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Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

WoW Goes Free-to-Play! (Sort of...)

Posted by BillMurphy Wednesday June 29 2011 at 8:57PM
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Are we really supposed to be seeing this many big news stories in one week?  I mean, come on... didn't somebody tell the game companies that E3 was at the beginning of the month? 

That said, WoW.  I mean that both as an acronym and a word of exclamation in this case.  Blizzard has always talked about one day trying the F2P approach far down the line, and while their recent announcement of offering the first 20 levels of Azeroth for free to anyone as a trial isn't exactly a total conversion like LotRO's recent Freemium change it's still pretty remarkable.  World of Wacraft just got a whole lot easier to become addicted to.

Now, I'm not going to be that guy who will jump in and say, "ZOMG!  WoW's falling!  Everybody grab a stick and poke at its rotting corpse!"  If you ask me, this change means a few simple things.

  1. Blizzard has seen the success of Freemium models, and is toying with the idea.  If not for WoW specifically, most definitely for future projects.
  2. World of Wacraft has seen some decline in subscribers, as any game that's six years old is bound to, and this is a marketing strategy to hook returning folks and new folks (are there any left?) alike.
  3. Everyone knows WoW is addictive.  Offering a full 20 levels, and not just an arbitrary days long trial is simply a better move.  People who have less time to game will have longer to get hooked, even if it only takes a few hours to get to 20 these days.
In the end, I'd be very surprised if this was any sort of deathknell for Azeroth.  It's going to be a very long time until WoW turns into a game that few people talk about.  Despite its age, and the lukewarm reception to Cataclysm, they're still the biggest kid in the class.  Now there are some majorly hefty competitors in the wings, no doubt about that.  But then again, how many times have we said that so far?
If I was a betting man, I'd put all my money on the new unlimited trial as more of a marketing and revenue experiment than any sort of signal for doom and gloom.  But that's just me.