Blizzard Entertainment's massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft has not adopted a free-to-play model like high-profile games Lord of the Rings Online, EverQuest II, Team Fortress 2, and others. However, Blizzard has extended WoW's try-before-you-buy experience today, making the game free to play until level 20.
Blizzard has announced that it has done away with its 14-day trial period offer in favor of a new beginner system called the World of Warcraft Starter Edition. Now, gamers who try out WoW through its online store will be able to progress their character to level 20--taking as much time as they need--before they must begin to pay a subscription fee.
There are some fairly significant restrictions for the Starter Edition, however. In addition to the aforementioned level cap of 20, players will be able to amass just 10 gold, have their trade skills capped at 100, and will be unable to trade via the Auction House, mailbox, or player to player.
Further, Starter Edition players will not be able to access public chat channels, join a guild, invite players to a party, join parties with characters above level 20, use voice chat, transfer characters, or use Real ID features. Lastly, Blizzard will give preferential treatment to paying WoW subscribers when realms have queues. For the full list of restrictions placed on Starter Edition accounts, check out Blizzard's support page.
Additionally, Blizzard announced today that it has combined the original WoW with the game's first expansion, The Burning Crusade, into a single $20 package. Those who have previously purchased the original WoW will be granted a free copy of The Burning Crusade.
In addition to announcing the new trial period offer for WoW, Blizzard today set live patch 4.2, also known as Rage of the Firelands. First outed in late April, the new patch brings a host of changes and some new content to the Warcraft universe. Chief among the updates is the addition of a new raid, new quests, the beginning of a new player-versus-player season, some user interface tweaks, and other general class updates.
For more on WoW's Rage of the Firelands expansion, check out the full patch notes on the World of Warcraft website and a video for the content, embedded below.