World of Warcraft goes free to play (until Level 20)

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World of WarcraftThe question is: Will you be able to stop after that? The only hardcore MMO (massively multi-player online game) to rival the numbers--but not the value--of Zynga's top social games, World of Warcraft (WoW), has gone free-to-play. Well, until you reach Level 20. Then, creator Blizzard will force you to cough up $15, if you want to keep exploring Azeroth.

Kotaku reports that Blizzard has made the game free for its first 20 levels as part of its Rage of the Firelands, or Patch 4.2, major content update. The billionaire company is calling this new feature World of Warcraft Starter Edition, which replaces the old seven-day and 14-day long free trials that players used before to rope their friends into the high-fantasy equivalent of crack cocaine. (Seriously, I've been on and off the stuff for six years ... WoW, I mean.)

Clearly the new feature is in response to free-to-play offerings from, oh, I don't know, every MMO and Facebook game to launch in the past year or two? The game recently dipped under its peak of 12 million players to 11.4 million in May, so this move could also be in hopes of restoring that magic number that Blizzard liked to tout so much. Hey, we would tout until the cows came home if we had a videogame with 12 million players, too.

Rage of the Firelands
WoW is also designed to run on computers with low-grade or entry-level hardware, something that Facebook games have become a master of. Besides, Blizzard's Mark Morehaime and Frank Pearce don't exactly hate FarmVille. So, perhaps Blizzard is trying to sap a bit of that attractive energy from Facebook games like Empires & Allies that we know commonly as "free." And what's better than free?

[Image Credit: Blizzard]

Do you think Blizzard has made a portion of its number one game free to keep up with the growing trend of "games as services?" Do you think Blizzard will continue down this route in future projects? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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