There have been a number of big name titles taking the Free-to-play route to market. Perhaps this is a result of the games available on Facebook or the low cost games available on mobile platforms such as iOS and Android, or it may even be a combination of a number of factors, including these. Either way, price is increasingly becoming less of an initial barrier, as at the very least you can sample a number of high budget titles for the most welcoming price of FREE.
Now, I will say right up front, that the big FREE sign is an entry cost. Once inside, you may have to spend a few pounds to experience all that the chosen title has to offer, but at the very least you’ll have a little more to go on in deciding whether this is a game you should be spending your hard-earned on.
With a number of publishers deciding that free can pay, there have been some recognisable names made available for your consumption. So here we go, in no particular order, five of the biggest free-to-play MMOs currently available.
DC Universe online
I’d say that this is the most talked about MMO at the moment, given that the transition to free-to-play has brought in a reported one million new players, this was achieved in the relatively short time span of one month. Clearly the lure of being able to assume the role and powers of your favourite DC Superheros is a huge appeal and now that the barrier to entry has been removed, fans are flocking to the DC Universe in their droves.
Sony Online Entertainment have changed the model from a month subscription, to a plan which generates income through micro-transactions and an optional subscription package. Remember, I said free entry, if you want a drink and a dance, you’re going to have to pay for that pleasure. In fairness, there is still plenty to do before you may feel inclined to share your bank details and therein lies the unsolved equation for Sony. Will there be enough mirco-transactions, as they call it, to make it worth their while to give the freedom to be Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman. We shall see in the coming weeks and months.
While Sony Online Entertainment, may have dipped it’s toe in the water, it would seem that the water doesn’t feel too bad as the rest of the foot is going in. EverQuest II, set in an alternate future to the original EverQuest, already had a free to play option but this drew many complaints about the community being divided. This issue was addressed by executive producer Dave Georgeson who said this week that “in early December we’re going to change things to be ‘Free to play’. Your way.”
Well, this “free to play. Your way” Burger King style phrase is worth taking a little look at as, I don’t know about you but my way is totally awesome and pretty difficult to recreate. A few key points are worth noting, firstly that free members are limited to two characters and Adept-tier spells. There is also a Silver and Gold membership which does come with a subscription of $5 per month and $15 per month respectively. And the last point to highlight is that both Silver and Free users are limited to four races and eight classes, with accompanying restrictions on equipment grades they have access to. To sum up, not entirely awesome but again, enough to sink your teeth into before deciding whether to sink the big money into this title.
There can be no doubt that the king of MMORPGs is World of Warcraft. This is the title that has set the standard for MMOs and captured the imagination and adulation of thousands of online gamers. While the original Warcraft series dates back to 1994 with Warcraft: Ocrs & Humans, it is arguably the move to Azeroth that occurred 10 years later in 2004 that ostensibly secured the future of the title perhaps for another decade.
This summer, in an effort to ensure that there was plenty fresh meat, Blizzard introduced a new program called World of Warcraft Starter Edition. This allowed new players, to play at their leisure without fear of their trial period expiring. What this means, is that you can battle as much as you like and you’ll gain experience up to level 20, at which point you can still continue to cast your spells and swing you swords but you’ll no longer gain experience for your victories unless you upgrade to the full version of the game.
There are a few limitations, but if you’ve be curiously sniffing around this MMO leviathan for a while, this will be a great taster.
Star Trek Online
While this one may still be a way off, January 17th 2012 if we’re going to put a date to it (as we should), it’ll still be a welcome a ddition to the growing free-to-play catalogue. It would be an understate to say the Trekkie community is massive, so no doubt there will be many that are very pleased with the news of this impending release. There has been a slight delay in getting this MMORPG out to the baying hordes, but this title has been in the works since May if this year so if they need a little more time to get this right, I say give it to them rather than being handed a poorly conceived rush job.
The free to play for this is a little different from what Cryptic, the game developer, has set out previously. The game’s economy will be “revisited” with high-end equipment will be more difficult to acquire and the low-end equipment will be extremely easy to acquire. And the familiar Dilithium will be the only item in the game can be auctioned off for Cryptic points. This may perhaps be one of the most “free” free-to-play title around. But we’ll have to wait and see what actually emerges in January.
Team Fortress 2
This first person shooter was developed by Valve Corporation and is a sequel to the original mod Team Fortress based on the Quake engine. One of the key advantages to Team Fortress is that Valve is the creator of Steam, the game platform that distributes games directly to a growing community of more than 35 million users. In fact, there are a number of Valve games available on Steam that could arguably warrant a mention, Counter-Strike being principle among them, but it is Team Fortress 2 that has the free to play option.
It is Team Fortress 2 that has one of the most “free” free to play offers, with the free version giving access to the same maps, classes and game types as players who purchased Team Fortress 2 before it was free to play. Though who purchased the game before is was made free, will be rewarded with a special in-game hat.