Massively Overthinking: Graceful MMO free-to-play transitions

    
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In honor of WildStar’s free-to-play transition this week, Massively Overthinking is about to overthink the very best F2P transitions ever. Even if you don’t like F2P, you probably can still name one that was pulled off well, one that was done particularly gracefully. I’m pretty sure you can think of some terrible ones too!

Intriguingly, after I posed this question to our team, Justin reminded me that technically, the last major subscription MMO to go F2P was RIFT in 2013. Everything else is either B2P or a minor game — or F2P or hybrid F2P from the start. Puts the question into perspective, doesn’t it?

Follow along to hear some of our writers’ thoughts and propose your own most graceful MMO F2P transition.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): It seems as if most of the big-name transitions were riddled with problems, if not actual relaunch tech disasters then some major design fiasco. Will Star Wars: The Old Republic ever live down hot bars and helmet toggles in the cash shop? Will Champions Online ever be forgiven for $50 freeform character slots? Will I ever look at Lord of the Rings Online and not remember the half dozen cash shop buttons on my screen at any given time? RIFT seems to have glided along into its F2P mode with few messes aside from a few feeble declarations of P2W and some server merge PR snafus. City of Heroes was pretty good for veterans, although for everyone else, being limited to just a few characters was mind-boggling. Every game I can think of has some sort of caveat. That’s not a good sign.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): I’m well aware that this is not a universally shared sentiment, but from being on the ground level during it, I think Star Wars: the Old Republic had a perfectly painless transition. I went from playing the game to… still playing the game, just as before, but with new vanity stuff — i.e., “more of the stuff I care most about” — most of which I could purchase with my monthly stipend as a subscriber or that I didn’t need anyhow. Discussions about what should or shouldn’t have been placed for sale in the game’s cash shop and points related are, well, not the point in this particular case.

By contrast, looking at it from the outside, WildStar seems to be having a critical mass of technical problems preventing people from getting back in and playing the game after its transition takes place. Which sort of kills that whole “second chance to make a first impression” vibe…

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): RIFT had a fairly well-done free-to-play transition, maybe Lord of the Rings Online too, if I recall correctly. It seems as though the good ones are more forgettable than the train wrecks, which most have been. I know that SWTOR had a rough few days and Aion had one of the worst queues I’ve ever seen. Was Star Trek Online’s pretty good? I think it was. Cursed short-term memory!

Your turn!

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carson63000
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carson63000

crackfox melissaheather It has been a while, but my memory is that LOTRO’s initial transition was quite graceful. Then, the crassness slowly grew and bred and multiplied over the months and years that followed.

dorn2
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dorn2

melissaheather Estranged 
Don’t forget more insane or just diabolically evil.

theparadiselast
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theparadiselast

melissaheather More like free-to-try. You had to pay to unlock quests and zones even before vanilla endgame. I don’t see it more as a standard than it was the first big budget MMO to go F2P which helped to shift the market (alongside DDO). I can think of a handful of games with less restrictions on F2P than LOTRO in which you can get to max level and see all the content without paying a dime.

crackfox
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crackfox

melissaheather Wow, really? My post-F2P return to that game (which I loved) ended at those crass cash-shop splash screens. Utterly vile.

Estranged
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Estranged

My motto: “Show me the money” and “I’ll be your baby tonight!”

melissaheather
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melissaheather

Estranged Tom Cruise: More man than you’ll ever be, and more woman than you’ll ever get!

melissaheather
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melissaheather

LOTRO is the gold standard for going F2P.

FistyFisterson
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FistyFisterson

Zulika_Mi_Nam TheDonDude I think the real issue is, other than the free bits, we’re all burn outs on MMO’s and many of us jump from game to game looking for a fix. The free part is just the wide open gate I can jump through.

Estranged
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Estranged

I wonder if Star Citizen sold helmet toggles, if it would be OK?

Neo_Wolf
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Neo_Wolf

My expectations for a graceful launch are minimal i.e to be able to log in and see/play the game.  I don’t care about maintenances and bugs and even a little lag is tolerable but if you cannot at least log in and see the game then as a company you are dropping the ball on your transition in a serious way.