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WoW May go Free-To-Play; Diablo II Turns 10

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 50 comments

While Diablo II officially turns 10, Blizzard admits that World of Warcraft could possibly go free-to-play when the next MMO goes live.

One of the biggest trends we're seeing with MMOGs is that they're beginning to offer free-to-play models. Two big-name titles already come to mind: Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online, both of which were developed by Turbine and have switched (or are switching in regards to LOTRO) over to the new scheme within the last year.

Free-to-play offers a way for casual gamers--those who don't have three to four hours a pop to spend on a game per day--to enjoy the same realms and experiences as paid subscribers. Rather than forcing players to dump money into time that may never get used, the free-to-play scheme draws revenue from microtransactions and item purchases.

Apparently Blizzard has taken notice and believes that this system will eventually make its way into World of Warcraft. Why? Because eventually a game will launch and pull subscribers away from Blizzard's reigning MMORPG king. According to World of Warcraft’s lead designer Tom Chilton, MMOGs with free-to-play models weren't created to compete with World of Warcraft, but rather to compete with other MMOGs using the free-to-play model.

"I feel like they’re doing that to compete with other games that are on a similar subscriber level to what they were at," he said. "I imagine that when one of them went free to play it cannibalized some of the other subscribers. I can definitely imagine that being the case with World of Warcraft. If another game comes along and blows us away it may not make sense for us to have a subscription fee. Or even further down the line, when we have another MMO out."

He also added that Blizzard isn't spending much time considering a free-to-play model. "It’s not something that’s a reality for us in the near future," he said. But based on his comments, it sounds as if the MMORPG could incorporate free-to-play when the next MMO hits the PC.

In related news, the classic PC action/RPG game Diablo II turned 10-years-old on Tuesday, June 29. Apparently the game is still receiving updates from Bizzard and remains actively played on Battle.net to this very day.

"Diablo II did more than just expand on the core feel and mechanics of the original game," said Blizzard. "It took a traditional dungeon crawl and opened up the game world with vast exterior zones and intricate, randomly generated dungeons. Diablo II took players from desert sands to the darkest jungles on a quest that would ultimately lead them into the depths of the Burning Hells."

Makes me want to install the game and play it all over again. BRING ON DIABLO III!

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Top Comments
  • 25 Hide
    jellico , June 30, 2010 8:40 PM
    I fail to understand why a bunch of people who, by their own admission, do not like the product, feel compelled to comment upon a change in the subscription schema. That would be like me (decidedly NOT an Apple fan) commenting on a proposed change to iTunes or the app store... I'm not going to do it.

    As for the suggestion that they may go to a free-to-play model? I really don't see it in the foreseeable future. Ultima Online an Everquest were the hot games of their day; they are definitely way past their prime, and they still charge for subscriptions. WoW has far more content, and a far greater subscription base than both of those games put together in their prime. Anyway, that's my take on it.
  • 24 Hide
    grillz9909 , June 30, 2010 8:37 PM
    I still play Diablo II from time to time. It's changed quite a bit though with all of the (baal+spam)bots...Anyway happy anniversary and here's to hoping Diablo III will entertain me 10 years down the road also. Cheers.
  • 19 Hide
    tolham , June 30, 2010 8:36 PM
    CoryInJapanThen again I tried the free trials and didnt like it.So I doubt I will play it.

    same here. i did the 10 day free trial. the game was a blast on day 1. by day 3 it was repetitive and boring.
Other Comments
    Display all 50 comments.
  • 18 Hide
    dxwarlock , June 30, 2010 8:28 PM
    would still cost too much to talk me into playing.
  • 1 Hide
    CoryInJapan , June 30, 2010 8:29 PM
    Hmmm free to play...Just the reason I would see If I liked it...I never supported buying a game and then playing to play.

    which is why I never played WoW.Then again I tried the free trials and didnt like it.So I doubt I will play it.
  • 12 Hide
    beruli , June 30, 2010 8:33 PM
    Its a waste of time, money and especially its a waste of hard drive space.
  • 17 Hide
    crabsncancer , June 30, 2010 8:35 PM
    God help me, I will never play an MMO ever again.
  • 19 Hide
    tolham , June 30, 2010 8:36 PM
    CoryInJapanThen again I tried the free trials and didnt like it.So I doubt I will play it.

    same here. i did the 10 day free trial. the game was a blast on day 1. by day 3 it was repetitive and boring.
  • 24 Hide
    grillz9909 , June 30, 2010 8:37 PM
    I still play Diablo II from time to time. It's changed quite a bit though with all of the (baal+spam)bots...Anyway happy anniversary and here's to hoping Diablo III will entertain me 10 years down the road also. Cheers.
  • 25 Hide
    jellico , June 30, 2010 8:40 PM
    I fail to understand why a bunch of people who, by their own admission, do not like the product, feel compelled to comment upon a change in the subscription schema. That would be like me (decidedly NOT an Apple fan) commenting on a proposed change to iTunes or the app store... I'm not going to do it.

    As for the suggestion that they may go to a free-to-play model? I really don't see it in the foreseeable future. Ultima Online an Everquest were the hot games of their day; they are definitely way past their prime, and they still charge for subscriptions. WoW has far more content, and a far greater subscription base than both of those games put together in their prime. Anyway, that's my take on it.
  • 5 Hide
    regnineurg , June 30, 2010 8:50 PM
    Cause they need online attention?
  • -4 Hide
    joebob2000 , June 30, 2010 8:50 PM
    So instead of he who has the most free time winning, it will become he who has the most free time and/or most free cash to waste will win. Sounds like a great recipe for attracting casual gamers!
  • -4 Hide
    accolite , June 30, 2010 8:51 PM
    Just because, we can.
  • 2 Hide
    g00fysmiley , June 30, 2010 8:53 PM
    He's really just stating the obvious. eventually something may beat WoW and then this may be a way for them to up subscribers and make money through microtransactions. I do play WoW and enjoy it alot when i play (1-2ish hours a week) but he's talking many years down the rad when they actually need the user boost and when a number cruncher somewhere decides activision would make more money selling gold themselves and items than charging 15 bucks a month for subscripion per person the change will happen.

    its a buisness and they'll make money how they can but hopefully blizzard being who they are will keep bringing good content and it'll stay a fun relevant game like diablo for years to come even after its no longer the hot ticket game it is today
  • 1 Hide
    hang-the-9 , June 30, 2010 8:57 PM
    Windows 9 will be out before WoW is free. For them to want to go free, they will probably have to die down to under 500k subscribers, which will take a while, even if they introduce a new MMO. And even at 500k or even 100k subscribers all they need to do is combine the severs to maintain the same population densities for player interaction. Drop the price to 10 or even 5 a month, and you have a good income source from an old IP.
  • 1 Hide
    hellwig , June 30, 2010 8:58 PM
    joebob2000So instead of he who has the most free time winning, it will become he who has the most free time and/or most free cash to waste will win. Sounds like a great recipe for attracting casual gamers!

    Not if they do it right. I agree that you should not be able to buy game-changing items (like higher levels, better weapons, etc..), but you'd be amazed at the money people spend on things like clothing, pets, visual effects, etc...

    Maybe Blizzard should charge you to watch your female Night Elf dance, but at the same time they shouldn't let you buy a weapon or armor with better stats. Though with something like 11-million paid subscribers at its peak, I'm not really sure Blizzard wants to change their model. They'll never compete with the influx of free games from Korea anyway.
  • 5 Hide
    Gulli , June 30, 2010 9:16 PM
    They've probably made billions on WoW already so allowing people to play the 5-year old game for free wouldn't exactly be charity.
  • 4 Hide
    borisof007 , June 30, 2010 9:43 PM
    Ok so to address a few concerns:

    @Jellico: You pretty much nailed it. I don't understand how people who don't play MMO's, or MMO's with subscriptions, or people who have never even played WoW, could even comment on this article. Please don't comment if you have no basis for your opinion.

    @everyone else, during Activision-Blizzard's quaterly financials call, it was revealed that 98% of Blizzard's income is from WoW. If WoW were to move to a free to play model, a few things would have to happen first:

    1. New MMO to cater to new players and to bring WoW players over as well. Blizzard is working on a next gen MMO to do just this.

    2. WoW would then subsequently have to drop to a VERY low subscriber base, something on par with D&D online or LotR online.

    While blizzard does have about $3 billion in cash with zero debt, they still are a for-profit company and wouldn't just throw money away by making WoW a free-to-play without very good reason.
  • 0 Hide
    feeddagoat , June 30, 2010 9:47 PM
    Could see me getting into wow again if this happens. This year im lucky to get 3 hours a week gaming with studying and family issues and since 2months of wow costs the same as a new game it wasn't really worth it. At university i've went onto runescape just to kill an hour between some lectures (not enough time to get a coffee or go to the library then get back. Since its free its perfect!
  • 0 Hide
    sliem , June 30, 2010 9:50 PM
    I may play again then, 1 hour a day. It'll get boring solo but at least it's not $15/mo.
  • -1 Hide
    vinehoyle , June 30, 2010 9:55 PM
    Wow is a good game, but to be honest i worry about them now. They have repeatedly missed their ETA of Diablo 3, and yes i still play D2 now and then. Come on guys, instead of offering some new Wow game for free start making bux and get D3 out the door already!! Enough is enough waiting already!!
  • 3 Hide
    Gin Fushicho , June 30, 2010 10:21 PM
    Fear Star Wars : The old republic, Blizzard, Fear it. For it is made by the almighty BioWare. LORDS of RPG's and soon lords of MMO's!
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