Coming out of left field, Turbine’s announced that later this summer, Dungeons & Dragons Online will change from subscription to a free-to-play model (called Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited). A few of the salient details from their announcement:
- “Launching this summer”
- Play for free – no time limit or level cap
- Additional content and items will be available in the DDO store for real-world currency (RMT). You can also earn store points for “certain achievements in-game” (according to their FAQ)
- You also can subscribe for $14.99/month for their VIP program — unlimited access to all premium content plus a number of exclusive benefits (extra character slots, shared bank, DDO store currency)
- DDO Store has convenience items, premium dungeon packs, additional character slots, hirelings, potions, character customization and more
- “Now players can download DDO Unlimited in minutes and immediately begin creating their own character”
IGN says that, “DDO is taking the new approach because Turbine felt it’s the right title to explore free-to-play MMOs and microtransactions.”
My thoughts? As much as I’m generally not a fan of RMT MMOs — mostly because I haven’t met one yet that I really like and doesn’t make me feel like I’m mooching off the land unless I pony up dough — I think this is a terrific idea, for two reasons:
- DDO has long past its peak point of subscribership, and has to be limping along right now, possibly skirting the line of outright cancelation. Going free to play means that it certainly will get a huge bump in players (including new players), and Turbine’s rolling the dice that all of that will translate into more income than a declining subscriber base and/or shutting down the game’s doors.
- Many people, including myself, have said that they like DDO, just not enough for a $15 or $10/month subscriber free. $5 would have been tempting; $0 is downright enticing.
I’m sure that Turbine’s looking at the playerbase of Runes of Magic, Free Realms, Runescape and the like with not just a little envy, and could very well be testing the waters for a future title in development.
We’ve also heard good things about DDO’s revisions over the past year or so, including a much-buffed starter zone, so hopefully for Turbine that’ll mean a lot of very positive first impressions by folks who’ve yet to try this title. My biggest concern is how much this move will cheese the game. By their own admission, it’s designed to suck you in with lots of free content in lower levels and then put the “you know you want this!” squeeze on you as you level:
“Free content is widely available for low-level characters and becomes sparser as a character’s level increases.” (from the FAQ)
I’ve always thought that DDO is a cool casual game — perfect for quick dungeon crawls here or there, but not quite as demanding of your time as most major MMOs. I don’t know what my late summer will look like, but the option to dive into DDO once or twice a week if the mood strikes — and without having to worry about cost? I’m there.