With the continued popularity of the Dungeon Finder, many players have been asking for a way to group up with real-life friends who play on other realms to take on instances together. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about a new feature currently in development that will allow players to invite Real ID friends of the same faction to a party regardless of the realm they play on, and then queue up for a 5-player regular or Heroic dungeon.
As this is a fairly complex service to develop, we don’t have a release date to share quite yet. It’s important to note that as with some of the other convenience- and connectivity-oriented features we offer, certain elements of the cross-realm Real ID party system will be premium-based, though only the player sending the invitations will need to have access to the premium service. We'll have more details to share with you as development progresses -- in the meantime, you may begin to see elements of the feature appear on the World of Warcraft PTR.
First off, I think mentioning the Dungeon Finder was a bit misleading. As I read it, this doesn't have a lot to do with the Dungeon Finder. It sounds like you can invite RealId friends to your group, and then queue up for an instance.
Honestly, I don't really see the point to this feature. There's already a workaround if you want to play with real-life friends regularly. You just roll new characters on the same server. You can save your old characters for times when your group isn't online. And if you're always playing together, then maybe server transfers are a better option.
I don't really see how the economics of this idea will work. This feature sounds like something you pay for ahead of time, that you plan on using multiple times, but not too often. And only one person in the group needs to pay for it.
I don't think that the number of players that would use this service is very high. And the people who would actually need to pay for it is a fraction of that number. So basically, I don't think the amount of money you'd get from this is worth the complaints from the community that "Blizzard is making us pay extra if we want to play with friends".
It also doesn't fit in with previous premium services. Server transfers, et al, are all one-time things. Having a price tag attached to them just serves to keep demand down, and ensures that people only use those services when they really need to. If server transfers were free, people would be jumping around like crazy.
I don't really see the point of decreasing demand for this service. Maybe it serves to ensure that people don't RealId strangers just to group with them again. That you only put "real" friends on your RealId list. This is one thing that could convince me that charging for this feature is a good idea. If there is a significant potential negative effect to this service, depressing demand via pricing is wise.
However, I don't think Blizzard charging for this service is "wrong". Personally, I'll never use it. So for me, having it be optional is better than bundling it in the base package and increasing the price of that.
Complete speculation, but from a software dev perspective, it kind of feels like one faction of Blizzard management didn't really want to spend the development time and effort on this feature. That they thought it would affect too few people to be worth spending money on, and would end up like the barbershop1. But another faction really wanted to work on this feature. Maybe because it would set the stage for future cross-server coordination. So the two factions compromised with the idea that it would be a premium service and so "pay for itself".
Of course, the above paragraph is pure speculation. But to me, the other premium services, and even the pets and mounts, make sense to me as premium services. I may prefer that Blizzard didn't charge for them, but they make economic sense to me. But I just don't see the point of charging for this idea when only one person out of the group of friends would actually end up paying for it. It's ticky-tacky, nickel-and-dime stuff that seems out of character for Blizzard (though maybe not Activision).
1. You can really tell from a lot of Blizzard's comments that they feel that the Barbershop probably wasn't the best use of resources, given the number of people that actually use the feature semi-regularly.