Cryptic recently announced that their superhero MMORPG Champions Online would go free to play starting in early November. Champions Online isn’t the only pay to play MMORPGs that has gone free to play. In fact, this year alone The Lord of the Rings Online from Turbine and EverQuest 2 from Sony Online Entertainment both went free to play. In the past RF Online, Archlord and Seal Online have all gone free to play. I think the most successful pay to play game that has relaunched as free to play is still Dungeons and Dragons Online though. Things have definitely heated up in 2010 though – because both EverQuest 2 and The Lord of the Rings Online are Triple-A titles with big budgets. Seeing them re-launching as free to play is a HUGE vote of confidence for the business model. Pirates of the Burning Sea also announced later in 2010 that they would also be relaunching as a free to play title.
With more and more games dropping their subscriptions, it wasn’t that surprising to see Champions Online do the same thing. I’m wandering why Champions Online went free to play before City of Heroes though – as City of Heroes (which is being published by NCSoft) was the first game developed by Cryptic. Champions Online is an overall more impressive title, so seeing a new game go free to play was a bit weird. I’m curious what game will drop its subscription next. Lineage 2 could go free to play as its already free to play in both Russia and South Korea. Age of Conan could go free to play, as Age of Conan is already free to play in Korea. If I were a betting man though, I would wager that Warhammer Online will go free to play before anything else. Electronic Arts has been embracing the entire free to play model with open arms – as they launched Battlefield Heroes, Lord of Ultima, FIFA Online, Tiger Woods Online and numerous other free to play games. Electronic Arts is the first big Western MMORPG developer to really embrace F2P. All the big free to play games right now are either Chinese – thing Battle of the Immortals, Forsaken World, Perfect World or Korean – Think Fly For Fun, MapleStory, Iris Online.
I think it’s safe to say that free to play MMORPGs are the future. I know it’s a bit of a ridiculous statement, but just look at how many pay to play games have gone free to play in the last 2 years. 3 Years ago, no big western developed MMORPG has gone free to play before. I believe Dungeons and Dragons was the first major pay to plays gone free to play. Nowadays though, the gap between quality of free to play games and pay to play games has shrunk. Heck, some free to plays like Fantasy Earth Zero from GamePot USA, FreeJack from GamerKraft and Tales Runner from gPotato are unique. World of Warcraft is certainly a top notch game, but it has several free to play alternatives. Just look at Runes of Magic – if you enjoy playing WoW, try Runes of Magic. It’s free to play and nearly as good if not better. It has some 4 million registered users world-wide, so it’s mega popular.
Anyway, I digress. Which pay to play game do you think will go free to play next? Leave your answer in the comments!