World of Warcraft goes Free2Play with patch 5.4
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 July 2013, 5:31 am
Or not. Or partially. Or something.

Well, the *actual* news is that WoW Insider datamined the 5.4 patch from the public test realm and found an Enduring Elixir of Wisdom giving +100% xp from killing monsters and doing quests and is being sold in the "5.4 In-Game Store".

Now datamining PTR patches is fraught with danger, as many things that have been reported from there never went live. I sometimes suspect Blizzard is putting stuff deliberately into those patches just to judge reactions to the "discovery". And even if Blizzard decides to sell xp buff potions for real money, it doesn't follow that they are going to drop the subscription business model. At least not necessarily this year. I am pretty sure that at some point in future World of Warcraft will really go Free2Play, and there will be howling and gnashing of teeth in the industry. Fact is that there are more people playing World of Warcraft today for $15 a month than many Free2Play MMORPGs have active players. It is easy to see how WoW could get 20 million or more players by dropping the subscription fee, and in the process getting various other games into trouble. If you can only survive by underbidding the market leader, you'll find that underbidding free is difficult.

But regardless of when and how World of Warcraft actually goes Free2Play, Blizzard will need to come up with some better ideas for their "In-Game Store" than selling xp buffs. In many other games, especially Asian grinders, xp buffs sell because advancing without them is slow and annoying. The famous "time-poor, money-rich" players buy xp buffs to compensate for their lack of time. But as it is, xp gain in World of Warcraft is already too fast for the casual player. Blizzards policy of trying to keep time to level cap constant even when levels were added to the game led to people being already annoyed that they outlevel a zone before they even finished the quests in that zone's major quest hub. A double xp potion would only make sense if at the same time the regular xp gain speed would be cut in half, or even reduced by more. Which, in my opinion, would actually make World of Warcraft a better game.
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