Today MMOcrunch published an article on the indefinite trial (Free to play) model that World of Warcraft unveiled with the release of patch 4.2 . This being said I would like to share a bit of a conversation I had a month or so ago (maybe two) about the current state and business model of Blizzard Entertainment. The conversation was started by Chris over at Game by night and a few comments were made as weather or not the free to play model was on the horizon. Keep in mind that this has been lingering in my head for about a year or two since the development of the Blizzard store. Here area a few key quotes from the conversation and if you would like to read the entire article and conversation please feel free.
So WoW will slowly open up more and more “premium” services, and smartphone apps, and cash shop pandas, until it eventually becomes free-to-play and once again kicks everyone’s ass because yet another huge barrier has been removed from the player’s way.
And spot on about RealID! Instead of WoW subscribers, they have RealID subscribers. Because of this, when Titan rolls along it will be significantly easier for them to shuffle everyone over to their shiny new product.
I have been talking about this for years, and for someone else to say it is just music to my ears. Project Titan has taken the lead, World of Warcraft isn’t completely ousted but alienating the normal pay to play crowd is a well laid plan to turn World of Warcraft to a F2P model. Lets face it with RealID’s ability to connect Blizzard players, WoW going F2P would be an amazing jump for Blizzard to not only advertise their own products VIA RealID friends (Achievement linking etc.) but it will also keep making money from all of those that either never played WoW or those who can’t seem to leave it. Either way they make money while selling a product they don’t even have to sell. World of Warcraft will take a top position in MMO’s the moment it steps down from its current top position into the F2P world. This being said the game will likely see at least a few more years (after the pay to play model has been dropped) with possibly a few new expansions, that will undoubtedly be test beds for prospect employee’s and or a small game development company that they (Blizzard) already have complete control over. This leads to more people with the experience to “bring it” in the MMO development industry. Ultimately they take another top position as the most powerful and influential MMO development co. Blizzard is surely becoming the “Microsoft of the MMO industry” hands down.
The only argument I have to Mike over at MMOcrunch, is with this statement:
Yesterday Blizzard announced an update to its free trial period, changing from a 14 day free trial to unlimited up to level 20. Is this a sign of weakness coming from the king of MMORPGs? In shorty, yes, World of Warcraft is heading into its seven year and it’s safe to say has passed its prime.
I myself do not agree Mike, the fact that Blizzard has stayed with the pay to play model past its prime is equally the reason it won’t be past it’s prime. For Blizzard to wait this long and then slowly release World of Warcraft to the free to play market is not only genius but necessary to create a good working free to play game. Revenue drove up by subscribers will only advance the cause and allow Blizzard the cushion to keep the free to play model a non “pay to win” set up. With this said, and what I said in the above stating :
World of Warcraft will take a top position in MMO’s the moment it steps down from its current top position into the F2P world.
I think this position supports the idea that World of Warcraft may be at the end of it prime in the pay to play market but has a LOT of steam heading into the free to play market.