The king of of pay-to-play massively multiplayer online RPGs is becoming a free-to-play game, kind of. Leaving behind the 14-day free trial promotion it has used to attract new users since its launch in 2004, Activision Blizzard is now allowing gamers play World of Warcraft until they reach level 20.
World of Warcraft has always had a 14-day free trial for new users, but Activision Blizzard has, after seven years on the market, lifted the time restriction on free trials. The World of Warcraft Starter Edition is now free-to-play until you reach level 20, however long that takes (usually not long). If you’d like to continue beyond level 20, however, you’ll have to buy the game ($19.99) and its expansions (there are three) and begin paying the $14.99 per month subscription price. WoW currently caps player levels at 85 for those with the Cataclysm expansion pack. There will still be some restrictions on trial players, much like before.
Though the World of Warcraft is undoubtedly the most popular pay-to-play game on the market, reaching 12 million subscribers in late 2010 and selling 3.3 million copies of its Cataclysm expansion on day one, the road ahead is not all shiny. Blizzard actually lost some WoW subscribers (about 600,000) after the release of Cataclysm last fall. President Michael Morhaime blamed this loss on experienced players burning through the new content at a record speed. In response, the team is now planning more frequent content updates.
This move also has us wondering if the rise in popularity of free-to-play games be impacting WoW subscriptions?