World of Warcraft is a massive cash cow for Activision Blizzard, not only because the game sells well but because all of its 11 million or so players fork over a monthly subscription to keep playing. Will WoW always be pay-to-play, though?

"I certainly think it's possible that we could do some kind of micro-transaction stuff," game director Tom Chilton told Videogamer. "Whether or not World of Warcraft ever goes the direction of, I guess like Anarchy Online has gone the direction of going free-to-play with micro-transactions. Whether we ever shift to a free-to-play model is really too hard to say at this point. Anything I say now could easily five years from now end up seeming like, oh my gosh, that was an incredibly dumb thing to say, how naive!"

Micro-transactions are small, optional payments for in-game items and features. Generally a game that uses micro-transactions will not have a monthly subscription attached to it. It's a more common revenue model in Asia but some companies in the West have begun to explore the idea as well (for example, EA with Battlefield Heroes). Time will tell whether it ends up being more lucrative than charging monthly fees. It seems hard to believe Blizzard would ever abandon a strategy that's earned them billions of dollars, though.

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