Last week, Chinese WoW operator The9's CEO dropped the news that The9 and Blizzard were discussing the possibility of making WoW free to play in China. Zhu Jun, the CEO, said they were hoping to expand into new markets (last I checked, WoW wasn't hurting for subscribers in China, so I'm not sure what market they're looking at). Of course, as soon as the news was published in the Tianjin Daily, The9's PR people swooped in and back-peddled like mad:
Zhao Yurun, deputy director of The9's marketing and public relations department, told Interfax that reports of any free-to-play plans for WoW were "speculation" and "rumour" on the part of media and gamers, despite the quotes from The9's CEO. Zhao declined to comment further.
Rumors were fuelled after Giant Interactive, another Chinese company, went public in the US. Gamers' responses were mixed, with many expressing concern over a potential micro-transaction model, fearing it would wind up being more expensive than a straight up subscription pricing scheme. Whatever the actual motivation behind The9's contradictory comments, I'd be pretty surprised if WoW went for a free to play model - at least, until player numbers start dropping.
The9 denies WoW free-to-play plans, contradicts CEO's comments [Interfax China]