Jess Conditt had a piece on Engadget last week that caught my eye because it’s a story you don’t hear much anymore: Free-to-play saved a game.
Five years ago, that was the only story we got to tell, but in recent years, free-to-play has been viewed with suspicion, especially in our genre. But it’s apparently rescued Turtle Rock Studios’ Evolve, which originally launched at $60 with day-one DLC out the wazoo, igniting a “DLC shitstorm,” the studio founders admitted. Responding to a plummeting playerbase, Evolve’s devs went F2P on PC and instituted sweeping gameplay changes under the “Evolve Stage 2” banner, which propelled the game’s playerbase to a million players, with a 25,000 peak concurrent player count a month ago and a 15,000 active player count now. F2P really did keep the game and the studio afloat.
Evolve isn’t an MMORPG, of course, but it did make me curious about some of the better F2P transitions in our genre’s lifespan. I can certainly think of examples of games that were better off before they were F2P, but today I want to hear what you think was the very best “save” by a free-to-play transition in MMORPG history. Which game was most destined for doom but best pulled from the brink by free-to-play?