Non-subscribing "Silver Players" won't be able to fully customise their heroes with super-powers of their choosing, instead being granted a pre-defined powerset from a chosen "archetype." They'll also have restrictions on inventory, bank and marketplace space as well as in-game messaging.
"Gold" subscribers, on the other hand, will have access to all content and adventure packs, as well as more costumes, powers and content Silver players might not get.
Cryptic explains that should a Gold member wish to downgrade to Silver, their characters will remain intact but they "will not be able to play them until either they re-upgrade to Gold or convert them into Silver characters." The developer has yet to work out how exactly characters will be converted to Silver versions.
To help support the free-to-play version, Cryptic is expanding its microtransaction-based in-game item store. The C-Store will sell standard F2P fare including "healing devices, energy refills, damage buffs, reward multipliers and things like that" as well as fancier items such as a 'Party Bomb' to make everyone dance or the ability to briefly turn into a werewolf.
Champions Online's free-to-play option is scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2011, with a closed beta kicking off on November 9, 2010.