DC Universe Online is to change to a Free-to-Play model this October. Previously, DCUO had a subscription model that resulted in between $10-$15 a month fees. In addition, there was a Lifetime subscription model that cost $200.
Here are the new tiers, as reported by IGN:
New players will now have access to the current gameplay in DC Universe Online (including Gotham City, Metropolis, and all current raids and alerts), with the ability to create two characters, join a league and many other benefits. Free level players will be able to purchase downloadable game packs/updates, additional character slots, powers and more through microtransactions.
Any player who has spent at least $5 (including former paid subscribers and new players who have purchased $5 of in-game items) will qualify for the Premium access level. Premium level players will have more benefits available to them than the Free level player, including additional character slots, additional inventory slots, and higher cash limits. Downloadable adventure packs, additional character slots, and more can be purchased in-game.
Maximum features and benefits are included at this level. Loaded with enhanced additional features, Legendary access will be available for a $14.99 monthly fee and includes all DLC packs at no cost, more than 15 character slots, more than 80 inventory slots, the ability to form unrestricted-sized leagues, and many other benefits.
An editorial by President of SOE John Smedley reveals a variety of reasons for the change in business model. Among them was the fact that 40% of the cancelled EverQuest II subscriptions were because people couldn’t afford to keep paying them. Additionally, Smedley believes that console gamers are not used to subscription fees, and this creates a barrier in reaching their PS3-based console market.
It is important to note that those who have purchased a lifetime subscription plan will receive Legendary tier benefits permanently. Additionally, SOE has promised not to break the game via the microtransaction items. The items in the shop will not include any overly powerful items, and the experience potions will not be available right away.
Analysis: There’s a major push in the MMO industry to move to Free-to-Play, and this is a side effect of that. Additionally, subscription MMOs are gradually losing subscribers, but Smedley stated this was not the reason for DCUO’s move to F2P:
In terms of “Is it a result in a drop in subs” – absolutely not. This is the right business model. If I can be honest, the game ended up costing a lot more than we thought it would, and this was our preferred business model from day one.
This industry push is not convincing everyone, however. Star Wars: The Old Republic is going with the sub model, and EA expects 2 million users to subscribe to it. In the end, however, I think Smedley is right and F2P is going to become the primary model. I’ve personally played many games with the F2P model and have had great experiences.