Back in January one of my least controversial new year predictions was probably this:
WildStar will go free to play. NCsoft has a deal for the China market, so they can’t shut the thing down just yet. But to get to China I am going to bet they have to go F2P. And if you’re going to do the work for China, you might as well apply it in the west as well.
The issue seemed in doubt when the NCsoft Q1 2015 financials were released and amongst the data it was revealed that WildStar was officially doing worse than City of Heroes was before it was shut down. But Carbine appears to have dodged that bullet for the time being (though they were very touchy about the business model subject for a while) as they announced today that WildStar would be going free to play this autumn… provided it doesn’t tank even further… a possibility when you tell be subscriptions will be optional in a few months… and simply get shut down.
For me the biggest surprise was that Elder Scrolls Online went for the free to play option first, given the dev team attitude about monetizing things in-game. But then they had the big console release coming up and subscriptions are even more out of favor on that front.
But when it comes to WildStar, I have never really been a fan of the game. I was skeptical of a team that left Blizzard in 2005 because they felt World of Warcraft was doing it wrong even as it was becoming a popular sensation. I was dubious that their CREDD plan … which allowed Carbine to claim that they were offering up a “hybrid” model since you could play for free if you bought CREDD with in-game currency… would make an iota of difference, or that there was any evidence that WildStar could build up an economy that would support a PLEX-like scheme. And I was somewhat exasperated at their near tragic misuse of the Bartle types for their path system. Also, the graphic style did nothing at all the encourage me to play.
So, yeah, I wasn’t really all that interested when it was announced, it clearly wasn’t my thing when it launched, and going free is unlikely to change my mind. There are simply too many other things I would rather play ahead of WildStar on my list.
But for those who enjoy the game, at least it will be around a while longer. As I have noted, the conversion from subscription to free to play usually brings about a happy time, a resurgence of interest, and the joy of populated servers… at least until that dies down and the whole thing descends into the usual in-your-face cash shop focused lockbox monetizaion hell that is the standard for MMO F2P games these days. A mixed blessing indeed.
The question, of course, will be just how free is “free” really going to be. Well, there is a FAQ posted, because there is always a FAQ somewhere with these things. And Carbine does seem to be serious on the free thing, emphasizing it throughout the FAQ, summing up with this paragraph:
We place no restrictions on any of the game’s content. Every zone, every dungeon, every raid, every battleground… they’re all available. All players will be able to create characters of every race, class, and path while choosing any tradeskills they like. Characters can achieve level 50 and path level 30, just as they can under the current system.
The nudge to get people to subscribe… which is being called a Signature player or some such… is the usual set of perks and restrictions on various aspects of the games. The list from the FAQ is available after the cut because it is a bit long to stick in the middle of the post. Saved for posterity, because we know how these things can change.
So another bow to the inevitable in an MMO market crowded with competitors. Moment noted.