In a move that should shock nobody, Blizzard has modified the trial accounts to make them last forever but have a hard cap of level 20. To avoid abuse of this program by current players, many other restrictions are also placed on the trial accounts such as a limit of 10 gold, no mail or auction house functionality, limited communication use, and no guild membership. However, this modifies the 14 day trial into a trial that more casual players can partake in fully to see if they would like to play the game more regularly. Additionally, it also gives new players a chance to try out a bunch of different class and race combinations and not start paying for the game until they find the best combinations for them. After all, not everybody can be as lucky as me and pick a true favorite class on the first try.
The most interesting part of this move is that this could mean a significant way to enjoy the game (twinking or playing battlegrounds at level 19) is totally free to play now. Of course most of the accepted twinking gear is hard to obtain without boatloads of money, which these accounts have no access to. Nonetheless, there have to be some happy players out there willing to make this happen somehow with the restrictions.
So what are the prospects in this bracket for those who like to heal? Perhaps it will take some time to catch on as former players not willing to pay for the game come back, but the level 19 queues should once again become a hot place to be. Although low level characters can struggle with mana management in instances and battlegrounds, this is a good challenge to have in the player-vs-player context. Effectively unlimited mana pools at that level does not teach players how to play the game well. And after all, Blizzard wants to encourage even some of these twink players to pay up for full time accounts and continue their WoW experience. The bottom line is that this free to play bracket will mean faster queue times for healers in the brackets, whether twinking or just passing through.
After the Cataclysm era is over and a new expansion comes out, it will not surprise me if classic WoW up to level 60 goes free to play. Blizzard is quite likely moving to the free to play model with Titan and needs to train their MMO profit-making skills using their current MMO before the company profits are reliant on micro-transactions. Furthermore, while some players will take advantage of a free game, others will appreciate the amount of content put out there for free and will be more willing to take Blizzard up on its $15 per month system on the basis of how much free content was provided. Of course, Titan may not be free to play, in which case this is just an attempt to shore up Warcraft's subscriber numbers.
Patch 4.2 has dropped and a new set of raid bosses is ready to be figured out. If you have any thoughts on how healing is going in the Tier 12 raids, please send them over to the blog e-mail and I may collect these comments for next time. Until then, happy trails in Azeroth.