World of Warcraft developer to continue experimenting with monetisation models

New Blizzard game ‘to be free-to-play’

Blizzard Entertainment is the next major games studio to embrace free-to-play and will apply the model in an upcoming, as yet unannounced game, Develop understands.

Following some eight years of success with its trailblazing MMO World of Warcraft, it is said that the California studio will expand business opportunities and create both subscription and freemium titles.

A Develop source connected to the matter did not provide further details on Blizzard’s free-to-play game project. The studio is widely known to be working on the so-called ‘Project Titan’, and is finalising the Diablo 3 for launch, though it has capacity for multiple projects.

A Blizzard spokesperson has declined to comment.

The move could be seen as a distinct change of strategy for Blizzard, given Warcraft’s millions of paying users. However, despite a dramatic loss in WoW subscribers over the past year, Blizzard has stabilised its user numbers with aggressive marketing operations and – crucially – free-to-play deals.

New customers can play World of Warcraft for free up until they reach level 20 within the game – a feat that usually requires about ten hours of gameplay.

Blizzard COO Paul Sams previously referenced the possibility of the developer adopting the free-to-play model at BlizzCon 2011 back in October, but said it was not currently on the cards.

“It certainly is possible, if we find ourselves in that circumstance, or if we come up with a game where we think that’s the right business model, the most appropriate for players to experience it,” Sams said.

“We don’t have any opposition to the concept, it’s just that at this point we haven’t decided to make a game where that is the model. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t.”

The wider western games sector is undergoing a tectonic shift away from traditional to new pricing models. The likes of other major triple-A developers such as Sony Online Entertainment and Valve have embraced free-to-play with titles such as DC Universe Online and Team Fortress 2.

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