Tom was speaking about the rapid expansion of free-to-play games in the west, and the terms under which Blizzard would consider a similar model for World of Warcraft. In the last year, classic western hardcore online games such as Lord of the Rings Online, Company of Heroes and Dungeons and Dragons Online have all embraced a free-to-play model, where microtransactions and item purchases are a substitute for a traditional subscription fee.
Yet Tom doesn’t think those games have gone free just to compete with World of Warcraft. “I feel like they’re doing that to compete with other games that are on a similar subscriber level to what they were at. I imagine that when one of them went free to play it cannibalized some of the other subscribers. I can definitely imagine that being the case with World of Warcraft. If another game comes along and blows us away it may not make sense for us to have a subscription fee. Or even further down the line, when we have another MMO out.”
So basically competition and perhaps a slowly shrinking player base of World of Warcraft is making its developers consider new ways of playing such MMO games. Likely will happen, but not soon.
I'm a long time player of Guild Wars, it's free to play after you buy the game and there are occasional goodies that you can buy that don't give you an advantage over other players. Sadly, even if WoW is free I don't want to play it. Level grinding that plagues the massive multiplayer online role playing genre isn't fun.