I'm with Leah; drop the stupid subscription already and run with a GW business model. I'll pay for content, but paying for time pisses me off.
That would even allow for classic servers; players only play the "chapters" of the game that they have paid for, including the mechanics for those chapters.
I wonder how the pricing would work with that. If it was just content, then a base + expansions model would work well. But if each expansion has the corresponding mechanics, then I think a lot of players would be inclined to play an earlier tier, which I suppose works out. But for people playing BC or later, what do they buy and play? Do they start at level 60 outside the Dark Portal with BC mechanics? Or do they play up through vanilla with those mechanics and then suddenly have a dramatic shift at 60?
I'm not saying a system where we buy/sign up for an older mechanic-content bundle couldn't work, but it sure sounds hard to implement. I wonder if Blizzard even has the old mechanics locked in a safe somewhere, or if they are doing a Lucas and actively destroying all earlier iterations of their work. Then there is the problem of which mechanic set to pick. Are we going with the mechanics of the day before the next-expansion patch? By that I mean, vanilla would be patch 1.9.whatevertheydidbefore 2.0 and BC would be 2.9.before3.0, and so on?
It's not an easy thing to decide. WoW changed within vanilla. You can find people who are, or at least were, furious at how BGs destroyed world PvP. Ditto for guards, and the various ways they've been buffed over the years. Maybe we should have beta WoW. Or post-release but before all the class-fix patches. I wonder if any paladins are still mad about 1.9... Once upon a time there were no raids and dark iron ore was only found in one zone (rather than the generous two!) and before that maybe only instances. Should the vanilla server remove that dumbing-down casualizing killing of the hardcore running BRD for a handful of dark iron ore nodes? Should shamans get the good version of sentry totem or the one with marginal usefulness in WSG? Can fear still run players off cliffs?
Moving forward, should BC have the second tier of badge rewards? Should LK have the Dungeon Finder or not? In the mists of time I think we forget how late it was added, which, by the way, was at the same time as ICC, the last raid, not counting that place no one did. Should Cataclysm have uh... some major upcoming change or not? Will the Mists of Pandaren pack have the original Pandaren or will it use the 5.6 re-write where they are revealed to be the first wave of the Burning Legion's next assault? Write that one down, or you know, copy-paste, I called it here first.
I'm not trying to say that a pay-for-content and pay-for-mechanics system couldn't work. I think it could. But it wouldn't be easy. It wouldn't be cheap either (though "not cheap" is vague and relative). Could it generate the revenues to be profitable? I think I'd buy a vanilla pack for $40 or so, maybe add on a BC pack for $20. But is $60 from a few weirdos here and there worth the cost to separate out the content and mechanics and maintain them? Or even if we don't try to do the mechanics, if we just have a "pay for a higher level cap" system, will a few people paying $40 to play in old Azeroth (Cataclysm just made that part a lot harder) bring in the money to justify the coding and maintenance needed?
I suspect it could be profitable, but that isn't enough. It must be profitable enough to keep investors happy. It must also be profitable enough to offset the risk of subscribers switching to the potentially cheaper system. I don't think that last one is true just yet. Maybe when WoW losses a few million more they will try something radical, but I don't see that for a couple years or so (and that is assuming the downward trend continues).