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!