Age of Empires Online content pricing revealed

"Free-to-play" never means "completely free," and Age of Empires Online is no exception. Publisher Microsoft this week revealed the assorted content and bonuses that'll be on sale for the F2P online revival of the strategy series, along with its launch date.

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Age of Empires Online will launch for PC on August 16 as a free download from the Games for Windows Marketplace, but will also available in a $19.99 boxed retail edition. The boxed version will contain the Greek 'Premium Civilization Pack,' which would otherwise cost $19.99 itself, along with an retail-exclusive item store and some trifling physical knick-knacks.

Unfortunately, Microsoft's approach to monetising Age of Empires Online seems to be one of placing non-paying players at a significant disadvantage.

Coughing up $20 for a Premium Civilization Pack, for example, will get you bonuses included "upgraded gear," the most powerful units, boosted production, and a fully-unlocked tech tree with powerful abilities. It'll also bring less-gittish bonuses, mind, such as expanded PvP options, more inventory space, and extra in-game currency.

The cheaper pieces are more agreeable in content, if not in cost. A $10 'Booster Pack' will grant a wave survival mode, while $5 will get you pretty new shrubbery or statues for your city. Two unannounced civilizations and another Booster Pack are also due by the end of the year.

Age of Empires Online was originally developed by Robot Entertainment, but Gas Powered Games later took over development.

Here's Microsoft's full run-down of Age of the paid content:

    Premium Civilization Packs: $19.99 USD

    Available at launch: Greeks and Egyptians. Take your free civilizations to the next level, and unlock a tremendous amount of gameplay and new features. When you upgrade to a Premium Civilization Pack, you will get the following:

    • Rare and Epic Gear - Become more powerful with upgraded gear and unique designs that stand out in battle.

    • Advisors - In the Advisor Hall, you can unlock Civilization Power and Unique Units like Armored Elephants.

    • Tech Tree - Experience the full tech tree with fantastic end game "Star Techs." Generate resources from your market, have your troops bandage themselves, or make your people immune to conversion in battle.

    • Sparta Player vs. Player - Upgrade to even more PVP options including setting the gameplay parameters and inviting your friends to play against you. Demonstrate your ability by playing ranked games where your glory is recorded on Leaderboards so you can compare to the best in the game, or just your own friends. Plus, match make using TrueSkill so you'll always get a competitive game!

    • Additional Inventory Slots - More than double your inventory space.

    • More Workshops - Drastically improve your capital's production with more workshops to create all of the materials you need for crafting.

    • Crafting Halls - Learn unit enhancements from additional Crafting Halls and use them to your advantage in the game.

    • Empire Points - Spend Empire Points on the best loot in the game.

    • In-Game Stores - Earn in-game currency from the stores in your Capital City.

    Pro Civilization Packs: $19.99 USD

    Coming Soon! "Age of Empires Online" will also offer additional civilizations at a "pro" level, which will provide all of the upgrades of a Premium Civilization, and players can jump right into the action starting at level 20.

    Booster Packs: $9.99 USD

    Expand your play options and get the features you like the most including new storylines and game modes. Available at launch:

    • Defense of Crete Booster which challenges you to defend against waves of invaders on the island of Crete. Team up with a friend to battler the incoming horde, and earn new rewards and gear when you succeed!

    Empire Extras: $4.99 USD

    Acquire new items and historically themed architectural pieces for the ultimate level of customization for your Capital City. Available at launch:

    • Bountiful Bushes: Beautiful Egyptian themed shrubbery (Available for Egyptians)

    • Ornate Ornaments: Amazing Egyptian themed statues and decorations (Available for Egyptians)

    • Glorious Gardening: Greek themed bushes and fountains (Available for Greeks)

    • Startling Statuary: Greek themed statues (Available for Greeks)

Surprise bonus! It's the cinematic E3 trailer. Look at the little men!

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