World of Warcraft for free?

World of Warcraft released their most recent patch (Patch 4.2 – “Rage of the Firelands”) today, and with it added some new end-game content but also a bonus to try to attract new players.

Free play. Yes free.

Well, for the first 20 levels at least.

Blizzard has before offered up to 14 days to try the game for free. I should know. I was a serial demo-er.  For over 2 years I’d occasionally log in with a new (fake) email address and create a new account, then try every character and race combination that I could think of.  Play for 2 weeks. Race a character to level 20 as fast as I could. Rinse. Repeat. Serially. Probably 20-30 times. And then I finally bought the game, played all the way to the level cap, got bored, cancelled. I’m like an alcoholic after rehab except that instead of hitting bottom, I just woke up one morning and had no interest in drinking any more.
But now they’ve lifted the time cap so folks who don’t want to speed through in two weeks aren’t so limited.  Good move, in my opinion, for Blizzard, who already has more than 12 million users- I guess they think they need more? Or they’re worried that Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic are going to clean their clock. To tell the truth, SW:TOR is one of the reasons I lost interest in WoW. So, maybe I’m not the reformed drunk, I’m just the guy that was always drinking beer and then one day found out whiskey was coming to town later this year and stopped caring about fizzy fermented yeast water because he really wanted to try distilled spirits.

This is good, but not, ultimately, what WoW needs in order to keep its primacy. The other reason, ultimately, why I left WoW was because I was always made to feel inadequate no matter how far I’d progressed. The “End Game Content” was full of raids and dungeons where if I went into them for the first time and said I was a noob at this dungeon, so could someone help me with boss fight strategies, I’d get either an attitude of exasperation or just get kicked after they checked out how my gear was so totally non-epic. So what WoW really needs is a pairing system more like you have in multiplayer for a lot of your FPS- based on how good you are- and then increase or decrease the difficulty and rewards of the dungeon accordingly.

But if you haven’t tried WoW before, now is the time to try it. As much as I’ve complained here, it is a really fun game, and they’re trying to make it at least somewhat more accessible for the casual gamer.

Too bad all the really fun spells and abilities mostly come after level 20.