World of Warcraft Could Go Free-To-Play, says Lead Designer Tom Chilton

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Published by 12 years ago , last updated 3 years ago

Posted on June 30, 2010, Ron Whitaker World of Warcraft Could Go Free-To-Play, says Lead Designer Tom Chilton

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Some things simply don’t change. You’ll have to pay taxes in April, it will rain in the spring, and Square Enix will make more Final Fantasy games. Until today, I would have said Blizzard will collect subscription fees in that list as well.

I can’t do that now, since World of Warcraft Lead Designer Tom Chilton spoke with PC Gamer and expressed his opinion that WoW might not always have a subscription fee. Chilton said,

“At some point, it may not make sense for us to have a subscription fee.”

Now, there’s been a fair amount of news of news about Lord of the Rings Online going free-to-play, but I feel certain that no one really contemplated that WoW might follow the same model.

So, why would Blizzard make that change?

Simply put, there will someday come a point where World of Warcraft goes into decline. As subscriber numbers decline, companies begin to think about ways to revitalize their communities (and their bottom line). Free-to-play MMOs have one thing in common: they all offer microtransactions that allow players to purchase things for their characters for relatively small amounts of money. These purchases can often exceed what a player may have paid in subscription fees.

But this is WoW, right? Blizzard would never do this, right? It’s not as far fetched as you might think. After all, Blizzard is already implementing microtransactions into WoW, selling things like mounts and pets. Korean WoW players don’t purchase the game at all, they just download it and pay the subscription fee. Heck, there are still rumors of Blizzard working on another MMO, and that would seem to be the point where this sort of change might just become feasible.

Turbine’s success with Dungeons and Dragons Online, and their soon-to-be-released free-to-play update for LotRO, make a compelling case for traditional MMOs to consider free-to-play, although WoW certainly has several more subscribers than either of Turbine’s products.

I wouldn’t plan on getting into Azeroth without a monthly fee anytime soon, as Chilton went on to say, “We’re not spending a lot of time thinking about it. It’s not something that’s a reality for us in the near future.” Still, it’s insights like these that point out a reason Blizzard has the largest MMORPG in history: They’re always trying to make sure that the next big thing is their big thing.

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