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Blizzard Entertainment is exploring the idea of using microtransactions in World of Warcraft.
This is a big deal, considering the company is one of the last to fully embrace free-to-play games with microtransactions. The company has made the first 20 levels of World of Warcraft free, and it sells virtual goods such as pets and mounts. But it still has more than 8 million players who pay a monthly subscription. World of Warcraft is the most successful massively multiplayer online game, generating as much as $1 billion a year for Blizzard.
Most other massively multiplayer online games have been forced to switch over to the free-to-play business model, which can also be lucrative but carries risks. Players discovered the that Blizzard is entertaining the possibility of microtransactions after they learned that the company was testing an item dubbed the Enduring Elixir of Wisdom on its test server, dubbed the Public Test Realm. That item adds 100 percent experience gain upon purchase for players who kill monsters or complete quests.
Blizzard community manager Zarhym said in a post that the item is part of a larger experiment for players in some regions. It enables them to purchase digital goods from within the game world.
“We are currently exploring the possibility of adding a way for players in certain regions to make purchases directly within the game. As part of this process, elements related to this will be appearing on the PTR,” the post said. “We’ll provide additional updates on our plans as development progresses.”
In the Blizzard store, players were able to buy an in-game Cinder Kitten, which benefited Hurricane Sandy victims. Blizzard made no additional comment on the possibility of microtransactions. This kind of feature won’t be popular with veteran players, as it is a “pay-to-win” feature that lets people skip “grinding,” or laboriously working their way through the game.
Blizzard may be investigating free-to-play since it lost 1.3 million subscribers to World of Warcraft in the past quarter.