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'No plans' for World of Warcraft to go free-to-play - Blizzard

Senior producer on MMORPG says $15/month business model "works well for us," doesn't rule out free-to-play switch in future.


World of Warcraft subscriber rates are dropping, and free-to-play games are on the rise. Despite this, Blizzard Entertainment told PC Gamer it is "really happy" with the current monthly subscription model for WOW.

Blizzard says WOW's subscription model is staying put…for now.
Blizzard says WOW's subscription model is staying put…for now.

Senior game producer John Lagrave told the site at an event recently that the developer has no plans to make WOW free-to-play, noting that a subscription model is optimal.

"We're very happy with the sub model," he said. "It works well for us for various reasons. You churn through a lot of content very quickly on a paid-for game, and we think we offer great value in all the content we have for the player."

Lagrave did not rule out the possibility of WOW one day adopting a free-to-play business model. He acknowledged that there is potentially more money in that sector, but cautioned that players could get burned out.

"If we went [free-to-play], do you make a ton more money? Maybe. Do you burn out players? Probably," he said. "I'm not saying we're never going free-to-play; we do that with the trial right now. But we're really happy with the subscription model. We're doing really well."

Blizzard reached an all-time high subscriber count of 12 million in 2010 following the launch of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion in China but has shed nearly 2 million subscribers since. Activision reported last month that the subscriber base for WOW stood at 10.2 million.

At the same time WOW's subscriber base is diminishing, free-to-play gaming is surging. Team Fortress 2, EverQuest, and Aion have adopted free-to-play business models in the past year. Meanwhile, Electronic Arts' free-to-play label in January tallied 25 million users, and a new report suggested that significant 2011 PC gaming growth was a result of the free-to-play sector.

WOW shipped in 2004, but the game isn't done growing yet. The Mists of Pandaria expansion is slated to hit the game as early as this year. The add-on is set on the new continent of Pandaria and focuses on the Pandaren as well as the monk player class. The expansion pack, which does not have a release date, will also increase the player level cap to 90.

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