Wizard101 has probably been the most expensive free game I've ever played. Unless you count the individual copies of Starcraft II we collectively purchased when it was released. I understand companies not wanting someone to pirate their software, but its difficult to explain to a 10-year old that for LAN-disabled play, Blizzard required us to shell out $60 for each computer in the house. Which is, in a way, where Wizard101 shines - family accounts!
But my empirical mindset didn't take the easy path. There are two forms of in-game money, "gold" and "crowns." Gold is gathered via quests and hidden caches while crowns are purchased either online or over-the-counter at brick & morter businesses with real money. Some special items you can buy with only gold and others only crowns. This is perfectly acceptable. Because we were on the free account, we didn't have access to every area in the game - those were for monthly subscription users - or - you could pay for them with crowns. The upswing is that crown-payed areas are open to you FOREVER. Monthly-subscription users only have areas open to them while they're paying.
But after several, several, increasingly-priced closed areas (they started at around 700 crowns or $1.25 and quickly jumped to between 900/1200 or multiple 900/1200-crown purchases nested inside 2000-crown areas) it was quickly becoming untenable. The children had exhausted their savings at multiple crown purchases at $25 a pop - something I was NOT willing to bankroll. We, collectively the children and I as I discussed this with them, decided that perhaps the monthly subscription was the way to go after all - every new world, every new dungeon, is open and accessible and NOT 900+ crowns. Which means we could play and level freely, then later, if we wanted - go back and pay for the areas we thought might be worth it, rather than paying up front and not wanting what we got once there.
To make matters easier, Wizard101 gives a deep discount on family accounts. So instead of the $150 we invested in the game last month, all three of us can play for $20/month and that is something I'm willing to bankroll.
I had this conversation years ago with drax0r when he was paying a subscription to play World of Warcraft and I was unconvinced this paradigm shift was going to be in my favor. I think it was Tim Buckley (I could be mistaken), the author of the web comic CTRL+ALT+DEL who, in his blog compared those bitching about game subscriptions akin to people who buy automobiles and then are aghast that to run them they need to additionally pay for gasoline. I found his example simplistic because we hadn't been getting the gas for free for the past 100 years.
So with the entire world open to us this weekend, we gamed. All weekend we gamed.
And I drank wine while gaming.
Enormous, Obscene & Large