Free Realms Unleashed Today

Barring anything bad happening, Sony Online Entertainment‘s new entry into the casual online game market, Free Realms, should launch some time today.

It was said elsewhere that that Sony reboots today.

Obviously SOE rebooted a while back and Free Realms is just the latest, and perhaps the purest, result of this new axis of march in San Diego.

A real transition took place last year when SOE was moved out from under Sony Pictures, who seemed inclined to a position of ignorance and benign neglect when it came to their MMO making division, and became part of Sony Computer Entertainment.  Those are the PlayStation people.

Not that FreeRealms has sprung up in the last year.  Certainly SOE has talked about RMT, velvet ropes, and different revenue models for quite some time.  But working for the PlayStation people, the team that has to compete with things like XboxLive and Microsoft Points, has got to put a more urgent spin on things.

So we’ve seen Sation Cash introduced into EverQuest and EverQuest II.  We have seen Live Gamer’s player to player cash sales interface grafted onto Vanguard. (Which probably means Vanguard gets to live for a while longer, at least as a lab rat.)  And now we have a completely RMT funded, microtransaction driven game being released by SOE.  The first of many, no doubt.

And getting back to urgency, urgent seems to be right.  I am completely surprised that Free Realms is going to market without day one PlayStation 3 support.  In fact, I predicted that such support would delay the launch.  Color me at least partially wrong on that one I suppose.  I am going to claim some small victory in the fact that PS3 support will be a while in coming.

With the dropping of the NDA on the Free Realms beta, a few MMO players have put up their views and impressions of the game. (Edit: And Terra Nova now has a discussion post about it and Gigaom is in on it too.)

Of course, the crazy thing about that is, this game is not really focused at MMO players.  It shouldn’t be.  This is a low intensity game.   It does not compete against World of Warcraft.  It is there to bring in the crowd for whom WoW is too hard core.  People who may not want to invest a lot of time in a play session.  People who don’t have mad gamer skills or the latest video card.

As such, it has some pretty low system requirements.  From the Free Realms site:

Your computer will need to have the following hardware and software to play Free Realms:

Video Card with Vertex Shaders 1.1
Intel Pentium 4 or greater processor
Windows XP or Windows Vista operating system
Broadband internet connection
512 MB RAM

We recommend you have the following hardware and software to get the best experience playing Free Realms:

GeForce 6 or better video card
Intel Pentium 4 or greater processor
Windows XP or Windows Vista operating system
Broadband internet connection
1 Gig RAM

That is pretty mild when compared to almost any MMO.  That is down in the toaster / World of Warcraft end of the range.

In fact, those requirements look very low against almost everything.  Everything except the games against which Free Realms is set to compete, that is.

In the ranks of competitors, Toontown Online is at the high end is at the high end while many are in the Club Penguin range, where a 3D card is not even required.

So for its market, or what I presume to be its market, Free Realms is coming in at the high end.  Time will show whether you can move a game with WoW system requirements into a Club Penguin world.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

I’ll be watching all of this from the sidelines though.  If I start playing a game like Free Realms, then my daughter will want to play.  But the computer she is allowed to use is an iMac, and Free Realms doesn’t go there.

So when I play online games with my daughter, I will have to limit myself to almost all of the games that compete with FreeRealms.  Or World of Warcraft.  They all play on the Mac.

6 thoughts on “Free Realms Unleashed Today

  1. heartless_

    I should add a bit more on that.

    I think Free Realms will raise the quality bar in the casual, freebie game market. However, I think it will not prove financially viable enough for SOE to maintain on a decent level.

    As a side effect to this, the quality expectations of the player base will be greater and many smaller-production games will suffer because they can’t afford to keep up.

    Its a lose-lose almost.

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  2. Yeebo

    Free Realms will do well enough to change the expectations of all FtP MMO enthusiasts, but not well enough for SOE to support ongoing development? Color me skeptical.

    More on topic, speaking from the standpoint of someone that runs MMOs on a toaster, the performance of FR isn’t really on par with WoW. I get somewhat lower framerates, and the game isn’t as responsive. I’m getting performance somewhere between WoW and a “real” MMO like EQ II or LoTRO. I do applaud the tech behind the installation process, however. It’s really amazing how quickly you can get the game up and running from scratch.

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  3. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    I saw at least one comment on the posts I linked to that was complaining about the performance of Free Realms on non-gaming oriented systems. I hope they haven’t EQ2’d themselves on this one.

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  4. MrOrange

    This game is targetting such a narrow margine that it will find itself with 10-15k in paying subs. Once the other 20k find out you can’t play past level 10 unless your a paying member and that the “cool”classes are all member classes, well,the ensuing spiral will make them dash to make even further adjustments to retain potential Paying customers,to bolster it’s numbers.
    The exp adjustments released on the 25th did a staggering blow to skills such as mining. Putting a player in the position to grind 30-40 levels per hour,instead of 15-20.

    No release today IMO. Big apology and a free days credit to those who sign up tomorrow…wait, I must be on crack, SOE,free day ? lol
    SOE’s attitude is ” Your lucky we let you play stupid”

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  5. steph06

    I’ve been playing Free Realms for about a week now, and it’s one of the coolest online games I have tried in a long time. Love battling the robogoblins, and racing my friends is super fun too! Register today for free at http://www.freerealms.com, and enter these 2 codes to receive special items! Type in FROGGY to get Froggy Fries, which turns your character into a frog for a limited time. And type in SANDWICH to make your character temporarily tiny!

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