Home ? News
World of warcraft Isn't Going Free-to-Play, Stop Asking
Well folks, it’s finally here. Guild Wars 2. Just saying it (or typing it) makes the mouth water. And with ArenaNet’s hotly anticipated, free-to-play MMO hitting shelves within the next few days, it’s worth taking a look at the current king of the mountain, World of warcraft. After all, Guild Wars 2 certainly aims to take a few dollars out of Blizzard’s coffers; or at least a few players from its deep roster.
I’ve written before that there is no one “WoW-killer. ” If you didn’t read the post, the basic gist is that while no single game can destroy World of warcraft or knock it away from its perch, the combined efforts of dozens of high quality games may be just enough to take it down. Think of it as the MMO industry’s current raid boss. As more games come out and more gamers migrate from here to there, it’s inevitable that Wow will inevitably become a game of the past.
But not today.
World of warcraft, by most accounts, is still going strong. While the game dropped two million subscribers in just a few short months, it’s still sitting pretty with around nine million active subs. It’s not the most popular MMO in the world (that tile belongs to MapleStory, I believe), but it is the most popular game that requires a subscription. Plenty of players, old and new alike, are still lining up to hand Blizzard their money. There’s no indication this will change with the launch of Guild Wars 2, or with any other high-profile title.
So why would Blizzard feel the need to change its subscription mechanics? After all, where exactly is the “pain point” for Blizzard when it comes to subscriptions? BioWare only started considering free-to-play for Star Wars: The Old Republic when the game dipped to around a million subscribers. Games with hopes even lower launch as free-to-play, or are getting slammed by low sub numbers (see: The secret World). Based on the game’s long-term trends and its upcoming Mists of Pandaria expansion, it’s hard to imagine World of warcraft sinking to similar lows in the immediate future.
Blizzard, in general, isn’t a fan of the free-to-play model. And why should they be? If you had nine million people giving you $15 every month like clockwork, you’d look for a way to keep them around as well. Even WoW’s purported “free-to-play” content isn’t actually free-to-play: The World of warcraft Starter Edition allows for you and your buddies to jump into the game, create characters and level up to 20, but it is and always has been a trial.
The Starter Edition is designed to show you the game, hook you in and get your credit card number. No more, and no less. And as long as players continue to take the bait, don’t look for Blizzard to roll out some sort of alternate subscription format.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s producer John Lagrave, responding to a question from CVG about Wow expanding its trial content:
You know, we looked at it lots, we looked at whether Level 20 would give you a good sense of what our game is, and we think it does. We've definitely slid some of the pay-for features into the first 20 Levels. But there's also a lot of things in the game that are special that we want to reserve for our paying customers. ”
The bottom line is that if there’s one game that can absorb a 2-4 million subscription hit, it’s World of warcraft. And Blizzard just isn’t going to give up subs until they have no other options remaining.
But hey, maybe this time it will be different.