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World of Warcraft Free to Play - How It Works

World of Warcraft now has a free Starter Edition.  This guide covers what you can do in the game for free and how to stretch out your free playing time.

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World of Warcraft Free to Play Version Overview

Video provides a narrated overview of what you can and can't do in the World of Warcraft Starter Edition

World of Warcraft, or WoW, is one of the best-known MMORPGs in the world. The game was first released in 2004, and it has enjoyed four expansions since that time. Despite its age, it continues to be one of the most popular games on the web, and it has a player base of 10 million subscribers.

Despite its popularity, World of Warcraft does have some drawbacks. One of the major complaints against the game is that it operates on a subscription model. After paying for the game itself, in addition to its expansion packs, players must pay for monthly game time. This has driven many players away from the game and prevented some new players from joining.

In order to combat this problem and capture the attention of more players, WoW released its Starter Edition. This is a free-to-play version of the game that gives players an opportunity to try World of Warcraft without paying for anything. If the player wishes, he can pay to upgrade at any time. Although the primary purpose of WoW Starter Edition is to entice players to upgrade, there is still ample material to provide an enjoyable gaming experience. This guide will explain the limitations of F2P WoW and provide an explanation of what activities are available to trial account players.

How to Play World of Warcraft for Free

In order to begin playing F2P WoW, you simply need to create a account here. From there, you can download the game client for free. You may only have one Starter Edition account at a time, but you can obtain an additional free account if you choose to upgrade your first. Altogether, you can have eight upgraded accounts under a single profile if you so choose.

Once the game is loaded, you can launch it and begin playing immediately. You can choose races from all but the newest expansion, and you can make up to 10 characters per realm for an unlimited number of realms. Just be aware that you will not be able to transfer any gold or items between characters.

Limitations of Free Accounts

World of Warcraft is an immense game with a huge amount of content. The free-to-play version offers a scaled-down experience. You will still play on a server populated by players with both free and paid accounts, and many features of the world will be available to you. There are, however, many limitations placed on free accounts.

One of the most obvious limitations is that you cannot level your character past 20. The level-cap for the paid game is currently 90, but F2P players are capped at 20. Additionally, there are some limitations in place that will make your game experience differ from paid level-20s:

What You Can't Do

  • Limited to carrying just 10 gold per character that you play
  • Cannot use the in-game mail system or auction house
  • Cannot trade with members or use the public chat channels
  • Cannot start or join a guild
  • Cannot use the RealID system
  • Cannot turn off experience gains

What You Can Do

  • Complete quests and level in all zones accessible to your character
  • Level your professions up to 100
  • Form parties with other players and add them as friends
  • Explore all areas of the map
  • Obtain a mount and learn apprentice riding
  • Open an in-game bank to store items
  • Earn reputation, complete achievements and earn titles

The primary reason for these strong account limitations is to prevent gold sellers from using free accounts to farm large quantities of gold. The sale of gold for real-world currency is illegal, but it doesn't stop gold farmers from attempting to target players and tempt them into purchasing gold.

How to Stretch Your Free Playing Time

Despite their limitations, free WoW accounts provide plenty of opportunities for casual players to enjoy the world of Azeroth and all that it contains. At their most basic, Starter Edition accounts will provide around 10 to 20 hours of play time. With some creativity, however, you can find ways to stretch this substantially. Here are a few things you can do to keep yourself from getting bored while playing:

#1 - Create a Twink

In WoW, a "twink" is a low-level player with extremely good gear and high stats. Traditionally, people twink at level 19 because that is the last level in its PvP bracket. In free-to-play WoW, this is impossible as you cannot turn off experience gains to keep yourself at level 19. Therefore, most F2P players twink at level 20 instead. As a free player, you will be placed in a special PVP bracket at level 20, so you will only be playing against other free players and regular players who have disabled their experience gains. Beware, however, that the twinks on paid accounts have access to better gear and will tend to be more powerful than you.

Twinking can be an enjoyable use of time. In order to get the best gear, you will need to spend a substantial amount of time earning honor points through playing PvP matches. You may also obtain good gear through dungeons, quests and enchanting. Of course, once you are fully geared, you can also spend more time playing in battlegrounds.

In addition to the PvP benefits, twinking enables your character to be stronger and more capable when traveling throughout the rest of the world. This will make it easier for you to explore territory with a higher level cap than what a normal player could.

#2 - Collect Achievements and Titles

World of Warcraft has an achievement system. Various activities in the game can earn achievements, and some achievements also provide titles. You will not be able to complete all achievements in the game, but you can collect many of them and obtain numerous titles. Collecting achievements and titles provides you with an opportunity to challenge yourself and set your own play goals.

It's worth noting that all of your achievements and titles are bound to your account. This means that achievements you earn on one character will count toward objectives on other characters. It also means that you will be able to use any titles or achievements from your primary account on your secondary free account if you wish.

#3 - Collect Mounts and Pets

There are a number of so-called "vanity" pets that can be tamed and collected. For paid players with the Mists of Pandaria expansion, these pets can be battled against each other. You cannot participate in pet battles in F2P WoW, but you can collect pets for your own enjoyment. If you choose to upgrade your account, you will be able to battle with these pets.

Additionally, you gain the ability to ride a mount once you reach level 20. This mount enables you to travel more quickly than you can on foot, and the mounts themselves are collectible. You can purchase your first mounts from your own race's mount vendor. You can also purchase additional mounts from other races after you've gained enough reputation with that race. Gaining reputation and collecting mounts and vanity pets is another enjoyable way to spend time on free WoW.

#4 - Collect Hunter Pets

If you play as a hunter in free WoW, you can spend time looking for additional hunter pets. Hunters used ranged weapons with the assistance of tamed beasts that can do damage to enemies. You can tame any beast in the game, but some hunters prefer to find and tame rare beasts. These rare pets will help you stand out from other players and give you an added challenge.

#5 - Level Professions and Secondary Professions

Each player can choose up to two professions. These are generally divided into "gathering" professions, like herbalism, and "crafting" professions, like alchemy. Most players prefer to choose one of each time and use the first to gather materials for the second. You can level your professions up to 100 and reap the benefits of them. For example, you can enchant your gear, craft new gear or brew potions that will increase your stats. Since you will be unable to buy these items from other players, learning to craft your own items is valuable.

In addition to your primary professions, you can also learn all three secondary professions: first aid, fishing and cooking. The additional secondary profession of archaeology is not available to free players. Secondary professions can be a fun way to gain valuable materials and earn gold to cover the purchase of mounts, bags and other pricey items. Professions also offer minor buffs that will strengthen your character.

If you get bored or wish to pose a new challenge to yourself, you can quit a profession and level up a new one.


World of Warcraft Starter Edition was not designed as a complete game. Nevertheless, it's a good way to spend your time in Azeroth without the hefty costs associated with full accounts. Playing on the free account also enables you to get a definite advantage over your competition if you do choose to upgrade your WoW account. If you spend plenty of time at level 20 gaining reputation, collecting pets and earning achievements, you will have a head start when upgrading your account. A free account also gives you plenty of things to do during the lean times when you don't wish to pay for your primary account.

Whether you play free WoW full-time or just use it to augment your paid subscription, understanding the limitations of a free account can help you plan accordingly. Finding new challenges in the Starter Edition requires some creativity, but this type of self-guided gaming experience can be extremely rewarding.

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