World of Warcraft charging for remote auction house service

Blizzard to levy extra $3 subscription fee for buying and selling items through Web browser or Mobile Armory iPhone app.

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Blizzard Entertainment already charges over 11 million World of Warcraft players up to $15 a month for access to the world of Azeroth. Now the company hopes those subscribers will be willing to tack on a few extra dollars each month for access to new WOW-related features.

"I have one copper piece from the terrifying gentleman with the glowing eyes. Do I hear two copper pieces? No? Going once, going twice…

The company has announced a beta testing period for World of Warcraft Remote, a $3 monthly subscription service that will allow players to manage their in-game auction house activities from a Web browser or through the World of Warcraft Mobile Armory app for the iPhone and iPod Touch (Blizzard is considering adding support for other mobile devices). During the beta, players will be able to test out all the features of World of Warcraft Remote for free.

Once the service goes live, World of Warcraft players will still be able to use some features without paying for the additional subscription. Browsing auctions, receiving notifications when auctions close or players are outbid, and viewing various character information and status updates will all remain free.

However, bidding and buying out auctions, placing items up for sale, collecting gold, relisting items, or cancelling actions will all be limited to those players who sign up for the additional subscription fee. A list of the in-game realms currently running the World of Warcraft Remote beta test is available on Blizzard's official World of Warcraft forums.

The auction app is just the latest source of revenue for Blizzard, which analysts are expecting to have a very successful year. Pacific Crest Securities' Evan Wilson is predicting that the real-time strategy game Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty will sell more than 6 million copies after it launches July 27. Wedbush's Michael Pachter believes that, combined with the launch of the latest WOW expansion, Cataclysm, Blizzard could see game sales of 12 million units this year.

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