Blizzard has introduced an option to play the game for free. While they promised they were not planning on going completely free-to-play any time soon, they are going to make the game, potentially cheaper for you through the new WoW tokens program.
Players ‘buy’ Gold with real money
The first part of this program is that a player can use real money to buy “WoW tokens.” Those tokens can be used for game time or sold on the auction house for in-game gold. The amount of gold you will receive for the tokens depends on the formula Blizzard has created based on supply and demand of the tokens and take the servers economy into account. The tokens will not appear on the auction house like items normally do. They will become soulbound and tied to your character after their first sale on the auction house so that they can’t be resold by that player later.
Tokens can be redeemed for game time
If you are looking to reduce the amount you spend playing WoW each month, you’ll be able to buy the tokens from the auction house, at their current determined price, and redeem them for game time. This appears to be incredibly similar to the popular PLEX sales from Eve Online.
Blizzard could be free to play without going free-to-play.
Blizzard claims this program has nothing to do with World of Warcraft moving to a free-to-play model. Game designers at Blizzard have stated the purpose of the exchange is to provide a method for players to buy gold without having to resort to gold selling websites that are often compromising the accounts of other players to get the gold they are selling.
Prices for the tokens have not been released, but they intend to be competitive with gold-selling websites. This way, it will be possible that WoW could be free for you to play without being a free-to-play game.
The launch date for the program has not been mentioned except as being “in an upcoming patch.”