Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Friday, July 1, 2011

WoW Goes Free-To-Play... Sort Of

Blizzard has changed the way it offers World of Warcraft to noobs... Instead of a 14-day free trial, you can now play free up to 20th Level. Now, while I happen to like the significance of the 20th Level mark (no, they didn't pick that because of me, I'm pretty sure), there are some problems with the way Blizzard has implemented this. Trade skills are capped at 100, you're limited to 10 gold, you can't do any trading in the Auction House or elsewhere, and you can't join Guilds, use voice chat, invite players to a party, or join a party with characters over Level 20.

Besides which, if you're playing much at all you can hit 20th Level within the former 14-day trial period. So I see this as a step backwards... Yes, it's free to play, but the game experience is seriously nerfed (as my son would no doubt say). Is this really going to persuade new players to stick around? Perhaps this is a response to the loss of 600K players, but I don't think it's going to work they way they hope. I think they need to offer free-to-play with fewer restrictions. I can see the level cap, and keeping people from trading items, but not allowing them to get into a party or join a guild seems to leave out some of the key aspects of WoW.

Blizzard will need to see if this brings in new players as well as the 14-day free trial offer did; I have no doubt that if this doesn't work as well they will make some changes. Eventually, I think they will end up as free-to-play as their basic business model, but they will have to make many changes to get there. Keeping their player base happy while undergoing fundamental game design changes is going to be a tricky balancing act. If they don't attempt it, though, they may have to reconcile themselves to a player base that's not growing, but at best holding steady. Which is no doubt why they are looking at introducing a new MMORPG...

1 comment:

  1. World of Warcraft needs a good competitor out, like SWTOR or GW2 to compete with them. Blizzard could pick up their act and retain dominance of the MMORPG market, but they screwed the game in Cata.

    They just have more resources as a company, plus the fact their game has 6 years on any new MMO