I think it's a bit of a stretch to say that MMOs are dying, but big traditional ones are certainly in a rough spot. Approximately seven-hundred quadrillion of them have responded by fishing a finger into free-to-play's jangling pockets, but one titan's managed to stick with subscriptions. I'm talking, of course, about World of Warcraft, ruler of the MMO realm since time immemorial (2004 was how many years ago? No seriously, I forgot). But things change, and even the most negligent of subscribers' credit cards eventually expire. WoW can't hold out forever, so Blizzard's dabbling in the darkest gold-producing alchemy of them all: in-game microtransactions.
Blizzard fessed up to "exploring" the option after dataminers discovered references to real-money items - for instance, a 100 percent XP boost called the Enduring Elixir of Wisdom - while digging through test server updates. In a post on WoW's forums, Blizzard explained:
"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. We’ll provide additional updates on our plans as development progresses."
"Certain regions" seems to imply that the feature - if it ever really sees the light of day - won't be universal. As for where exactly it'll show up, that's anybody's guess at this point.
Does this mean WoW's finally mashing the free-to-play panic button? It's highly, highly doubtful. But even at Blizzard belts are clearly tightening, and I can't imagine that pressing reset on long-awaited WoW pseudo-successor Project Titan helped much.
What do you think of this, though? Would you be OK with dropping a few extra coins in Blizzard's cup - on top of your existing subscription fee - for items that actually affect gameplay? Is WoW even a game that warrants these items, given that leveling's already pretty breezy? This sort of thing seemed inevitable in the wake of real money pets and things of the like, but are you ready for it?