Free-to-play World of Warcraft a possibility

Blizzard lead designer says subscription fee for massively successful MMORPG might not make sense after studio's second online game launches.

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Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft has largely cornered the massively multiplayer online role-playing market since its launch in November 2004, boasting a current paid subscriber base of some 11.5 million. However, a number of other MMORPGs have been able to carve out a spot by employing a free-to-play, microstransaction supported business model, including Dungeons & Dragons Online, The Lord of the Rings Online, and a wide variety of Asian titles.

Microtransactions could be WOW's future.

So would Blizzard consider a free-to-play model for its already massively successful MMORPG? Maybe, according to WOW lead designer Tom Chilton. As part of an interview with PC Gamer magazine, the veteran game designer noted that having players pay for a $15 monthly pass might not always be the best option in terms of monetizing WOW. However, Chilton also said that the trend toward the free-to-play model isn't necessarily a reaction to WOW.

"I feel like they're doing that to compete with other games that are on a similar subscriber level to what they were at," he said. "I imagine that when one of them went free to play it cannibalized some of the other subscribers. I can definitely imagine that being the case with World of Warcraft. If another game comes along and blows us away it may not make sense for us to have a subscription fee. Or even further down the line, when we have another MMO out."

Though WOW remains a subscription-based game, Blizzard has already implemented a number of microtransaction features into WOW. In addition to in-game services ranging from server transfers for in-game characters to name and faction changes, the studio also sells in-game items such as the $25 Celestial Steed and $10 Lil' XT pet. Blizzard also offers gamers remote access to manage WOW's in-game auction house from a Web browser or mobile phone for an extra $3 a month.

Discussion

252 comments
Rocksteady777
Rocksteady777

Free-to-Play? World of Warcraft? I got to admit, you people have jokes. People at WoW want all of the money they can. They would go into shock if they went F2P

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Patiux
Patiux

I think another good option is to pay for "hours of play" that way if you buy a certain amount of hours; you are only paying for what you play. The problem with me and WOW is not that I don't like the game, I just don’t like paying 30 dlls for a 2 month pre-paid subscription, and only really play about 20 hours or less of gameplay. They need to think of people that have wives and jobs and lives to be part of their gaming community!

DeViLzzz
DeViLzzz

Funny that they talk about heading into a similar game plan that Everquest 2 is doing after I just commented on what is happening with that game and said no way will I play for free when I am so limited in what I can do. I also said it might make me go back to WOW. Well Blizzard do you get the hint ? WOW > EQ2 .... don't mess it up

fillup0
fillup0

If they have a free to play model, they should include advertisements and let us pay to remove those advertisements. So you are getting the same game either way, but without advertisements if you choose to pay. Micro transactions should only be fun items that do not disrupt the balance of the game if they are included.

xSlugox
xSlugox

gawd its almost been 7 years... who cares about WoW anymore? get over it.

Commisar123
Commisar123

well its a classic catch 22 becasue if they move to a microtransaction system it could imbalance the game or if they stay with the current system you still have to pay subscription

GWINU
GWINU

I quit playing 4 years ago. If the subsription was lowered or removed I would come back, but more then likely it wouldnt be for very long or for many hours a month.

Shadow_Fire41
Shadow_Fire41

i could live with microtransactions, as long as the stuff you buy isn't game breaking or necessary. if they can do that, FREE TO PLAY!

Raykuza
Raykuza

I find that MMO games with a microtransaction business model are grossly imbalanced, and thus, completely unfun. One free to play MMO just released the ability to purchase in-game money with real money, and will soon be releasing a purchasable character class. That's not the kind of game I'd ever play. Subscriptions are the way to go.

Kashmiro
Kashmiro

@da-chub LIVE TO WIN, TIL YOU DIE!

Kashmiro
Kashmiro

@2w-sephiroth - I had the same things happen to me. I finally realized that I was only playing on Tuesdays and I rarely did much. I really just got on to play on the auction house with price and do a small amount of pvp. If Blizzard cuts it to a pay for the # of days you play or to a $15 for 3 months then I'd be willing to continue playing. As for now I'm waiting for Old Republic, it seems my style with a more story based system that allows for a lot of solo enjoyment. I love being in the online community but sometimes people can be annoying and its enjoyable to go off by yourself.

DigitalZ
DigitalZ

Woah so instead of going free-to-play they are going with pay-to-play(monthly) + free-to-play(for extra items) ? LOL how much much more will they rip their fans? Played WOW for few years but seriously, wait for steam price cut event and get great games for 1 month of WOW (got L4D2 for like 14€). And now they are going to sell items for $25s? LOL

2w-sephiroth
2w-sephiroth

Its funny that the biggest reason why I would stop the monthly fees is because I would only play once or twice a week. I looked at it like a big waste of money and otherwise rather spend the money on new games. Cheap year subscription or a every 3 months for the price of 1 month would make more sense. They have done so much money with this already. Then again, more money means more games from blizzard. I am not complaining.

Jean_rainier
Jean_rainier

either have us pay for every new major patch $15-20 only or lower the monthly costs.

tbailey184
tbailey184

Wow takes alot of heat from the gaming community, but it's a solid MMO. I've covered a wide sampling of MMO's all the way back to UO,and I really did enjoy my time on Wow. I think for me, it was simply a matter of burnout over time, as is true from pretty much any game out there.

da_chub
da_chub

@dan21278 its not that its a bad game...its actually quite good, but its just that some people put their lives into something like WoW and thats sad. i played WoW for like a year, but never even maxed out a char, which is when i quit. all i can ever think of when i hear WoW is southpark :)

Dan21278
Dan21278

I STILL WOULDN'T PLAY EVEN IF IT WAS FREE!!!!!!!!!!

gannobd9
gannobd9

I hope they don’t do this. Microtransactions are fine as a business model, but in the case of a 5 year old game like WoW, the subscription model is, at this point, a fundamental characteristic of the game. The level economic playing field is why millions of people play, whether they conciously realize it or not. You don't mess around with stuff like that. And why would Blizzard need to anyways? They make money hand over fist every month. There's easily enough cash left in this cow to carry them through to the release of their next MMO property. Save microtransactions for then.

TrueIori
TrueIori

Who cares most of blizzard talent left to form Arena Net. All Blizzard does now is copy ideas from other MMO's and some how get the credit. Get Xp during pvp , old idea, Guild Xp old idea, achievements etc etc. Bet new mmo pvp will be as crappy as wow.

Yajarobi
Yajarobi

blizzard does what they can to get money. Sooo why the ** would you make 10 million gamer subscribed game go F2P? not going to happen. What they will do is what EQ did, most likely. pay $20 a month to play both WoW and the "new" MMO.

fabz_95
fabz_95

That would be awesome, I would get the game if it was free to play.

Lazay727
Lazay727

A lot of people will feel bad when they find out they wasted 2 entire years of their life(i mean in hours not gross time) playing a video game that is made pointless by a sequel. One of the reasons why i never get TOO into an mmo. When your old youll have nothing to show for it, and WoW3 will be out.