While World of Warcraft is still, ostensibly, a subscription-based MMO it is slowly taking steps towards becoming free-to-play. The first among those steps occurred not that long ago, with players being able to experience the vanilla version of WoW, up through level 20, free of charge.

Now, as revealed by Blizzard today, players will be able to try out every race available in World of Warcraft, regardless of which expansion they own, without paying any additional fee. That means that those aforementioned vanilla WoW players, who didn’t want to fork over the cash for ‘Lich King’ or ‘Cataclysm,’ can play as a Drenai, a Worgen, or a Blood Elf without paying any extra.

Even more exciting than playing as one of the older locked racesis the announcement that, when the ‘Mists of Pandaria’ expansion becomes available on September 25th, those same players will be able to try out the new Pandaren race as well. It’s a huge move on Blizzard’s part, and could be one of the biggest incentives for past World of Warcraft players to return.

There are still some incentives to subscribe to WoW or to purchase its expansions — Mists of Pandaria’s new monk class and level 90 cap can only be unlocked with ownership — but now gamers can give the race a try before deciding on picking up the entire package.

This new “feature” will launch with the game’s 5.0.4 patch — more commonly known as the pre-expansion patch. It’s said to launch on August 28th, and in addition to unlocking all the races, will introduce a new talent system as well as trainers that can reset talent and glyph selections.

The patch itself is not as world altering as the pre-Cataclysm patch, which literally changed the landscape of Azeroth, but it might be equally as anticipated. Many players gave up on WoW knowing that, for them, the experience had reached its zenith, but some gamers who had never even booted up Blizzard’s MMO were waiting for the early stages of free-to-play features to roll out. This isn’t the beginning of that — the aforementioned level 20 limit was — but this is the next big step.

How do you feel about Blizzard unlocking every playable race including the Pandaren? Does it diminish the impact of the new expansion or will it help boost sales after players give the race a spin?

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria releases September 25, 2012 for the PC.

Source: Blizzard