Quite the glorious week so far. Some new Twitter and Google followers (welcome to you all) and the blog slowly grows. This summer has been uncharacteristically hectic with my driving course and college, therefore forcing gaming far down on the priorities list. And then near the end of July, this blog will close up shop for a week as the vacation gods come and praise me again. I didn't anticipate this much chaos, and I was hoping to make good use of the summer to rapidly increase the blog's presence online. But while I am temporarily occupied in the heart of the wilderness, may I politely ask my followers to spread the word? Just a Facebook status update or re-tweeting one of my posts would be great! Thanks all.
Anywho, my beloved World of Warcraft is being scrutinized from every angle about entrapping itself in this free-to-play fad currently sweeping the MMO genre. While exceptional for recruiting new players, the bureaucracy surrounding the program is questionable. The program says any player can try the game free up until level 20, which any WoW player knows is bullhonky (great word). The first few levels of any character is a grind, a continuous grind, and doesn't give the player an adequate representation of what the game can offer except player vs. player (PvP) combat.
Where the magic happens is the endgame, raiding to vanquish foes that threaten the very existence of Azeroth, and the contagious satisfaction of finally acquiring that desired piece of gear. With friends, or even complete strangers, the excitement is palpable has the fight progresses down to the final seconds. The heart starts beating as raid member after raid member fall in the heat of battle and only a tank and healer are left. Anxious people shout passionately over Ventrilo giving advice on mechanics or additional enemies. Then boom. No hit points left. Boss falls, members rejoice, and Azeroth is saved once again.
Though, to graciously accompany new players, Blizzard increased the Recruit-a-Friend system to level 80 from 60, letting players shoot to the maximum level in a night or two at 300% experience. The developer is indeed trying to let all players see the content, but leveling quickly has its immediate drawbacks. The player, probably unfamiliar with the class, won't know the true capabilities of the class, putting him or her at a massive disadvantage come raid time. Understanding a class' role is imperative to being a successful raid contributor, and spending only a fortnight playing a character won't justify any errors. World of Warcraft is serious business.
Reportedly Blizzard has considered the option for years, even before the three months after Cataclysm saw the game lose a million accounts. Fellow bloggers have pitched the idea if this is Blizzard's push for World of Warcraft to finally go free-to-play. As the game ages, the likelihood increases, but the fanbase is still mighty strong. Being the behemoth of the genre, going free-to-play would be daring from a company very comfortable generating a billion dollars in revenue each year from one project. Making the game completely free would obviously see an uptick of curious players, so emphasizing micro-transactions is a successful business model as evidenced by Lord of the Rings Online. But with a population still willing to gorge $15 a month, Blizzard will be smiling all the way to the bank for years to come.
Then again, I could be wrong. My interpretation could be entirely backwards, and maybe Blizzard has other plans. I pitch this question to you: do you think Blizzard could possibly dive into the pool of free-ness (my word now!)? And, if you play the game, would you continue to if World of Warcraft did go free-to-play? Answer in the comments section below.
Just an update: Short update today. Episode 25, the silver anniversary show, of BelowRadar (my podcast) is up finally. We'll be doing a bonuscast of our thoughts on Portal 2 this weekend. You can listen to the latest episode here. Thanks for listening!