8.99/month if you want to rent only one movie at a time (you do get an unlimited number of watch online a month). So a bit of a savings to go that way, but one movie at a time makes it a bit hard to get a good value. 3 DVDs at a time is the usual best-bang-for-the-buck option and that is $16.99/month. Once again you have spent more than you would with a WoW account. And Wow is available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week… well actually not a full 7 days. Tuesday is maintenance day, and they take the servers down for a few hours, so you can’t play Tuesday morning to Tuesday afternoon. So it is proves to be an better value. The online viewing of some limited content does help the Netflix value, but in the end WoW still comes out ahead. Netflix is awesome though and if you rent movies and want access to older movies it is the way to go. You can also rent from RedBox, which locally is $1 a movie for a night. Unlike Netflix, there is a late fee with RedBox, but still, $1 isn’t too bad if there is a new release you want to watch.
Buying movies… well the purchase price of WoW and all the expansions (not counting Cataclysm yet) adds up to about 3 new movie releases. Each movie will give you about 2 hours of entertainment per viewing. It isn’t likely that you would watch those movies so many times as to equal the value of WoW over the course of the year, even when you add the monthly fee.
Books… well… odds are you probably should read more (pop on over to Amazon and buy a few books now). Still, books are normally a one time read, at least in a year. Even paperbacks though are becoming costly. One of the books I am reading now, The Strain (The Strain Trilogy) is $9.99 and that is a mass market paperback! Now I paid a bit less than that, but even at $7 or $8, that is a chunk of change. The pleasure of reading makes it worth it, but again it comes back to WoW is a constant source of new entertainment, even if that book is read each year.
Going to the movies… does anything need to be said here? A pair of tickets to a new movie will cost more than a month of WoW. Sure it will be a fun two hours or so, but that is it in the end.
Other video games. A nice new game like God of War III costs $49.99, so already more expensive at purchase than WoW, and odds are you will be done with the game before your first free month of WoW is done. Typically God of War III, to keep going with the same example, will be finished in 8 to 15 hours, 20 if you have lots of trouble. 20 hours into WoW you have barely scratched the surface. And most games are not nearly as in depth or long as God of War III. Now you do get a better value if you get say PlayStation 3 Rock Band 3 Wireless Keyboard and Software Bundle… of course you then need to add a guitar, drums and microphone(s), and then you start to see a really big expense. Lots of fun when you have guests over to be sure. WoW isn’t a party game like the Rock Band stuff. Still, for personal entertainment value, WoW provides a better value in the end.
In the end, I think the World of Warcraft provides a great entertainment value. The only caveat being that you would need to enjoy playing fantasy roll playing games… and you may end up wanting to upgrade your computer. 🙂
EDIT: Direct TV’s price of $35noted above is an introductory 12 month offer, after that it goes to the normal $64, so basically the same as cable at the same package deal (though Direct TV has about 70 more channels at that price).