Wednesday, 28 July 2010

EQ2 – Would You Free-To-Play It?

Post soundtrack: “Gonna Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse” by Jimmy Helms

Well, I have to admit this news caught me off-guard.  Everquest 2 will be offering free-to-play servers, going live (in an open-beta with no character wipes kind of way) next month.  Welcome to the brave new world of Everquest II Extended.

Fishing for a bargain?

It looks like they’re following the Turbine model, with the basic game free to play (subject lots of restrictions for the base account), but instead of limiting quest access they’ve appear to be making almost everything else available for purchase.  The chart of the different plans and what they have available for each tier is an interesting look: link

So subscribers get pretty much the existing game (players who buy a full year sub in advance get bonus station cash each month, but standard monthly subs don’t), but non-subscribers have limits on character races, classes, character slots, spell tiers and equipment grades, bag slots (this one surprised me), coins (a maximum gold-per-level cap), active quests, and broker (auction house) access.

It would appear that having purchased EQ2 will have no effect on what EQ2E content you have access to, unlike the upcoming LotRO changeover.  With LotRO, you keep access to the content you already have access to – if you’ve bought all the expansions, you will still be able to play everything you can now, only you don’t have that annoying subscription to pay.  With EQ2E, the existing EQ2 players will remain on their servers and if they create a new EQ2E character it will, regardless of the status of their accounts, start off with your basic free account limitations like new players.  (Sony have said that EQ2 characters can be copied to the EQ2E servers, but they arrive with no coins and only with ATTUNED and NO-TRADE items, and are then restricted to what your EQ2E account membership tier allows you access to.)

It’s going to be interesting to see what comes from this courageous, yet potentially divisive, move on Sony’s part – will existing subscribers feel they have to copy their characters (at US$35 each) across to the new servers?  Will the free-to-play servers breath some life into the game?  And what toll will this take on the existing subscription-only servers?

And more importantly, will this influence WoW’s future directions, if it proves successful for Sony?