World of Warcraft requires a subscription to allow continued play, with options to pay in one-month, three-month, or six-month blocks, and time cards of varying lengths available from retailers, or purchasing a "WoW Token" in-game.[35][36] Expansion packs are available online and from retailers. As the game client is the same regardless of the version of World of Warcraft the user owns, the option to purchase expansions online was added as it allows for a quick upgrade. World of Warcraft is also available as a free Starter Edition, which is free to play for an unlimited amount of time. Starter Edition characters are unable to gain experience after reaching level 20, and there are other restrictions in effect for Starter Edition accounts, including the inability to trade, use mail, use Auction House, use public chat channels, join guilds or amass more than ten gold.[37]
In the United States, Canada, and Europe, Blizzard distributes World of Warcraft via retail software packages.[50] The software package includes 30 days of gameplay for no additional cost. To continue playing after the initial 30 days, additional play time must be purchased using a credit card or prepaid game card. The minimum gameplay duration that a player can purchase is 30 days using a credit card, or 60 using a prepaid game card. A player also has the option of purchasing three or six months of gameplay at once for a 6–15% discount.[51] In Australia, the United States, and many European countries, video game stores commonly stock the trial version of World of Warcraft in DVD form, which includes the game and 20 levels[52] of gameplay, after which the player would have to upgrade to a retail account by supplying a valid credit card, or purchasing a game card as well as a retail copy of the game.
World of Warcraft was recognized at the 2005 Spike TV Video Game Awards where it won Best PC Game, Best Multiplayer Game, Best RPG, and Most Addictive Game.[92] In 2008, World of Warcraft was honoured—along with Neverwinter Nights and EverQuest—at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for advancing the art form of MMORPG games.[93] In 2009, Game Informer ranked World of Warcraft 11th on their list of "The Top 200 Games of All Time".[94] In 2015, the game placed 3rd on USgamer's The 15 Best Games Since 2000 list.[95]

Todo jugador de World of Warcraft puede aprender y desarrollar profesiones, que son habilidades que le permiten recoger y/o fabricar distintos objetos que pueden ser útiles para su desarrollo como personaje o que pueden servirle económicamente para su venta. Existen dos tipos de profesiones, las profesiones primarias y las secundarias. Cada jugador puede aprender como máximo dos profesiones primarias del catálogo de profesiones existentes, y puede aprender todas las profesiones secundarias.
As with other MMORPGs, players control a character avatar within a game world in third- or first-person view, exploring the landscape, fighting various monsters, completing quests, and interacting with non-player characters (NPCs) or other players. Also similar to other MMORPGs, World of Warcraft requires the player to pay for a subscription by using a credit or debit card, using prepaid Blizzard game cards or using a WoW Token purchased in-game. Players without a subscription may use a trial account that lets the player character reach up to level 20 but has many features locked.[10]
Seven expansions have been released: The Burning Crusade, released in January 2007; Wrath of the Lich King, released in November 2008; Cataclysm, released in December 2010; Mists of Pandaria, released in September 2012; Warlords of Draenor, released in November 2014; Legion, released in August 2016; and Battle for Azeroth, released in August 2018. Players are not required to purchase expansions in order to continue playing; however, new content and features such as higher level caps and new areas may not be available until they do so.
Existen un total de trece razas jugables16​ divididas en dos facciones, la Alianza y la Horda, siendo la decimotercera raza (Pandaren) compartida por ambos bandos. Pertenecen a la Alianza: humanos, gnomos, enanos, elfos de la noche, draenéi, huarguens y pandarens; y pertenecen a la Horda: orcos, no-muertos renegados, troles, taurens, elfos de sangre, goblins y pandarens. En la mayoría de las zonas, la Alianza y la Horda están en guerra una con la otra, aunque existen zonas neutrales como la ciudad flotante de Dalaran o la Ciudadela de Shattrath, estas zonas son conocidas como santuarios.
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