Lead designer says it would make sense for Blizzard to go free-to-play at some point

Embracing casual key to World of Warcraft longevity

Embracing casual game mechanics to increase accessibility has been key in maintaining the longevity of Blizzard’s flagship MMO World of Warcraft, says lead designer Tom Chilton.

Speaking to Polygon, Chilton said that without embracing the casual audience, the game “would have been in bad shape”.

Although subscription numbers have steadily fallen during the last couple of years, the MMO still holds some seven million players.

He also questioned long-term players of the game who said they would still be enjoying the title now even if alterations hadn’t been made to the original design when it was released in 2004. He said that this was not necessarily true, as audiences “always evolve”.

Chilton admitted however there had perhaps not been enough “new experiences for the hardcore audience”.

He also said that Blizzard could one day adopt the free-to-play model for World of Warcraft in future, but such a transition involved a lot of risk.

"For Blizzard it makes sense [to go free-to-play] at some point," said Chilton.

"But a lot of the risk is in making that transition. You hear stories about developers going free-to-play and getting double the number of players, but you don’t always know it works out that way and how long it stays that way. We really don’t know what the rate is before people drop off and lose interest."

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