Well, we can certainly see which way the wind is blowing this year… in the direction of free to play… or no cover charge, if you prefer.
As noted over at Massively this morning, Sony Online Entertainment announced EverQuest II Extended, their version of the free to play.
Like the Lord of the Rings Online free to play announced earlier this year, there will be different access for different plans, from free to various fees.
EverQuest II Extended Membership Matrix
However, unlike the LOTRO plan, this is not going to do away with the current EQII subscription plans. From the FAQ:
EverQuest II Extended is a completely separate gameplay service from the EverQuest II live subscription service. The server lists are not shared, it has completely separate forums, and if you don’t want to be around the community that plays in the free adventure service, then there is no reason for that to ever occur. However, if you want to go try out Extended, feel free to do so. Active EQII live players can create a new account on EQII Extended for free or copy over a version of an existing EQII live character for $35.
If you currently play EverQuest II, you won’t be able to drop your monthly fee unless you want to pay $35 to copy over (does that mean “clone” or “move?”) a character to a new server. If you pay for Station Access, you will apparently get a gold level account, but that doesn’t mean much if you characters are elsewhere.
What will this mean? Will this effectively kill off any new players to the current EQII servers, leaving them to dwindle over time like their EQ brethren? Will guilds jump to the new server?
It will be interesting to see how this plays out in comparison to the LOTRO conversion.
I do not think, however, that this free to play mania is going to spread to Blizzard and the WoW cash machine any time soon.
From the forum post by Dave Georgeson:
“EverQuest II Extended” shares all the content and features of Live EQII. It plays the same. It looks the same. It *is* the same, with two obvious exceptions: a) it’s free-to-play, and b) it has a more robust marketplace.
What does “free-to-play” mean? It means that you can download the game and play all of it (except the most recent expansion) all the way up to level 80. Your character is restricted in a bunch of different ways (limited class selection, limited races, limited coin, etc.) and to unlock those features fully, you’ll need to subscribe to Gold level membership. Which, coincidentally, is $15/month. Sound familiar?
What is a “robust marketplace”? It’s exactly the same marketplace that you see on the EQII service, but it also adds lots of “convenience” items. Can’t find a good shield in-game? We sell one appropriate to your level and class. Want a healing potion to use in a pinch? Need an emergency buff? Want to shortcut your research time? Items like that are all available in the marketplace. Do we sell the very best items and equipment? Nope. Legendary and Fabled gear are better than what you can buy in the marketplace. Has the game been rebalanced so that you *need* to buy these “convenience” items? Nope. EQ2X is exactly the same game that you’re playing currently on the EQII servers. Those items are just there if you want them. They are true “convenience” items.
I guess they will be taking the Station Cash aspect to a new level and start selling equipment with stats on the new service. That is a significant change, no matter how they try to play it off, and explains, to a certain extent, why they will be keeping EQ2 Live and EQ2 Extended apart.