The MMORPG world is quite the cut-throat business and if you want to survive against World of Warcraft then you have to be prepared to make some changes to your subscription model before your game sinks. The current solution to the “WoW Question” is the Free-to-Play option, where the developer makes their game available to everyone, free of charge, and recoups their costs through microtransactions and other options.
Champions Online, which I played and wrote impressions on way back when I first started at GamerSushi, is the newest adherent to this business plan, making the jump to Free-to-Play in the coming weeks. While people will still be able to subscribe for $14.99 a month (called a Gold subscriber), there will also be a new tier available called a Silver membership. While Gold members will retain all the bells and whistles that came with the package before, Silver members are getting the short end of the stick as benefits their thrifty ways.
For starters, Silver players will still get access to the robust character creator (arguably the best part of Champions Online), but will get shafted a bit when it comes to powers. Whereas Gold level gamers will get a whole host of options for tricking out their heroes, Silver players will only have access to Archetypes, which are dumbed-down versions of the power sets available to full members. Additionally, Gold members who decide to downgrade to Silver will be unable to access their characters until they have converted them to an appropriate Archetype to reflect their new status in the Champions hierarchy. Silver players also have limited bank, inventory and marketplace space, but are not confined in their run of the game worlds and their respective quests.
Limiting the free level seems like missing the point to me, but I’m not a game designer, just a potential customer. While people are always happy to get something for free, they’re going to be more receptive to microstansactions if you don’t severely handicap them off the bat.
Now that a lot of MMOs are going this way, it makes me wonder how The Old Republic is going to tackle this issue. With Cataclysm, World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, due out on December 7, TOR is going to run smack into the post-release rush if it hits its estimated release of early 2011. While it will gain an early boom thanks to curious players, it might loose them back to WoW if it doesn’t manage to hook them right away.
So, what do you guys think. Will future MMOs not even bother and go Free-to-Play right away? Will The Old Republic try to stand toe-to-toe with WoW? Will making a game free even help some of these MMOs that are flooding the market?
Source – Champions Online Blog