SOE Eschews the Middle Tier with Vanguard Free to Play Pricing

SOE announced back in March that Vanguard, the fantasy MMO step-child in their lineup, would be going free to play this summer.

Having been around the block with SOE titles moving from subscription to F2P at least twice before, first with EverQuest II and then EverQuest, it was probably easy enough to predict what was going to come to pass.

Both of those games ended up with a three tier subscription plan. (Yes, EverQuest II Extended had FOUR tiers, but that was clearly an experiment.)

At the bottom was “free,” which required no money changing hands.  All you had to do was create an SOE Station account, download the client, and you were set to log in and go.  Of course, there were some pretty severe restrictions on just what you could do with a free account.  These were put in place both to encourage you to upgrade and to keep abuse from gold sellers and the like to a minimum.

At the top end there was the “Gold” subscription, which was essentially the old monthly subscription plan in a new wrapper.  You could continue to give SOE $15 a month and get access to what you had before the transition.

And in the middle was the “Silver” tier where, for a fee of 500 Station Cash (which could range in value from $5.00 to 80 cents depending on various sales and incentives), some of the restrictions placed on “free” accounts were relaxed.  You got a couple more character slots, the ability to have more cash per character level, and no restrictions on chat channels.

This “Silver” tier made a lot of sense to me.  For an up front, one time payment, you were able to still dispense with the monthly fee, but got some benefits by essentially buying into the system.  Doing so probably meant you were unlikely to be a gold seller or other nefarious character likely to commit acts that might get you banned.  You had invested.

So I was somewhat surprised to see the Vanguard subscription matrix that was released today, as that “Silver” tier appears to be missing.

The two tiers of Vanguard

There is a FAQ up about the transition to F2P, which this time appears to cover most of the pertinent questions, but which makes no mention of the lack of a middle tier.

I wonder if that “Silver” level has proven ineffective in keeping the riff-raff under wraps, or if it ended up being too appealing to players, thus siphoning off potential dollars from players who might otherwise opt for a monthly subscription.

And this still leaves me wondering about PlanetSide? It will soon become SOE’s sole subscription-only title.

Reusing Images is “Green,” Right?

Smed says PlanetSide won’t be going away when PlanetSide 2 shows up.

When will it go free to play?

11 thoughts on “SOE Eschews the Middle Tier with Vanguard Free to Play Pricing

  1. HarbingerZero

    Eh, from my point of view, its a poor decision on their part. I was ready and willing to hand over my $10-$15 for Silver. So now, instead of getting a little money from the transition, they get no money.


  2. carson63000

    Do we know what they intend to sell to non-subscribers, beyond race and class unlocks?

    Which, by the way, I always thought were a poor idea: you need to get someone hooked before they’ll open their wallet to you, and once they’re hooked, they’ve already got a character they’re happy with, why would they pay for a new race and/or class to reroll?


  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    No idea what they are going to offer. But since they stuck that LiveGamer RMT onto Vanguard without tapping into the community for an opinion, I would not be surprised to see a complete lack of restraint when it comes to offering gear or other goodies.

    Also, I am greatly amused to see that fishing… FISHING… is one of the things denied “free” players. You want to fish, you have to buy a license!


  4. Atnor

    Yeah, I played vg for quite awhile, only leaving when it became clear SOE had essentially abandoned its ongoing development it and was just letting it linger and wither.

    With this new f2p deal, I actually had been mulling iver the idea of forcing myself to get over my distaste at giving SOE money and maybe keep it installed as, if not my “main” game, my secondary game. Throw some money into something like that silver tier, and play in spurts, sometimes longer stretches, sometimes shorter ones….But now the options seem to be an extremely limited trial, or again, a subscription…which is more commitment than Im interested in putting up.

    Oh well, I think I’m going to end up passing on this. Really too bad, vanguard was amazingly fun in so many ways. At least I won’t have to feel bad about giving SOE cash though :)


  5. Yarr

    This just killed my interest in trying Vanguard completely. One of the worst attempts at F2P I’ve seen yet, as it is just a very limited and crippled trial. With Guild Wars’ B2P model, the vastly better Lineage 2 / Aion F2P, and even LotRO’s once good and now not so good F2P out there; this is what SOE comes up with? I can only assume this is an intentional way to close down the game, so SOE can say they tried and couldn’t get enough people to play, then pull the plug. This is right down at the bottom in the Allods / Atlantica area of bad F2P. On the upside, more free time for GW2, GW1, Aion, and a few other games that have a clue.


  6. Aerynne

    I dunno – at least for former players, it seems like a pretty nice deal. I can go back and play all 12 of my characters, of all classes, in all the zones with the sole restrictions being the amount of gold I can have, the number of quests in my quest journal, and the type of gear I can have (common). Only the last seems like any real limitation, and unless you are raiding, you can probably experience most of the game even with that limitation.

    Of course, for those of us who enjoy SOE games (and yes, there are many of us), a station access account is the best deal in town. For one low cost monthly subscription price, I get full access to EQ2, EQ, Vanguard, Planetside, DC Universe and Pirates of the Burning Sea, should the spirit move me to try it. Now, if only I could still play SWG….


  7. Green Armadillo

    SOE’s F2P-Your Way model has always leaned heavily on restrictions that non-subscribers cannot buy out at any price. I suppose it’s refreshing to see them come out and admit it?


  8. Aerynne

    Oh, for an edit function! I should have said, the sole “content access” restrictions… I do agree that having broker access/bank access/etc. limited sucks and would be better served with a silver tier, but I still think that content wise, the f2p is not that bad. Compare it to LotRO, where your actual content is restricted unless you pony up the extra bucks.


  9. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Aerynne – Starting in on “Compare it to LOTRO…” theme seems to be avoiding the issue when the post is comparing the F2P across three SOE fantasy MMOs. You can always find something worse if you cast your net wide enough, but does the fact that there is something worse in the world justify something closer to home?

    And it seems like your argument is an apples and oranges comparison in any case. You have to spend Turbine Points in LOTRO to get content beyond level 30 (Lone Lands) or so. On the other hand, you can earn Turbine Points in game doing all sorts of things, so somebody could easily make the argument that LOTRO is better. All a matter of your point of view.


  10. Telwyn

    This is a big downer for me. Given the alternatives (lifetime in LoTRO and GW2 just around the corner) SoE should be making it as cost-effective and easy as possible to get into this game. Limiting some of the most innovative features (such as caravans and brotherhoods) is just plain stupid in a game that demands you group to get much past the starter zones.

    I’d have considered a silver level sub, but no way am I playing it with that many restrictions and a sub is too risky till the Alaplaya transition goes down on at least EQ2 and probably Vanguard as well.


  11. bhagpuss

    As a huge fan of the Silver model in EQ2 this really pissed me off. I’m with HarbingerZero only more so. Between us Mrs Bhagpuss and I have six Silver accounts on EQ2. All of those would have been made Silver for Vanguard. Now they will probably never even be logged in.

    I could already and can still play Vanguard at “Gold” on my SA account, but my interest in doing so just took a big hit.


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