Free MMORPG & Free MMOs

Archive for December 2009

As 2009 comes to a close, I think it only makes some sense for us to celebrate some of the best MMORPGs of the year. Free to play titles like Runes of Magic and Grand Fantasia and Atlantica Online really raised the ‘quality’ bar for free to play games. MMOs like Lost Saga and League of Legends blew a breath of fresh air into the genre. On top of all that – Electronic Arts and Sony both entered the free to play space in 2009. EA released two titles – Battlefield Heroes, a cartoony MMOFPS game, and Battleforge, an incredibly unique MMORTS. Sony penetrated the market with Free Realms, a casual and fun fantasy, that now has over four million registerd users. Hopefully these two entertainment giants continue to release quality new games into the space in 2010.

I suspect that 2010 will not only attract the attention of big western game developers but also Chinese gaming companies. The whole ‘free to play’ scene is still pretty ‘niche’ in North America, but in Asia F2P has almost always been huge. Perfect World Co – the guys behind Perfect World, Ether Saga Online and Jade Dynasty have had enormous success in North America. The guys behind Evony and Empire Craft have also had a lot of success. This success will lead to even more foreign companies entering the lucrative F2P space. All of this new competition will lead to one thing – more games. As a gamer I’m very excited about 2010. 2009 has some great games that really revolutionized the genre and if the quality of these free to play titles keep improving I can’t imagine why anyone would want to subscribe to a pay to play title like Eve Online or Warhammer Online. The only way I can see some of these pay to play titles ’surviving’ is if they go free to play, as there really is no reason to pay for mediocre titles when there are countless great free to play alternatives. With subscription revenues for games like Everquest and Warhamer Online steadily declining – going free to play may be the only way to boost revenues and attract more users.Heck,

Hopefully we see some killer releases in 2010. I know Allods Online should be release dsometime in mid to late January. That should really kick off the new year on a high note – as Allods is one of the highest budget free to play MMORPGs ever, and an incredibly fun game from my experience. Anyway guys, I look forward to seeing what 2010 has to offer!

There are numerous MMORPGs that originally launched as ‘pay to play’ titles but have later relaunched themselves as free to play. Many of these once pay to play MMORPGs have been much more successful as free to play games than back when they collection subscription revenues. Dungeons and Dragons Online for example, which launched in 2006 with a $14.99 /month price tag but is now free to play, earns 40% more subscription revenues today as a free to play game than it did when it was pay to play. This means that many more people are today ‘voluntarily’ subscribing to the game (For added benefits) when they could be enjoying it for free. Fernando Paitz, the game’s executive producer said in an interview with Ars Technica, “All aspects of our business are growing.” “Hundreds of thousands of new players in the world are playing for free, with a very high percentage using the store.” Obviously Turbine had a lot of success with Dungeons and Dragons Online’s transformation into a free to play game which may tempt the companies behind older pay to play MMORPGs like EverQuest and Ultima Online to consider going free to play or at least consider extending their MMORPG free trials.

Going free to play has its clear advantages and disadvantages. Games without subscription fees tend to appeal to a larger audience while axing the subscription fee results in lower revenues in the short term. Not every MMORPG that has gone free to play has been successful either – Fury for example, which launched in 2007 with a subscription fee, went free to play sometime in late 07’ and shut down a few months after going free. Shadowbane also tried to ‘relaunch’ itself as a free to play game in order to survive, as its subscription revenues have been in decline for years, but unfortunately failed. The game was officially shut down on July 1, 2009. There are a lot of knockoffs out there for pay to play games that haven’t gone free to play. World of Warcraft for example has many knockoffs – Runes of Magic and Gates of Andaron being the two most popular.