World of Warcraft has more in-game microtransactions today than ever before (and it sounds like more are on the way), but the game is not bearing down a path toward becoming pay-to-win, creative director Alex Afrasiabi says.
"That is not a direction we're even comfortable taking WoW," Afrasiabi told GameSpot today during a preview event for upcoming expansion Warlords of Draenor.
Pay-to-win models break player trust, and Blizzard has no intention of doing that, Afrasiabi said.
"Game design, half of it is about trust. And I think that our playerbase trusts us implicitly and you never want to break trust between the player and developer. And I think pay-to-win does that. And I think that is really our stance; we are not about pay-to-win in World of Warcraft. That is not gonna happen."
Earlier this week, it was revealed--but not confirmed--that soon World of Warcraft players might be able to pay $60 to auto-level a character to the current cap of 90. Previously, players had to spend dozens of hours or more to reach that level. Some fans saw this as an indication that the integrity of the game experience was falling away.
Players can also spend real-world money on virtual items like in-game pets and mounts. All of these microtransactions are on top of World of Warcraft's existing $15/month subscription. It appears microtransactions are going to play a major role in Blizzard's future as well, as the studio recently established a "Microtransaction Strategy" business unit.
The uptick in virtual items for sale in World of Warcraft does not appear to have driven players away. In fact, World of Warcraft ended 2013 with 7.8 million subscribers, which is up 200,000 from the quarter prior. Of course, this is down from a record high of 12 million subscribers following the launch of Wrath of the Lich King in 2010. But growth more than 9 years into a product's lifecycle--especially a paid MMO--is nothing short of impressive.
How do you feel about the current state of World of Warcraft as it relates to microtransactions? Let us know in the comments below.