Blizzard recently announced that World of Warcraft will be adopting the ever growing free-to-play model, allowing players to experience the world of Azeroth until they hit level 20. Analysts have described the shift as a "brilliant strategic move," not only against competition from EA in The Old Republic, but also against other free-to-play MMOs as well.
According to IndustryGamers, a number of analysts believe that the move is a pre-emptive on Star Wars: The Old Republic, with Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter saying it's "a great hook" to reel in new players and potential subscribers.
"I absolutely think it's a pre-emptive move against the Star Wars launch," Pachter said. "They aren't giving away anything to existing subscribers (except for the Burning Crusade expansion), and it's a great hook to attract new subscribers. People new to MMOs will have to think about whether to buy Star Wars or WoW, it's actually a brilliant strategic move."
Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia added that it's likely a move against "a little bit of both--free to play competition and pre-emptive strike against Star Wars." On top of that, Bhatia believes that Blizzard may be close to releasing WoW's next expansion pack, although he noted that it's merely speculation at this point: "In addition, it's possible (and this is just a theory), Blizzard is getting closer to the launch of the next expansion pack for WoW."
DFC Intelligence's David Cole, however, believes that WoW has simply reached a saturation point, where the MMO has a steady group of subscribers, but has yet to see any substantial growth.
"I think it is more an issue of WoW has reached somewhat of a saturation point and while it has held steady it hasn't seen a great deal of growth," he explained. "The competition I think is once you reach a certain level of success it gets very hard to find new people willing to try it."