Blizzard Still Says no Free-to-Play for World of Warcraft

Even though Blizzard's popular MMORPG World of Warcraft is still bleeding subscribers, the company has no plans to introduce a free-to-play model to bring in new players. The news arrives after the company reported that the number of subscribers dropped 100,000 in 3Q 2013 to 7.6 million. That's good news despite the loss, as the MMORPG shed a whopping 1.3 million subscribers in the first quarter, followed by 600,000 subscribers in the second quarter.

"We've always approached the business model out of what's appropriate for each individual game. In World of Warcraft, the first 20 levels are free, anyone can download it...without paying a subscription," explained Blizzard president and CEO Mike Morhaime at BlizzCon 2013. He also added that the MMORPG was not designed as a free-to-play game, that he didn't see that kind of transition happening.

SuperData Research believes that eventually the game will need a free-to-play model that depends on an in-game store. Games with micro-transactions have long been trumping subscription ones in total revenues in the US, the firm's report said, but the decision to switch to a hybrid or F2P model was one that didn't make sense for all games, especially World of Warcraft in its current state.

"With a dedicated player base and relatively stable Monthly Active Users (MAUs), WoW would need a convergence of factors to make the switch beneficial. It looks like those factors are starting to stack up, but haven't hit critical mass," the report said.

Once an MMORPG switches over to a free-to-play model, there's an influx of new players and a spike in revenues. This can be sustained if the developer/publisher has the proper setup to keep players engaged with the game enough to willingly play money. But World of Warcraft can't suddenly switch over to a sole F2P model; it would be too much of a jolt, the firm said, and doesn't make sense with the current metrics.

"We didn't make the game to be free-to-play," production director J. Allen Brack told Eurogamer. "We would have to rework the game pretty significantly in order to make it free-to-play. It's not something we're currently considering."

Brak, along with Blizzard, is hoping that the recently announced expansion pack, Warlords of Draenor, will bring in new and previous players who jumped ship. Morhaime pointed out that player response to content thus far has been good, and that an increased engagement has helped taper off the subscription bleeding as seen with the Q3 2013 numbers.

"We'll continue to invest heavily in World of Warcraft to deliver frequent, high-quality content to our players," he said. "But in terms of the content and developing, we have more resources focused on developing content for World of Warcraft than ever before. So we expect to continue having a long and happy life."

I so need to start playing again.

  • MasterMace
    We'll just wait for them to bleed another 5 million subscribers.
  • PepitoTV
    Then they'll just cancel it, currently they have no reason to change it, true enough they're losing public but I bet it's still a huge profit to have 7.6 million subscribers...
  • Grandmastersexsay
    The free to play, aka pay to win model sucks.

    Even with their current numbers, WOW still has the largest player base in history, and the game has been out for over 10 years. They obviously don't need to go to a pay to win model. If anything, WOW has changed too much.
  • heero yuy
    ^ not all free to play games are pay to win... look at games like tf2 where people buy hats for their collection and some will pay stupid amounts for a hat
    do you need a hat? no

    at the moment tera online (eu) has xp boosts (I have no issue with them and tbh they are useless now that the levelling process has been sped up a little since launch (less xp I needed per level and some quests have been removed/changed) the gold boosts are too short/not much of a boost to affect much unless you plan to spend an hour of solid grinding)
    the rest is all cosmetics, keys for lockboxes, mounts (not as fast as the fastest mount you can get in game they just look nice) (all of which you can buy from other players in game) and things like personal shop keepers/bankers you can summon and an atlas that lets you teleport to villages

    basically apart from the gold boosts (30% for one hour I think is the highest) and some might say the mounts there is no pay to win)

    ooh yeah forgot about the extra character and bank slots for non veteran players (but you can easily have multiple accounts - account bound items don't really exist outside of that atlas I mentioned)
  • bin1127
    You don't need to draw in new players. It's an old game so you just let the rest play until they're bored and move on.
  • pills161
    People have been dropping from WoW but honestly they have been very successful over the years so I'm not surprised they aren't considering F2P. I played this game religiously for a good 4 years after it came out, with a few long breaks and restarts there after, gawd I'm so thankful I finally gave it up for good. It was fun in the early days, the quests, adventure, exploring, race to 60 etc... It's just turned into a rehashed unevolved hunk of ppoh, it's the same quests, the same dungeons over and over again and have made the game too easy.
  • ikaz
    They won't even think about it till the sub probably drop to 1million or less at that point they will have there new MMO out anways so I could see them saying sub to our new MMO and get WoW sub for free (still would probably have for the last expansion). However I bet there new system has F2p build into the code so they can just turn it on if they need too with out total rework.
  • ioconnor
    The only way I'd ever consider playing that game is if they would make a programmable interface for it. Then I'd probably get carried away and buy like 10 subscriptions so I could have my gang of droids own the game.
  • ioconnor
    And the interface would have to be in C/C++ and PHP.
  • bigshootr8
    I've always thought that perhaps over time what they could do was increase the levels for a free player. For example 1-2 expansions old could be a benchmark so right now if someone had up to cata they would be able to play cata and not face a sub fee but when they paid for mop they would.