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Is Warcraft Free on PC? The Complete 2023 Guide

Hey friend! With the popularity of free-to-play games today, you may be wondering – can I play Warcraft, the legendary fantasy MMO from Blizzard, for free on my PC?

The short answer is: yes, parts of Warcraft are playable for free, but to access all the content requires a paid subscription.

In this complete guide, I‘ll give you all the details on what content is free, what you need to pay for, how much it costs, and whether Warcraft is still worth playing in 2023 as a free or paying player. Let‘s dive in!

What Parts of Warcraft Are Free to Play?

First, it‘s important to distinguish that there are two main versions of World of Warcraft available on PC:

  • Retail WoW – The current live game first launched in 2004, now in its 9th expansion called Shadowlands. This is the main version you can download today.

  • WoW Classic – A legacy version of the game recreated as it existed in 2006, without any expansions.

Here‘s what you can access for free in each:

Retail WoW Free Trial

The retail version of WoW is free to download and grants access to the first 20 levels of content including:

  • 8 races (like Humans, Orcs) and 9 classes (Warrior, Mage) to choose from
  • Hundreds of early quests and zones to explore
  • Dungeons like Ragefire Chasm and The Deadmines
  • Basic PVP battlegrounds like Warsong Gulch
  • Primary professions like Mining, Skinning, Herbalism
  • Social features like chat, guilds, groups

So basically the core of the early leveling experience in WoW is free, but with restrictions like being capped at level 20.

WoW Classic Requires Subscription

Unlike retail WoW, WoW Classic does not have a free trial option. You need an active paid subscription to play any part of classic WoW.

The only exception is very rare free login weekend promotional events offered by Blizzard. But these only come around once or twice per year usually.

So if you want to play original WoW Classic, you will need to pay the monthly subscription fee. More details on WoW subscription costs later in the guide.

What Content is Locked Behind a Subscription?

While the 1-20 free trial gives you a taste of WoW, a subscription is required to unlock almost all higher level content and features, including:

  • Levels 20-70 progression
  • All expansions like Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, etc.
  • Allied races (Vulpra, Nightborne) and advanced classes (Death Knight)
  • Max level dungeons Mythic+, raids, world bosses
  • Unrestricted Auction House trading and mailbox
  • Higher gold carrying capacity and earning rates
  • Creating unlimited characters across realms
  • Endgame gearing systems like legendaries and covenants

Based on Blizzard‘s publicly released content statistics, less than 10% of WoW is playable for free. The vast majority requires a subscription.

To summarize what‘s available in free vs paid WoW:

Free TrialPaid Subscription
Level Range1-201-70
ExpansionsNoneAll 9 (Burning Crusade -> Shadowlands)
Classes8 Races, 9 Classes13 Races, 12 Classes
Dungeons14241
Raids063
Zones3 Starting Areas49+ Leveling Zones
Gear QualityUp to UncommonLegendaries and Mythic Epics
Auction HouseNo AccessFull Trading
Max Gold10g Cap10,000g+ Cap
Lots of RestrictionsFull Unlocked Experience

As you can see, the free trial only scratches the surface of WoW‘s vast amount of content across nearly two decades of expansions.

How Much Does a WoW Subscription Cost?

If you want to go beyond 20 and see the full game, you need to purchase subscription time which unlocks retail WoW and all expansions up through Shadowlands.

Here‘s what a WoW subscription costs normally:

  • 1 Month – $14.99 per month
  • 3 Months – $13.99 per month (saves 17%)
  • 6 Months – $12.99 per month (saves 33%)

*Prices in USD but local currencies available based on region.

On top of the subscription, you also need to buy the most recent expansion to access max level content:

  • Shadowlands Base – $39.99 one time (levels 50-60)
  • Shadowlands Heroic – $59.99 (includes level 60 boost)
  • Shadowlands Epic – $79.99 (extras like game time, mounts)

So realistically, to access all of retail WoW right now, you‘re looking at:

  • Upfront cost: $40 to $80 for Shadowlands
  • Monthly cost: $13 to $15 for subscription

Every 2 years or so when a new expansion launches, you need to buy that to get the new endgame zones and gear. But the subscription fee remains the same.

Over the lifetime of actively playing WoW, subscription fees add up to hundreds of dollars per year. But many players feel the entertainment value is well worth the cost compared to other hobbies.

Is WoW Still Worth Playing in 2023?

With so many great multiplayer and free-to-play games out there today, is getting into WoW still worthwhile here in 2023? Let‘s weigh the pros and cons from the perspective of a new player.

Why Play WoW in 2023?

It‘s an MMORPG icon – As one of the most influential MMOs of all time, WoW is an iconic virtual world you‘ll be glad you experienced firsthand. The chance to be part of that legacy is compelling.

Tons of Content – With 9 expansions over 18 years, the world of Azeroth is absolutely massive with zones, dungeons, raids and activities that would take you years to complete.

Strong Social Scene – Being one of the most populated MMOs ever, WoW has a huge community for making new gamer friends, joining guilds, and participating in group content.

Regular Updates – New raids, zones, and quality of life improvements are still added every 3-6 months to provide fresh experiences for all player commitment levels.

Accessible Early Game – The early leveling experience is streamlined and welcoming for genre newcomers, while still having depth for MMORPG veterans. Easy to get started.

Thriving Esports Scene – The WoW Mythic+ dungeon race and arena PvP circuits are exciting to watch and offer aspirational endgame goals.

So for many gamers, WoW remains a rewarding and appealing online world full of adventure and camaraderie. The reasons it captured the hearts of millions of players for nearly two decades still hold weight today if you‘ve never experienced those charms yourself before.

Why You May Want to Avoid WoW:

Dated Visuals – Being so old at its core, WoW‘s graphics, animations, and character models feel dated and janky compared to newer MMOs on the market today.

Steep Learning Curve – Mastering your class, all the dungeons and raids, PvP, gearing systems and endgame progression takes a lot of time reading guides and watching videos to understand it all.

Better Alternatives Exist – Modern MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV and Guild Wars 2 offer strong competition with more beautiful worlds and streamlined systems.

Requires Time Commitment – Seeing all the endgame content and staying relevant each patch requires sinking in hours every week dedicated to gear grinds, reputation gains, and other time investments.

You‘re Far Behind – Coming in fresh to a game with nearly two decades of expansions is incredibly intimidating, like reading book 18 of a series and feeling lost.

Overwhelming Systems – WoW presents new players with countless currencies, reputations, borrowed power systems (like Covenants) that require studying guides to grasp it all.

The dated graphics, complex endgame, and learning cliff may be unappealing to players who prefer more modern and accessible online RPG experiences.

So while WoW offers incredible depth, the dated elements and required grind to see it all can absolutely deter newcomers in 2023. But overcoming those hurdles yields one of the most rewarding gaming experiences around for committed MMO fans.

Making Gold as a Free Trial Player

During the limited 1-20 free trial, you can start accumulating gold to eventually save up for a subscription. Here are some tips:

  • Complete all the quests in your starting zone – they provide decent gold rewards for early levels.

  • Sell any unwanted gray vendor trash items to shopkeepers as you get gear upgrades. Every little bit counts.

  • Pick up the Herbalism and Mining professions to gather any nodes you come across and sell materials on the Auction House.

  • Don‘t waste money repairing gear or respecing talents early on. Be frugal.

  • Run dungeons using the automatic group finder tool. Bosses drop good loot to vendor.

  • Join a casual social leveling guild for help. Higher levels may donate hand-me-down bags and gear.

  • Get your character to level 10 so you can learn your first two primary professions. Pick gold generating ones like Herbalism, Mining, and Skinning.

  • At level 15, travel to Stormwind or Orgrimmar. Offer to enchant gear or craft items for tips.

  • Check the auction house for cheap materials to resell at higher prices for profits.

With some effort completing quests and utilizing professions, you can make 50-100g during the free trial. Making enough for a subscription will take more time but is very achievable.

Final Thoughts: Give WoW a Shot!

Hopefully this guide gave you a detailed overview on what content is available for free vs paid in World of Warcraft, how much it costs, and whether it‘s worth playing in 2023.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • Parts of retail WoW are free up to level 20, but WoW Classic requires a subscription.

  • Experiencing the full game requires a monthly $15 subscription fee plus purchasing expansions.

  • Despite its age, WoW remains populated with tons of content for new players.

  • The dated graphics and learning curve can deter newcomers.

  • Try out the free trial to level 20 and see if you enjoy the core gameplay loop.

While the magic of Warcraft may be daunting to get into during this later stage of its evolution, I do recommend giving the free trial a shot. Get a feel for the combat, world, and community.

Who knows, you may discover a new favorite game with years of adventure ahead. I hope this guide helps you decide if Warcraft is right for you. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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Michael

Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.