World Of Warcraft adopts limited free to play model

New Starter Pack means no subscription charge until level 20

Hugely popular MMO World Of Warcraft is now free to play up to level 20, with no limits on time or the number of characters that can be created.

Free to play gamers won't be able to access certain features like guilds, voice chat or to collect more than ten gold, but can access the quests available to paying subscribers. Previously the MMO only offered free ten day trials.

Blizzard also announced that players with an exsisting account will receive the Burning Crusade expansion pack for free.

Characters that reach level 20 during the free trial will stop earning experience points, and players will have to purchase the game and a paid subscription to continue working towards the top level of 85.

Subscription prices range from $14.99 (£8.99) for one month to $77.94 (£46.14) for six.

As of March the MMO had 11.4 million subscribers, and Blizzard is currently preparing to launch the Cataclysm expansion pack in China.

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Latest comments (8)

Oliver PŁtz6 years ago
85. And it has proven to be remarkably easy to gain 20 levels within less than 10 hours so WoW made their trial, if anything, more efficient in terms of " Time before purchase"

nice article though, big fan
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Thomas Bidaux CEO, ICO Partners6 years ago
I think that naming this scheme Free To Play is very inaccurate.
Demos of games with this kind of unlimited time formula have been around for ages - what makes it free-to-play or pay-to-play is the requirement to pay for the game "boxes" in order to have access to the full version. And that's still the case with WOW.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game6 years ago
It's a good move, it is probably right that you coul easily get to level 20 in the existing trial, but that assumes that you are going to put the time in, I found when I played the trial that I didn't put that many hours in, and I failed to engage enough to decide to make a purchase and commit to a few months subscription, however had I had a bit longer, that may have changed. It means that someone could start playing 2 hours a week until they get more hooked. It also means that even at level 20 they can either keep exploring with no xp gain or try out another character. Certainly I think I may give it another go.
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Show all comments (8)
Peter Law Freelance Game Designer and Unity Developer, Enigma 236 years ago
Blizzard themselves, don't call it Free 2 Play on the site, they call it 'FREE Starter Edition'.
[link url=

All that has happened here (by the looks of it), is they've removed the 10 day limitation from the trial.
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Edward Buffery Head of LQA (UK), Testronic6 years ago
I think this is a great move. Regardless of how quickly someone who knows what they're doing can get to level 20, I know plenty of people who've never played an MMO who'd barely see anything in the odd hour here or there until a time limited trial is up. This also means someone could take the time to explore pretty much anywhere with a little help from a friend, and have time to play both factions and lots of different classes and races if they want to.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Edward Buffery on 29th June 2011 5:12pm

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Kristoffer Sandberg Studying Computer Games Development, Stockholm University6 years ago
It's a bit strange to have an MMO trial without access to a guild. IMO guilds are one of the core features of any MMO, and they won't let people who want to try the game have access to that?
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Peter Law Freelance Game Designer and Unity Developer, Enigma 236 years ago

That is why you have to pay for it.
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Sean Warren Inspector 6 years ago
@ Peter Law
Thanks for the clarification Mr. Law, I was about mentally whack Blizzard with the carrot stick for jumping on a marketing bandwagon and applying the much abused "f2p" terminology loosely to their trial component of the game...

One thing I am curious about is if they allow the trial accounts to participate in the economy, with their 10 gold cap to currency accumulation. I will illustrate below how a single player with unlimited access to free accounts can gain access to a nearly unlimited hoard(Please pardon the double entendre). While I am not so sure and would like to doubt implementation of such nonsense, it would be a pretty huge economic loophole if players can trade with trial status... particularly when just after the main part of this article, we have mention of the release of Cata to the Chinese market.

Now on to the illustration I promised:
It may just be time to make a couple happy-fun-time accounts, just to play a little WoW again, Baldurs gate style!

I had multi-boxed a bit when Burning Crusade released and it was quite fun to play the game in a way that took it to the level of a party-builder RPG.(Back then I had a dell 30", a projector, and a little bit of money left over for poptarts. ;P)

Because I wasn't born with 10 hands(like some people),and because I find it a bit fiscally irresponsible to purchase 5 computers, 5 displays, 5 mice and, 5 KB's to do the same thing, I use a program called Keyclone coupled with voice recognition SW to broadcast commands to multiple instances of multiple programs running on my Computer. I "see it all in my head" much clearer and act upon circumstances verbally a lot more effective than most default GUI's / HID's combo's allow.

That said, If I was the type of person that was motivated to exploit a system rather than appreciate it from a gaming standpoint, and had no hang-ups with the ethical issues involved, I could accumulate unreasonable amounts of in-game resources without so much as a dime paid into said system.

If anyone can access the Auction house with those sub-21 lvl trial characters, then anyone can effectively infiltrate the new player market by purchasing everything with trial accounts and market flood/currency dump, and that's not to say anything about botting. Main difference: this method is be EULA legal and requires active input from a user at the helm.

I'm mentioning this because It could potentially be a consideration for other games, and because I think this could have fun with the ethical application of such thing, had they not heard of/considered the option.
It was an interesting revitalization of the genre for me when I multiboxed, that is for sure.

Lastly, I still find that "11 million subscribers" claim highly suspect. I know it is based upon internal reporting, not outside verifiable resources. I have seen a lot of differing claims in relation to their unique users, and have read several critical reports on the subject and the factors that must be considered. Using Alexis and The Internet Archive as research resources, the numbers that Blizzard reports don't quite add up to their reported Unique User and Sub claims IMHO.
But then I have not had a team of researchers devoted to testing the true validity of their claims.


Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sean Warren on 17th July 2011 7:27am

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