Only a couple short years ago, most pasty, naked, Earth-dwelling flesh creatures (aka, humans) figured World of Warcraft would forever remain the final bastion of subscription MMOs' heyday. Now, however, it's screaming "mayday" as subscriber numbers plummet, proving that no institution is immortal and I should never be allowed to rhyme things. Recent comments from Blizzard suggesting a free-to-play conversion might not be that far off, then, shouldn't come as much of a surprise - especially since the slowly deflating MMO titan recently added a microtransaction store.
"For Blizzard it makes sense [to go free-to-play] at some point."
"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."
Which is an important point, because we really never do hear much about freshly F2P MMOs after the initial megaton boost to player counts. I figure that can't bode particularly well, because otherwise developers would simply keep on bragging. But, on the other hand, even a good many first-gen F2P-ers are still at least existent, so it's not like the switch is a morphine drip before the bitter end.
As with all things Blizzard, this one will come slowly and with beard-stroking, brow-furrowing consideration. That doesn't always yield optimal results (this is, after all, the company that spat out Diablo III's auction house), but I doubt it'll be a slapdash hackjob. And to be honest, I'm kind of interested. I don't think I'll ever go back to WoW in any major way, but it'd be neat to return for a quick visit. Check in on all my old haunts. Maybe level a new class for a bit. Would you consider sneaking back into WoW for a spell if Blizzard bulldozed its pay wall?