Most hobbies outside of running around in your backyard are expensive and World of Warcraft is no exception. How expensive is it and how does it compare to other hobbies? Are you getting the best bang for your buck? Some WoW players have been questioning that recently with the idea that cross realm dungeon finder groups are going to be part of the premium service. While it’s no question that WoW does cost money… just how much money does it cost? Let’s see if you’re getting the most for your money out of WoW or if WoW is draining all of us of our life savings like many forum doomsayers proclaim.

Finding the Real Cost

Let’s take a look at three distinct numbers from WoW. We’ll examine two theoretical and one actual number for our brief survey. Let’s get started.

First is the cost of WoW if you only pay the subscription fee. That would come to $179.88 a year if you pay the monthly $14.99. That’s about $200 a year for a hobby that provides over 40 hours of entertainment a month. Looking at the big picture, which can be a lot of money, but looking at it each month you’re really getting a good value.

Of course, that cost can be deceptive. If you’re just getting into WoW your first year cost will be $239.88 ($30 for the battlechest, WotLK, and Cataclysm). $90 is a pretty small hobby startup cost and isn’t that much more than buying a console game new.

If you’re really into WoW and are someone who plays often you might be like me. In the last year I’ve spent $518.25 on WoW. That includes buying multiple expansions, a single monthly fee, character transfers, and faction changes. That’s a bit more money and averages out to about $43.19 a month. Yikes.

To make things easy on us going forward, let’s say the cost of playing WoW each year is between $200 and $500 USD or about $16 to $41 a month depending on how many services or cosmetic items like companion pets you purchase.

Apples, Oranges, and Tangerines

Even Thrall splurges on his fancy top hat collection.

To find out if we’re getting a good deal we need to look at some alternatives to playing World of Warcraft that can give you about the same amount of entertainment each month and are fairly similar. We’ll use the following examples: going out to the movies, playing console games, starting Magic the Gathering, playing tabletop games like Warhammer 40k, and then some other miscellaneous options.

Let’s compare the costs.

Going Out to the Movies

We hear this one a lot. “WoW is less expensive than going out to the movies.” Is that true? Well let’s go and find a local movie theatre and see what their ticket rates are. A single ticket at the local theatre for the newest Pirates of the Caribbean movie is $9.00. Now, if you can keep yourself from eating popcorn and just drink water (and let’s hope that you can) you’ll be able to go to the movies about 20 times a year on the monthly subscription fee or if you’re insane like me you could go over 57 times or about 4 times a month.

So, if you’re not really big into WoW and you just pay the subscription fee then you’re probably not going to get a better value out of the movies. If you're willing throw your money toward Blizzard then you might get a slightly better deal, but you’d obviously get bored of going out after the first few times.

So the winner is: WoW.

Unless you have a dollar theatre nearby (where the tickets are cheap and the popcorn is outrageous). In which case I’d say: myth debunked. At $2 a ticket you could go about 200 times, although you still might not get as many hours of the movies as you could WoW before getting bored.

Playing Magic the Gathering

Now, let’s say you wanted to get into Magic the Gathering (MTG). I’m not a MTG player, but we can look up the prices and see about what it’d cost to go play MTG at your local game shop on a weekly basis. A basic competitive deck that would probably last you a long while with little maintenance would cost you about $300. If you run some math, that’s more than just paying for WoW each month and less than the “if you’re crazy about WoW” statistic.

However, you don’t have to get up out of your chair and go somewhere.  On the other hand, you can sit and play it for nearly as much time as you could spend in WoW.

Winner: WoW

Console Gaming

Your average console game costs about $55 to buy new, however there is a slight cheat code you can apply to come out on top. That cheat is a service like Blockbuster or GameFly who will deliver you new games each month for, you guess it, a monthly fee. It’s $15.95 for one game out a month (much greater than when I was a bit younger) for GameFly or $11.99 for Blockbuster.

So the clear winner here is console gaming, because with console games you can get almost as much play time for less money. That is excluding the high entry price of purchasing a console though, which is anywhere from $100 to $300 more than WoW (before you start throwing accessories in and assuming you already own a PC or Mac that can run WoW).

Time wise you’d also be able to pour just as much time into console games as you would WoW. So another victory here.

Warhammer or “Table Top Gaming”

Want to just go out and make your own wars? Is it cheaper than WoW? Well, let’s figure it out. Oh boy, let’s make a list of all of the needed components:

  • Assault on Black Reach (Starter Army Set): $99
  • Starter Paint Set: $30
  • Hobby Starter Set (Tools/Paints): $50  
  • Hobby Paint Brush Starter Set: $15
  • Hobby Knife: $5

In total, to just get your foot in the door, you’d need to pay out $199 for an army of Orcs and Space Marines. If you wanted to actually make something different, you’re talking $500 to $1000 for the space army men and just as much in tools, paints, putty, etc.

So, the startup costs are about the same as WoW and if you really get into it you could be spending as much as the crazy obsessed WoW players do in a heartbeat. So I’m going to call this one a tie, if only because making, painting, building various miniatures and going to play them takes up as much as or more time than WoW, giving it the same value almost.

Other Hobbies

There are free-to-play games, which are free (although they utilize a cash shop) which usually cost more than WoW to make them not mindnumbingly boring. You can also build RC cars and airplanes which get extremely expensive very quickly. You can collect something, but again, the money builds up over time.


So, at the end of the day, the only thing that comes close to beating WoW in value is console gaming and even then, we didn't factor in the potential cost of a subscription to use a premium console service. Here is a chart with our findings:

Wait, though, there is more in this value packed opinion piece!

The Real Cost of WoW

All of this is deceptive though. Once you get into WoW it can become an extremely costly hobby and we overlook the additional costs. I bought a new video card last year that was over $200, a new keyboard and mouse that were another $100, I’ve purchased monitors that were over $200, and it all starts adding up. I can easily say that my total cost for playing WoW, the only PC game I currently play with any frequency is over $1,000 a year.

Of course, if you’re REALLY into WoW you can then start talking plushies, books, collectables, and a trip to BlizzCon which between hotel and airfare is over $1,000 bucks and let’s not forget food, souvenirs, and everything else.

Yikes, that’s pretty costly. Though, everything except for the monthly fee was by my choice and my choice alone. I could have simply just played the game, not made any computer upgrades, done any character transfers, or anything like that. Yet, in order to make the game “fun” to me I had to. This is where hobbies go from a simple maintainable expense to something outrageous rather quickly.

Can we blame Blizzard for robbing our pockets dry? Sure, of course we can if we opted to go that route. They are a business designed to take money from us after all. Are they the only ones? Heck no. Every other business like them out there is taking your money even faster than Blizzard can. Look at almost every free to play game out there with their cash shop being a base requirement to get past level 5.

So at the end of the day, we all have to ask ourselves: is it worth it to us? Me, personally, I say of course it is. I love playing WoW, it’s a fun game, and I’ll keep throwing my money mindlessly at Blizzard until I get bored of it. Do I loathe them for some of their choices? Sure, of course I do, but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to quit or spend eternity bickering on the forums for five years about how WoW is cheaper than a movie ticket vs. Blizzard is trying to steal my retirement.

What are your thoughts? How much did you spend on WoW last year? What other interesting things do you have to say? Come to our comments section below and share your thoughts.

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Get in the bush with David "Xerin" Piner as he leverages his spectacular insanity to ask the serious questions such as is Master Yi and Illidan the same person? What's for dinner? What are ways to elevate your gaming experience? David's column, Respawn, is updated near daily with some of the coolest things you'll read online, while David tackles ways to improve the game experience across the board with various hype guides to cool games.