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Blizzard announced earlier this month that World of Warcraft players will soon be able to avoid paying a monthly subscription by instead spending a new in-game currency called Tokens. Today they revealed when they plan to release this feature.

"We’ll begin rolling out the WoW Token in the weeks following Patch 6.1.2’s release, starting with the Americas game region (including realms serving North America, Oceania, and Latin America) and then expanding to other game regions in the weeks after that," Blizzard said today. "Launching the Token once Patch 6.1.2 has been live for a while will help us ensure the foundation for the feature is solid, and kicking things off with a single region is the best way for us to ensure everything’s going smoothly before launching worldwide. "

Patch 6.1.2 is being released today so we could see the release of Tokens as early as April. That will depend on whether any last-minute bugs crop up in the testing of the feature, though.

When implemented, WoW Tokens can be purchased through World of Warcraft's in-game store for real money. Tokens can either be redeemed for 30 days of game time, or sold on the Auction House for gold. In other words, it's a way for players with a lot of gold (i.e. time) to cut down their real money expenses. Players with money to spare but less free time, meanwhile, get an easier way to acquire gold for their character.

Tokens also cut out third-party gold sellers from the equation. These companies traditionally rely on shady tactics such as hacking and stripping other players' accounts to get their inventory of gold. In other cases, they automate their characters using botting software so they can farm up materials without actively playing. I don't doubt these gold farmers still try to ply their wares in WoW but at least players won't need to risk dealing with them.

In the Americas, a Token will cost $20 USD or the equivalent in other currencies. They can be bought and sold for gold through a new Game Time tab on the Auction House. Tokens will be sold on region-wide exchanges so your character's specific realm won't matter. The gold price will fluctuate over time like other in-game items.

"Because the Token exchange has to start somewhere, we will be setting the initial gold value of the WoW Token ourselves. The starting gold value in each region will be based on several factors, including regional in-game economies, but ultimately our goal is to select a fair and reasonable starting price. After that, the Token’s gold value will be determined dynamically based primarily on player supply and demand. Simply put, if more WoW Tokens are being listed than are being purchased, the price will automatically drift downward over time. If people are purchasing Tokens from the Auction House faster than they’re being put up for sale, then prices will go up accordingly.

"As a reminder, to help make sure players can trade WoW Tokens confidently, once a Token sells, the seller will receive the amount of gold they were quoted at the time they listed their Token."

Blizzard has said in the past that they didn't want to make the game free-to-play. That decision was seemingly vindicated by the resurgence in subscriptions after the launch of new expansion Warlords of Draenor. Tokens seem like a nice middle solution for them, though. Players willing to pay money for their subscription can still do so while players who might have otherwise quit because of monthly fees now have a way to avoid them.
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