Starting today, anyone with a Battle.net account can play any character they want to in World of Warcraft up to level 20 completely for free. You heard right. World of Warcraft has taken what could be the first step in a move toward going free to play. The new "trial" mode replaces the 10- 14-day free trials originally offered to new players and will now known as World of Warcraft Starter Edition. Players are free to reactivate dormant trial accounts for use with the new model or create characters based on any race and class from the base game, including The Burning Crusade races draenei and blood elf.
Starter Edition comes on the heels of new content for the 4.2 patch aimed at Cataclysm, known as "Rage of the Firelands," the patch adds, "a new raid, a legendary DPS staff quest line, the most diverse daily questing experience to date, PvP Season 10, user-interface enhancements such as the Dungeon Journal, and much more," according to the press release.
During Activision's last earnings call, a Blizzard rep said that subscriptions had fallen after the release of the last major expansion to the game. At the time, Blizzard stated it would release expansion content with higher frequency to cut subscriber churn. Allowing players to build to level 20 on their own time, may entice new customers into the world first introduced to the industry in 2004.
After World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, the level cap for the MMO was raised to 85.
For those who get drawn in by the Starter Edition, Blizzard is also offering some new deals for buying the rest of the game when you're ready to go past level 20. Those who have purchased the original base game will be given all content from The Burning Crusade for free. The original game plus its first expansion, The Burning Crusade, are now available from the Blizzard online store in a special digital Battle Chest edition for $19.99.
[Update: Blizzard has added a list of limitations for the Starter Edition on its Support site:]
- A level cap of 20.
- A maximum of 10 gold.
- Trade skills are capped at 100 ranks.
- Unable to trade via the Auction House, mailbox, or player-to-player.
- In-game access to public chat channels unavailable. Players are limited to communicating using only say, party, or whisper.
- Characters will be unable to create or join guilds.
- Characters are not able to send whispers to other characters unless they have been added to the characters' friends lists or have received a whisper from a character first.
- Characters will not be able to invite other players into a party.
- Characters will not be able to join parties with other characters above level 20.
- Voice chat disabled on Starter Edition accounts.
- Realms experiencing login queues will prioritize players who have full, paid accounts.
- Starter Edition accounts are not eligible for character transfers
- RealID features are disabled on all Starter Edition Accounts.