When Blizzard announced that WoW was going free-to-play, keen-eyed gamers pointed out that it's just the trial version of the game, with no time limit. Characters still cap at lvl 20, players cannot join guilds or use the auction house, and "starter characters" are basically sequestered into their own little universes.
How much fun is that? A starter trial isn't going to really fill people in on the experience. That video Blizz released this past year with Chuck Norris seems to imply that the game is free to play, not a free neutered game.
What can Blizzard do to remedy this? Allow more parts of the game to people who want to play for free. Go for a "freemium" business model. Offer, say, two characters for free. Players can level them all the way to 85. They can use the auction house. They can join guilds. This way, people can really get that experience without needing to pay a monthly fee for an eight year old game. Perhaps Blizz could block or restrict access to the dungeon finder for free users. Blizz could remove the "Looking for Raid" feature from free accounts, too. At least that way, free players could still raid with guilds, but give players who don't have those connections an incentive to go for the subscription. There are many ways Blizz could find to monetize other parts of the game, as a means of keeping the revenue stream up and running.
On the topic of pricing, WoW has maintained the $15 per month subscription since its inception in 2004. There are a lot of better looking and newer MMOs out there at the same price. If WoW were to reduce its subscription to, say, $10 per month or even $5 per month, a lot more people could justify subscribing. WoW is famous for its lore and universe. There's so much background story to it, far more than any other MMO on the market. The only one that could rival WoW would be Star Wars: The Old Republic, but BioWare can't properly run an online community to save their life. At least Blizzard has them beat on that front.
Ever since WoW's decline as an MMO juggernaut, several servers are much leaner than they used to be. On my server, Arygos, there are 7,498 characters, according to WarcraftRealms. Of this, 52% are Alliance, 49% Horde. However, some realms have ratios in the neighborhood of 3:1, 4:1, and even 16:1 faction ratios. One server, Onyxia, has all of 437 characters, and Horde vastly outnumbers alliance. Granted, these numbers are skewed by the users who have the CensusPlus addon, but there's an ounce of truth to these numbers. Some servers could easily be merged with larger servers to give players easy access to the communities they desire.
Furthermore, Blizzard should allow players in larger servers the opportunity to move to a smaller server without having to pay for it. It would allow players the opportunity to move to a new server where friends are, it would help ease server strain on the largest servers, and it would help lessen the problem of lopsided faction populations.
|This guy has turned looting into Trick-or-Treating|
Blizzard doesn't need to do these big, grandiose expansions to get people to come back to WoW. They just need to tweak what they already have. Perhaps they will realize it, but I'm not going to hold my breath...