World of Warcraft offered 'free'

Cataclysm packshot, Blizzard New users can now get a free taste of the fantasy world beloved by hardcore fans.

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Popular online role-playing game World of Warcraft (WoW) is to be offered free up to level 20.

Previously fans of the game, which has 11.4 million subscribers, had to pay a monthly fee of £8.99.

Under the new system, players will be able to build an unlimited number of characters but they will not be able to join guilds or accumulate more than ten gold coins.

The move is seen as a way of attracting new players to the game.

Free bonanza

World of Warcraft is an online game in which players create characters, such as warriors, warlocks and shaman, who they then take on adventures to gather loot and items to make the avatars more powerful.

It is among the most successful of the so-called massively multi-player online games.

Blizzard Entertainment, maker of WoW, has previously offered free trials of the game but only for a limited number of days.

The free version will have no time restrictions.

Tim Edwards, editor of PC Gamer, estimates that it will offer someone new to the game around 10 to 15 hours of game-play.

"It is a really good offer and will allow people to get a flavour of the world," he said.

More and more companies are offering games for free as they aim to attract more PC owners to gaming.

"It is a free-to-play bonanza for gaming right now," said Mr Edwards.

"Team Fortress 2 went free over last weekend and it tripled its players overnight. If customers like the game it is pretty easy to get them to buy stuff," he said.

Users wishing to switch from the free version to the full game will be charged a "conversion fee" of up to £10, depending on the retailer.

There are also three expansion packs for it.

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