Should World of Warcraft go free-to-play

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World of Warcraft

There’s only one Western subscription MMO that can stand to lose 1.3 million subs in three months and shrug it off: World of Warcraft. But shrug it off doesn’t appear to what Activision-Blizzard is doing. During the investor call that revealed the heavy sub losses, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick acknowledged the changing market and his plans to adapt with speedier content. “It’s important to note that the nature of online games has changed,” he said, “and [that] the environment [is] becoming far more competitive, especially with free-to-play games.” And Blizzard president Mike Morhaime suggested the company is “studying” the comings and goings of players and how to entice former players to return.

Well, we don’t have to look much further than Star Wars: The Old Republic’s recent rejuvenation to figure out that free-to-play is one of the better ways to entice gamers to return (and open their wallets). Surely, Blizzard has to be wondering whether F2P might be a huge boost to the game as it’s approaching its ninth birthday later this year. What do you think — will World of Warcraft eventually go free-to-play, and more importantly, should it?



It’s not a question if but when.  It will go f2p at some point and yes they should be figuring out how they’re going to do it now.  I wouldn’t rush into it as there’s no need to but what if the game continues to lose millions over the next year?  Another question to ask would be how much more could they make if they did?  It quite possibly could bring more revenue than the sub model.  Blizz folks are the only people that have the exact numbers as to how many actual subs they have vs asian fluff numbers.  Also if they really do release their next mmo f2p (or b2p w/ cash shop) as some info is pointing towards shouldn’t wow follow suit?   Somewhere down the line WoW will go f2p and honestly I’d say yeah they should as long as they do it right.  So in other words.. no it doesn’t “need” to but they should be seriously be thinking about it.


No. As long as World of Warcraft remains strong in subscriptions that means there is no new MMO idea to capture the gaming populace or to bring fresh blood into this genre. Even though a lot of game development relies on iteration, there’s been entirely too much blatant copying of the core mechanics of this one game. There are several titles that only take minor steps, but stay firmly in the rut carved by this almost decade old title.

The Free to Play hysteria has produced titles that are constantly mimicking this one MMO, some games being little more than a graphic and sound asset swap. Free to play prides itself on the fact that its players don’t pay anything to play while it developers design to waste their time and then charge them to alleviate it. You could say WoW, wastes your time too with the large amount of faction grinds and multiple loot runs that it relies on between content patches. However, WoW players can simply and loudly tell the developers to make more content by doing one thing: Simply not pay them for the next month. When players are tired with WoW they leave and then Blizzard has to get off their duffs and make new content.

F2P already has its whales propping the game up, and they’re not concerned with the leeches. Since very few of them use a flat progression system their development is geared toward grind that makes WoW look like a cake walk. Titles like League of Legends have shown there are designers that can understand that a flat progression design philosophy works better with F2P, but that is only one game and it’s not even an persistent world MMO.

In addition, it’s hard to understand what’s “free” with these Free to Play games. The design has to be skewed towards coercing you to buy things, rather than making a world you enjoy and want to see continue. The players seemingly now have too many of these titles to play, flitting from one to the next like a hummingbird, even though these F2P games require a large investment of time (even more so if you attempt to play without paying a dime.) The majority of the players aren’t buying anything so if they leave it doesn’t matter.  If they log on at least once, they can be used in metrics to say the game is healthy.  Overall it seems this F2P system is a dream come true for publishers: Being able to use players as trash, and then charging them to remove their trash status.

F2P uses their players as cannon fodder to prop up a progression system that’s not conducive to it’s payment model and it has to rely on wasting their player’s time as its cornerstone design philosophy. Players consider it a sweet deal to play without paying even though they’re playing more games less often, and don’t truly ever commit to their communities. Even if this wasn’t the case, it would make no sense for WoW to follow the model of F2P games, because those games are the ones looking to it for design decisions. It’s funny in a way, F2P will continue to fuel WoW because it only makes baby steps in its design, that Blizzard then snatches up to add onto its lumbering behemoth and further lengthen it’s life.

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