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World of Warcraft may be adding free-to-play for 'veterans'

The notes for the latest patch seem to indicate a new free-to-play mode in World of Warcraft. It's called "Veteran Edition", and it has a few restrictions.

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Blizzard

After hitting a low point of 6.8 million subscribers in the first half of 2014, World of Warcraft saw numbers skyrocket back up to over 10 million following the release of the Warlords of Draenor expansion in November 2014.

The massive multiplayer online game has always traditionally been subscription-based, but it seems that Blizzard may be trying to think of ways to lure back even more of those subscribers who may have let their subscriptions lapse.

The patch notes for 6.1, the latest iteration of the game, include a new account type called "Veteran Edition" that has similar restrictions to "Starter Edition" accounts -- that is, the free trial account that lets you play the game for free, up to a point.

On a Starter Edition account, players can only reach level 20 (of a possible 100), collect a maximum of 10 gold, and have other restrictions, particularly on social interaction, on what they can and can't do in the game.

According to the 6.1 patch notes, the Veteran Edition would also have level and money caps -- although it doesn't specify what those caps are. Also, like Starter Edition accounts, Veteran Edition accounts would not allow modifying calendar events, shouting, whispering to players not in the Veteran's friends list, signing guild charters, inviting other players into groups and several other unspecified features and actions.

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As for how the veteran account status would be implemented, that's still unclear. It could allow subscribers to let their subscriptions lapse without stopping them from playing the game, or allow returning subscribers to try out the game again without having to fully commit. If the level cap, like the Starter Edition, is 20, we can see how that might be a bit more of a gateway -- it would be frustrating not to be able to play characters previously created and levelled past that point.

It's entirely possible that the Veteran Edition won't happen at all -- it could merely be junk leftover from an idea Blizzard toyed with, but ultimately decided not to implement. We'll probably find out when the patch rolls out across the game.

Blizzard did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.