While free to play games are taking over the world, there is one which may perfected idea. I’m talking about Lord of the Rings Online, a MMORPG which has turned from the traditional pay-monthly model to a hybrid which has free to play at its heart.
If you want to just drop into the game you can now simply download the client, set up an account and set off on your merry way in Middle Earth without a care in the world knowing that there is a massive amount of content to explore without having to cough up a penny.
Of course, you don’t get access to everything in the free to play version of the game, limits are imposed on the number of characters you can use on a server and the amount of gold you can carry, yet other aspects such as the hobbies and music system are the same for the different tiers of players.
Beyond the free version you can purchase one off specials like quest packs and new clothing, as soon as you purchase points in the online store you become a premium player with more character slots and such like. This provides an added incentive to purchase store points as you get a permanent boost to what you can experience in the game. For those who want the full unlimited experience you can still pay per month and get VIP access.
The tiered system gives people plenty of choice over how much they want from the game, which is still an awfully large amount with the free to play account. The store is simple to use, if a bit buggy, and is introduced in a quest in the introduction chapter of the game.
It is a smooth and slick piece of work and one which I think will drastically increase the player base and it was revealed today at the London Games Conference by Rod Cousins that revenue from Lord of the Rings Online has doubled since it went free to play (source) proving that it is a very workable way forward. While World of Warcraft may have been the game that sent pay-monthly to the fore, we could be set to see Lord of the Rings Online push its own free to play model forward as the next big step in MMOs.