F2P gives ageing MMOs a second chance

MMO publishers are flocking to the free-to-play market to stop users logging off.

Over the past few weeks, a number of MMORPGs have announced they will be dropping subscription fees, such as City of Heroes, Age of Conan and LEGO Universe.
Valve’s Team Fortress 2 and the Japanese version of Epic’s Infinity Blade are also adopting free-to-play models.

Companies have told MCV that this business strategy will breathe new life into ageing products and remove a major barrier of entry for gamers that have found MMOs too expensive.

Because we launched over seven years ago, there is the perception that the game may not be as accessible as it could be for brand-new MMO gamers,” said Brian Clayton, executive producer at City of Heroes developer Paragon Studios.

With [the relaunched] City of Heroes Freedom, I expect we’ll put all those misconceptions to rest.”

Funcom’s director of communications Erling Ellingsen observed that Age of Conan is three years old, and has accomplished all it can while relying on fees.

He said: By offering a free-to-play option we’re reaching out to a bigger audience than we ever could with a subscription-only offering. Having an active playerbase that drives word of mouth is vital to any persistent online game that wants to experience growth.”

LEGO Universe is dropping its subscription model less than a year after launch, having struggled to attract sufficient members.

The new free-to-play option will reduce a critical barrier to entry among consumers,” said the LEGO Group’s VP of LEGO Universe Jesper Vilstrup.

The original business model was found to be too complex. Introducing a free-to-play option, eliminating the DVD product and offering a free digital download will make LEGO Universe more accessible.

Ultimately, this will recruit more players and paid members.”

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