Yesterday, Blizzard announced that the base game and all expansions for World of Warcraft are free. In order to play World of Warcraft and any of the six expansions, players just need a subscription. Players have total access to all of the game’s content with a subscription. This does not include the seventh expansion, which will be the only content new players need to buy. The seventh expansion, World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, is available 14 August 2018. Blizzard have stated the digital deluxe items from each expansion will be available at the Blizzard shop individually.
Blizzard have also made changed to the refer-a-friend system as follows:
“If your friend pays for two months of game time, you’ll get a month of game time FREE!
If your friend pays for three months of game time, you’ll receive a choice of EPIC in-game mounts or special pets.”
A reset on the ‘base’ game
These new changes, implemented more than a decade after the first expansion The Burning Crusade went live in 2007, will effectively reset what is the base version of World of Warcraft. While the MMO juggernaut isn’t as popular as it once was, it still is wildly popular, with 5 million active subscribers, but on the decline. As a result, Blizzard need a way to remarket the current product. The numerous changes made over the past decade, which are now free, makes now the best time for new players to join World of Warcraft in years. With the base game effectively being updated to the 2017 rendition of WOW, this is a great opportunity for Blizzard to hit reset on the retail product and reintroduce the game to a new wave of gamers.
Since World of Warcraft’s creation in 2004 a lot has changed, both in and out of the game. Blizzard, now partnered with Activision, are one of the leaders in the industry’s latest trend, games as a service. Games like Destiny, Overwatch and Hearthstone work more like a service, being that the retail purchase ‘subscribes’ the player to the game as it is updated with patches and new content. With the company focused so heavily on free DLC and microtransactions, a more traditional service based game, being World of Warcraft and their subscriptions, needs updating to compete with other MMOs.
This new form of the base game, along with the upcoming Battle for Azeroth expansion, is the perfect opportunity to ‘reset’ the World of Warcraft experience. With competition like Elder Scrolls Online and Final Fantasy XIV set to release new expansions in 2018, Blizzard need to shake things up in order to maintain its position at the top of the MMO games. The Battle for Azeroth adds a lot of new content but also is somewhat of a return to form for Blizzard, with two new continents, eight races and a simple Horde v Alliance story.