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Play WoW for Free? Full Details on the New "Starter Edition"

by: Benjamin Sell ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/18/2012 • Leave a comment

Blizzard recently launched some significant changes to their free trial program. Find out all about World of Warcraft Starter Edition, including account restrictions, how to sign up, and how to download and play the game.

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    World of Warcraft has gone free to play, sort of. The powers that be at Blizzard have decided to tweak their trial account system, doing away with ten and seven day free trials of the game. In their place is the World of Warcraft Starter Edition, an unlimted chance to try out various races, classes, and low-level zones in the game.

    While this is an awesome way to entice new players to check out the game, it’s not without its restrictions. Check out all the details in our full rundown.

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    The Level Cap

    World of Warcraft Box Art Players who have a WoW Starter Edition account can play as much as they like, for as long as they like, up to level 20. Once a character reaches level 20, players can continue playing as that character, but they will gain no more experience points and cannot level any further.

    Starter Edition accounts do not expire, and do not have to be cancelled (unless you sign up for recurring billing). Any player who has ever had a trial WoW account will now have access to a Starter Edition account.

    Yes, this means that the trial account you created five years ago and played for two hours has now been permanently reactivated. Any time you want to log in and play as little “ElfisPresley" you can, you just can’t advance past level 20.

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    How Do I Get One?

    There are a few ways to get one of these accounts. You can receive a “recruit-a-friend" email from someone you know who plays the game already. This will have the added benefit of linking your two accounts together for ninety days, even if you decide to purchase the full game.

    You can also use a trial key found in the packaging for other Blizzard products like Starcraft II.

    The third, and perhaps least complicated, way of signing up is to go to and input your information into the enormous “FREE Starter Edition" on the right side of the splash page.

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    Other Restrictions

    The level cap is not the only restriction placed on Starter Edition accounts. In order to cut down on the possibility of spammers and gold farmers abusing the privilege, the following restrictions will also apply:

    • Maximum level of 20.
    • Make Yourself a Newbie Troll Maximum 10 gold.
    • Trade skills cannot be trained beyond 100.
    • Starter Edition characters cannot trade via Auction house, player-to-player, or via in-game mail.
    • No access to public channels, say, party, and whisper communication only.
    • No ability to join or create guilds.
    • Only characters who have your character on their friends list can receive whispers.
    • No ability to invite players into parties.
    • No ability to join parties with characters higher than level 20.
    • No in-game voice chat.
    • Starter Edition accounts will be deprioritized for login queues.
    • Accounts are not eligible for character transfers.
    • RealID features are not available to players on trial accounts

    So, while it won't be easy to communicate or trade with other players, you're at least getting to experience the newbie zones and gameplay for as long as you like before you make a decision to purchase the game.

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    Upgrade to a Full Account

    There are a few ways to upgrade your Starter Edition account. First, you can simply walk into a store and purchase a full copy of the game, then log into account management and add the cd key to your account.

    Second, simply log in to account management on and purchase the game from there. This upgrade is nearly instant and the process is very quick.

    The cost of a new account is twenty bucks either way. One other recent announcement added a bit more bang for your buck, though.

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    Free Burning Crusade?

    Burning Crusade Free Upgrade The other major change announced alongside this program was the addition of The Burning Crusade expansion to all “Vanilla" WoW accounts. Purchasing the original game will automatically grant you access to Outland and a level cap of 70.

    Those who currently only own the original game will find their accounts have been upgraded, as well.

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    New World of Warcraft Free Transit

    Here’s what I predict as a result of this change: Existing players will refer themselves and then create Starter Edition accounts, linking their new account to their existing one. Then, they’ll station characters in major cities all over Azeroth.

    Using the refer-a-friend summon ability, they’ll then log into their starter account anytime they need a convenient ride to a major city, summon their main character, then log off. And you thought it was easy to get around the world before?

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    All references from World of Warcraft Starter Edition Account FAQ

    Photos courtesy of

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