The lights are on
Dungeons and Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online led the way, but it looks like we're going to continue seeing some relatively big-name MMOs going free-to-play. The latest to join the pack? Sony Online Entertainment's EverQuest II.
Though regular subscription-based servers will remain, Massively brings the news that SOE will be launching a beta for what they're calling "EverQuest II Extended" in August. On Extended servers, players will be able to adventure all the way up to level 80 and through the content of The Shadow Odyssey (the game's fifth expansion pack) without paying a monthly fee or even purchasing any software.
In addition to capping you at level 80, Extended servers will limit you to eight of the game's twenty-four classes and four of the game's twenty-or-so races. You'll have to pay microtransactions to open up access to levels 81-90 or pick new races and classes.
Confusingly, EverQuest II Extended will have its own subscription system separate from the one on live servers. If you play totally for free, you're considered a Bronze subscriber, and many aspects of the game will be limited. For example, you'll only have two character slots, you won't be able to equip armor that's considered "Legendary" or "Fabled," and you'll be restricted to carrying five gold per each level you gain (i.e. five gold at level one, ten gold at level two, etc.).
A one-time $10 purchase bumps you up to Silver, at which point much is still restricted, but at least you can learn Expert-level spells and skills. For Gold level, you'll have to pay $14.99 a month (i.e. essentially a regular EverQuest II subscription fee), but almost everything will become open and unlimited except for race access and the level cap. For a Platinum membership, you need to pay a whopping $200 a year, but you'll receive full access up through the most recent expansion pack and 500 "Station Cash" a month to spend on whatever you see fit.
You can see the full kind-of-confusing subscription layout on this handy chart from SOE.
By providing both free-to-play and regular subscription services, SOE is certainly trying something unique with EverQuest II, but things seem unnecessarily confusing. When you reach the point where you're paying $14.99 a month for a gold level membership to EQ II Extended, why are you still locked out from things you'd have access to in the regular game with a regular subscription? And why would anyone currently subscribed to EverQuest II want to pay the $35 fee to move their character over to Extended where they'll then be locked out of content?
Assuming there are a good number of you reading this who haven't touched EverQuest II, does this move make it more likely that you'll check it out at some point?