For a long time speculations aimed at World of Warcraft’s future. From saying it was shutting down, to rumors of changes towards a free-to-play model, pretty much everything was said. Now, it seems a bit of those things are actually becoming true, kind of. A new economy feature will be added in an upcoming patch, which will allow paying for subscription time with in-game money.
This feature will work around WoW Tokens, a new currency bought with real money, which can be exchanged for 30 days worth of World of Warcraft subscription time. Now, the interesting thing is that this new type of valuable will also be sold for gold. The general idea is that these tokens will help regulate the in-game economy, while limiting black market exchanges, which have existed since the very beginning of times. In few words, it seems to be a good way to legalize a great deal of these commercial transactions while protecting users’ accounts via World of Warcraft’s own Auction House.
Now, it’s pretty obvious what Blizzard is trying to do. Besides the whole economy regulation stuff, this is a way to retain players. Long-time World of Warcraft subscribers are bound to have tons of gold, which will definitely make their access to WoW Tokens a lot easier. Afterwards, a bit of grinding here and there and accounts will remain active. If it costs nothing, people will probably keep playing from time to time even if it’s just for dailies and occasional raids.
To be honest, despite first impressions, this is still far away from turning World of Warcraft into a free-to-play game. Even though it will all depend on the actual prices WoW Tokens will be sold at, no new player can grind enough to become rich with low level characters. This is good news, since subscriptions won’t decrease enough to jeopardize World of Warcraft’s overall existence.
Luckily, tokens won’t be resellable and will become soulbound as soon as they are bought from the Auction House. Additionally, these new valuables will have the same prices at the same time, which will prevent players from abusing the game’s market. These and other details can be read in Blizzard’s WoW Tokens FAQ. Times are definitely changing.