Yesterday Blizzard announced an update to its free trial period, changing from a 14 day free trial to unlimited up to level 20. Is this a sign of weakness coming from the king of MMORPGs? In shorty, yes, World of Warcraft is heading into its seven year and it’s safe to say has passed its prime.
Back in March 2011, Blizzard revealed that subscription numbers were around 11.4 million, which is down from the 12 million it announced only a few months before in Oct 2010. The 5% drop could be related to the fact that RIFT is gaining steam or that more and more quality MMOs are switching to the free to play model. Offering an unlimited free trials could be a way for Blizzard to test the waters and systems it needs to make the switch to free to play themselves.
Blizzard already has all the tools in place to make a quick and smooth transition to F2P. The WoW store has been live for well over a year and is already massively successful and now they have the Free2Play system in-place. They only need to flip the switch at this point.
Whether or not this will ever happen can be argued, but as the game ages and subscribers continue to decline, I think Blizzard will see F2P as a way to stabilize its player base and extend the life of World of Warcraft well into the future.