Let me preface this by saying that I'm absolutely notorious for giving out free trial codes. You want to check out WoW and see if you like it? Sure! Let me get you a code -- and get myself 30 days free in the process if you sign up. You think your cousin might dig the game since he plays EverQuest, but you're not sure? Here, let me email you a code to forward to them. For you see, I am every inch the devoted WoW fangirl, and I say that without any shame. As such, it is my mission to share the fun!
Now, with that said, I think I've easily managed to score four or five months of free time from people converting trial accounts to paid accounts. And as WoW gains even more ground, even hardcore devotees to other MMOs are starting to be curious about what all the noise is about. (Well, okay, maybe that's just my older brother who has been staunchly refusing all my free codes and continuing to play City of Heroes/Villains... But I sense his will starting to falter now that he's hit endgame there. Mwahaha!)
Of course, if you listen to Terrorantula on the (European) WoW General forums, trial accounts are everything that is bad with the game. They bring in gold spam mails! They let those advertisers come on and harass us! Now personally, while I'm all for Blizzard writing in some kind of process that immediately bans any account who sends certain gold-selling domain names in chat or mail (and they know who they are) I don't know that I would back the total removal of all free trial accounts.
I can see the benefits of some of the suggestions made in that thread -- like limiting the ability to /w until you are on a player's friends list. Or perhaps, like EVE Online, set up a system whereby people are charged a larger amount of money to send in-game mails to people who don't either have them listed as a contact (friend) or who are in the same corporation (guild) as they are. I think it was somewhere around 2,500 ISK in EVE, so a somewhat similar amount might be 20s50c for a non-friend/guildie to mail you as opposed to 30c for friends and guildies to send you mail. 5 gold spam mails costing over 1g to send might prove to be enough of a deterrent to make these companies rethink that avenue for "advertising." There might even be one day when I log in and don't have spam or scams in my mailbox!
Aside from the fact that trial accounts have managed to get me some free game time, they have also brought friends into the game that I don't get to see very often. Case in point is one of my oldest friends: a woman that I've known since we were in 4th grade together, but who lives several hundred miles from me. Now she has started playing WoW and even joined the guild I'm in. Whereas I only used to see her perhaps once or twice a year, now I "see" her every day. True, it may sometimes only be a quick exchange of hellos before she and I go different ways to quest, it's been great to be in closer contact with her than I was before. Without that chance for her to "try before she bought" she might never have made the jump from EverQuest to WoW, which she has said on many occasions is much more fun for her casual playstyle than EQ was.
So while I am just as frustrated as the next player about the gold spams and whispers, I really think the trial accounts serve an excellent purpose. They bring friends and family in to our World of Warcraft. Better restrictions on the accounts might help somewhat, but many people say (and seem to be correct) that most of this is going on from paid accounts instead of trials. In which case, I can only hope that Blizzard finds some way to block the spam from happening. Mods are nifty, but I'd rather not have to have one specifically for it in the first place, you know?
(P.S. Before i get comments about how we allow gold-selling links in banner ads, we are trying to block them at the source. You can help -- just click here.)