I was just looking through the wiz101 website and found out that the game in crowns is roughly $85. I was surprised at this and so stumbled upon the question: Do subscribers pay this much? I think they pay more, but I would have no idea.
Heya Jason. Subscribers pay $60 for a year if they buy during the sale periods, but yeah currently unlocking the game for life is just about as much as a year subscription. I've attempted to answer this question before and got a little long-winded.
Basically it depends on how you play the game. If you're the type that will beat the game in three months and never play it again, then my goodness don't go with crowns. If you're the type that will play it for a year and never play the game again, probably the same (but that is where it gets a little grey).
On the other hand, if you don't have a lot of time on your hands, love this game, have multiple characters, will be dabbling here for at least a couple years, and like to take things slowly, then it's kind of a no brainer, crowns are the way to go for you. Keep in mind that when Celestia goes live, you'll have more areas to buy, so that $85 figure you cite is probably going to approach $100 I'm guessing.
So, it's up to the individual to decide which is better. It depends largely on your play style. Both have advantages. I'm just glad we have options. :-) Either way, it's pretty cheap entertainment when you consider the cost of taking the family to a movie and dinner for one night, which makes that $60 for a year subscription seem like chump change.
**UPDATE: Excellent comments on this post, you should read through a few of them. I especially like this information from Through the Spiral Gate (it was something I hadn't considered): "I actually ended up paying around twice as much as the figure Friendly gave. Rather than buying a lump sum of crowns for $80, which I know my dad would never agree to, I had to go bit by bit with gift cards from Rite Aid and Best Buy. So not only did it take me longer to unlock all the areas, but I paid more money all-around. It really just depends on how you go about buying the crowns that determines whether or not you pay more than subscribers."**