Daily Archives: April 28, 2009

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.