World Of Warcraft Starter Edition has been hailed as a "brilliant strategic move" by industry analysts.

The news that Blizzard was making the first 20 levels of WoW free-to-play emerged earlier this week, and while the Starter Edition strips away several key features, it is significantly more generous than the preceding 14-day trial.

Speaking to IndustryGamers, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter described the offer as a reaction to the growing threat from free-to-play MMOs, and a "pre-emptive move" against Bioware's The Old Republic.

"It's a great hook to attract new subscribers," he said. "People new to MMOs will have to think about whether to buy Star Wars or WoW, it's actually a brilliant strategic move."

Arvind Bhatia of Sterne Agee speculated that the Starter Edition is evidence of Blizzard, "getting closer to the launch of the next expansion pack for WoW."

David Cole of DFC Intelligence is more reserved, however, positing that simply attracting more players to WoW is enough of an incentive to open up its first 20 levels.

"I think it is more an issue of WoW has reached somewhat of a saturation point and while it has held steady it hasn't seen a great deal of growth," he explained. "The competition I think is once you reach a certain level of success it gets very hard to find new people willing to try it."