What Happens if WoW Goes F2P?

What happens if WoW goes F2P?
Cute pets and cool looking mounts won’t be the only thing you see here.

Wow isn’t going F2P, but if Blizzard decides to be un-Blizzard-like then you can expect a few changes. WoW would still be the exact same game, only way, way more annoying to get into and far less accessible.

Subscriptions Would Stay

Yep, that’s right. The subscription wouldn’t go anywhere. Players would still be given the option to pay the same they always have and have the exact same experience they have always had in-game. This subscription would be Blizzard’s VIP pass and players would use this to gain access to locked parts of the game. Oh yes, there will be locked parts.

Gated Content Behind Paywalls 

Of course Blizzard would make their raids restricted to paying players. Want to raid? You’ll need to be a VIP. Even the newbie raid finder or whatever the heck they’re calling it these days would require you pay the subscription. Dungeons would be restricted. They’d limit the number of dungeons you can run in a week or cycle in “Dungeons of the Week” that are free for players. Want access to them all? Pay to unlock or become a VIP.

No Epics for Free People

Epic gear or maybe raid level gear (they would probably add a new color to signify “paid gear) would undoubtedly be restricted in some fashion, probably for VIPs or some cash shop validation only. You’re welcome to wear the blues you find in the Dungeons of the Week, though!

Tokens Would Remain 

Tokens would represent a month of VIP and exist entirely in the same way they do today. To address a comment in yesterday’s post, using a token doesn’t mean you are playing for free. Well, okay, YOU are playing for “Free” but your token represents someone spending money. Someone just paid for you, and you worked out an in-game method of compensating them for sponsoring your subscription. Consider the tokens in my “F2P scenario” to be a “pass” for the month to participate. When it wears off your carriage is turning back into a pumpkin.

Cash Shop Ramped Up

Blizzard has had a cash shop for years and years. They’ve always done a nice job with it. If WoW goes F2P, you better believe the in-game advertisements would begin for you to use the shop to buy everything. It would become a button on the UI like never before, and players will be solicited to buy a whole lot more — likely less aesthetic than we’ve seen Blizzard keep it. I’m not sure if they’d go pay to win here, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Sound like fun? Of course not. The average player would end up spending just as much or more than they would if the game stayed subscription. I realize that’s not helping my case being made against why they would go this route, but there’s an element of intelligence at Blizzard where they know they still have to provide a fun game in order to achieve long-term success.

Tiered Subscriptions

I think Blizzard stands a MUCH better chance of actually introducing different pricing tiers than they do going F2P.

Raiding Tier - $14.99 a month. Same as we have now. You get access to everything. Special bonuses thrown in like unique mounts and cosmetic stuff to show you’re an awesome dude for paying more.

Casual Tier – $7.99 a month. Everything except no raids.

Tiered payment models would attract A LOT more people back to the game who have no intention of raiding. You’re paying half what you would normally pay and no longer feel like you’re paying for content you stand no chance of ever experiencing. It’s equitable. It’s enticing. It would skyrocket their subscription numbers.

  • While I do not agree with your last post where you say that going F2P would automatically be an admission of defeat, doing anything that smacks of “been there, done that” will certainly be seen as such. We’ve seen enough cash shop funded games with a subscription to remove annoyances. They might as well kick off with lockboxes, since that is where things will end up.

    Blizzard needs to radically reinvent F2P in their own image to succeed here, if that is where they are going, and I don’t think tiered pricing would be enough.

  • I don’t see F2P as a model worth reinventing. I think paying to play and subscriptions are where we can innovate. Everyone pays, everyone experiences a game not based on whether you pay or not, but HOW you pay to gain access to the game YOU want. There’s a fine line of semantics, but implementation is key. That’s my prediction for the future.

  • I don’t think it will ever work for an MMORPG. It works wonderfully for PoE, LoL, and Dota. Dota at least has the advantage of being very popular in eSports.

  • “Sound like fun?”

    Depends on your playstyle, doesn’t it? For me the scenario you imagine would be a huge improvement. It would basically be the same “Free to Level 20” I already use and enjoy only with some of the restrictions removed and no level cap.

    As a player who plays a lot of hours, enjoys leveling more than any other aspect of MMOs and who has no interest whatsoever in raiding or having gear any better than I need to do the content that interests me, it would be great! I’m also fine with cash shops. I’ve always been a keen window-shopper and I enjoy it as much in an MMO as on the high street.

    Thing is, though, I also have no problems with paying a sub. I don’t sub to WoW because over the years there have been rather a lot of MMOs I’d rather play and there isn’t enough time to play more than a handful of them. If WoW went F2P it would be excellent news for me in that I could put it in my list of MMOs I can drop in on when I’m in the mood but chances are I still wouldn’t play it very often.

  • “If WoW went F2P it would be excellent news for me in that I could put it in my list of MMOs I can drop in on when I’m in the mood but chances are I still wouldn’t play it very often.”

    I think this is an important point to consider in sub based games. One eventually reaches a decision point where they balance the relative drop off in their gaming hours and/or overall enjoyment versus the projected cost of maintaining the sub for months into the future, with the realization that they are just putting off the inevitable break up.

    With a F2P game the chances of drawing someone back is greater, as technically they have never cut the cord, and likely enticed with a relatively smaller carrot, because why not, it’s free to try again.

    The F2P lure is a commonly used marketing strategy in sub games, i.e. the welcome back, free week offer, which in a F2P exists as continual enticement, as opposed to a limited time offer.

    It is a compromise position, where player numbers can be stabilized to keep a game afloat. An odd analogy just popped into my head from one of the older CIV IV or earlier government choices; while a Democracy could generate more revenue if everyone was happy, Communism would ensure a dependable productive society without the big swings in bearish or bullish profitability.

  • Agreed… somewhat. I really only cancelled my sub to FFXIV because I could no longer justify the sub with how rarely I was able to play. (Stupid RL) If FFXIV or even WoW went F2P and the cash shop system was remotely fair I would probably log in every now and again.

    The problem with F2P currently is devs think they need to have draconian punishments on those free players to convert them into subs. I have no problem supporting F2P games. I just spent $15 on PoE points recently to thank them for their new expansion. I got a guild tab and weapon glow in return. It’s when I have to pay to free myself from crazy punishments that I abandon that game.

  • I still don’t understand why we haven’t seen tiered subsciptions on a bigger scale in online gaming. That’s such a basic economic strategy! Different types of price discrimination can be found every day in our lives, why not in online gaming ? It feels like every publisher is way too afraid of being marked as ‘cheap product’ if they do not use the traditional monthly 15$.

  • Which is completely ironic because major publishers will make their games free. ::eye roll:: oh this fun, fun industry.

  • I miss the days when this blog was about two brothers sharing their excitement over new and coming MMOs.
    Lately it’s become a place of negativity and get of my lawn posts. It’s your blog do I’m not here to tell you what you should post, but this was not the reason I started reading your blog and lately I’ve been wondering why I keep reading it. :/

  • @ Proximo

    Did you miss the game reviews and the posts about how fun the EQ/EQ2 progression servers have been?

  • @Proximo: I think you probably stopped reading some time ago. I post regularly about games I am enjoying. What’s wrong with posts detailing why WoW won’t go F2P, and what would happen if it did? These posts are in keeping with the exact same content direction we have had here since 2007. I have never once stopped commenting on impactful industry news or events. Infusing my opinion into them is my way. I post too much about loving games and I’m a hype machine. I post too much about critical elements in design and I’m a hater. I try to balance both sides and I’m nitpicked by both sides. ::shrug::

    @Balthazar: Hey at least I know we have one reader!

  • @Proximo:

    What do you consider to be high quality MMO’s released in the last 3 years, ones that have caught your interest for longer than 3 months?

    I haven’t found any that interest me so I suppose my attitude is also decidedly negative.

  • @Balthazar: I specifically said MMO because I don’t care a second for the other games they write about, they are just not my type of games. I missed the EQ articles yes, but that’s just one MMO I’m not interested in. There’s a ton of other games out there with new ones being released every so often. I’d much rather read about his ventures into games I’ve never heard about and his analysis of said games than some new rant on how games where better back in the old days.

    @Keen: I stopped commenting a while ago, but I still read, your blog is the first thing I see every time I open Feedly.
    There’s nothing wrong about your posts, it’s just that I miss reading about your adventures into different MMOs. I particularly miss the pre launch hype posts, but I understand how you most likely got burnt one time too many on that. It’s a very selfish reason for me to complain, but I really do miss those posts where you’d go open minded into a new game looking for some fun rather than looking for it’s flaws.

    @Gankatron: I don’t keep count on what games release and when, but there’s nothing wrong about revisiting older games either. I personally really enjoy TSW these days when I find the time to play a MMO. That said MMOs lasts long for me because I play them rather infrequently, most of my gaming time these days gets spent in racing simulators. I wish I could play MMOs more though, it’s just hard to keep up with friends changing games before I get to level cap because I play so little.

  • @Proximo: Those pre-launch hype posts would exist if there was a game coming out soon that looked good — at all. Let’s take inventory of 2014 and 2015:



    Please, if you have see ANY MMO’s that have come out or are coming out any time soon worth hyping please let me know. I’m desperate for one. Complete beside myself desperate.

    I’ve been living off crumbs here picking the meat off the bones in these progression servers and emulators.

  • I have no idea about the release perspective on these game but I’d love to read more posts about Camelot, Crowfall and Pantheon.

  • What if he has no interest in those games? Personally, I can’t say I have any real interest in them. Pantheon looks like a complete Braidwreck. Crowfall is in its infancy and nowhere near the point where a sensible man will become emotionally vested. Camelot? Yeah okay, that one might be worth looking into.