The World of Warcraft version 5.4 update is alive and kicking on the Public Test Realm today, according to Blizzard. According to the patch notes, the update adds a new siege, flexible raid difficulty, a redesigned arena system, and a few other odds and ends. More importantly, the update adds an in-game store where players can buy a variety of buffs and other items. No doubt the selection of offerings will be limited for the purposes of the test phase.
In a separate forum post Blizzard explained that they are in the early stages of developing the in-game store and micro-transactions (no doubt to gauge its popularity with subscribers).
Thanks for all the feedback so far, everyone. We’re still pretty early in the exploration process, but we did want to go into more detail about our rationale for introducing an in-game store, as well as provide some insight into what you might ultimately see available there.
For players who are already interested in the in-game items we offer, such as Pet Store pets and mounts, the benefits of an in-game store are pretty clear. We think everyone would appreciate the convenience of being able to make such purchases without having to leave the game, and ultimately that’s our long-term goal for the system, though there’s quite a bit of work involved in retrofitting those existing items into the new system.
First, we’ll be testing the in-game store with some new kinds of items we’re looking into introducing (in Asian regions, at the outset) based on player feedback: specifically, an experience buff to assist with the leveling process, as well as an alternate way to acquire Lesser Charms of Good Fortune. We’ve had a lot of requests from players in different regions for convenience-oriented items such as these, and as with other new ideas we’ve introduced as WoW has evolved—including Pet Store pets, mounts, and more—your feedback plays a hugely important part in determining what we add to the game.
Ultimately it’s still too early in the process to make any final determinations about our plans, but in the meantime, we hope you’ll check out the in-game store once it’s implemented on the PTR and let us know what you think.
While this probably doesn't mean that Blizzard is getting ready to abandon the subscription model for its MMO, it is thinking of new ways to supplement income. Having an in-game store in place could also be the first step in moving towards a free-to-play version of the game at some point in the future too.
We will continue to follow this story as it develops...
Source: Blue's News