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Free-to-play World of Warcraft "makes sense" eventually, Blizzard says

Lead designer Tom Chilton says MMO game may "at some point" switch to free-to-play model; game would have been in "bad shape" without casual-themed Mists of Pandaria expansion.


A free-to-play version of Blizzard Entertainment's chart-topping massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft "makes sense" eventually, lead designer Tom Chilton has said.

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Speaking with Polygon, Chilton said Blizzard Entertainment is not against the idea of morphing the subscription-based game to a free-to-play model, but continues to have issues with such a business mode switch.

"For Blizzard, it makes sense [to go free-to-play] at some point," Chilton said. "But a lot of the risk is in making that transition. You hear stories about developers going free-to-play and getting double the number of players, but you don't always know it works out that way and how long it stays that way. We really don't know what the rate is before people drop off and lose interest."

World of Warcraft is the biggest subscription-based MMO game on the market. It launched in 2004 and had 7.7 million subscribers as of June 30.

Earlier this week, Bethesda announced that its upcoming fantasy MMO game The Elder Scrolls Online will carry a $15/month subscription fee.

Elsewhere in the interview, Chilton said the casual-themed Mists of Pandaria expansion for World of Warcraft, released in September 2012, has proven "very successful" for Blizzard Entertainment. So much so that the game would have suffered if the company had not launched the expansion, Chilton said.

"We would have been in bad shape had we not done that," Chilton said.

He acknowledged that many fans saw the expansion as a departure from World of Warcraft's roots, but said it was necessary to grow and expand the game.

"People who played Vanilla always say 'if it had stayed the same, I would have the same fun now as I did then.' But that's not true. Audiences always evolve," Chilton said.

World of Warcraft's next major update, Siege of Orgrimmar, will be released on September 10.

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