EverQuest II Explores Free-To-Play, Microtransaction Business Model with "Extended"
Following in the footsteps of other MMORPG games in the shadow of Blizzard's World of Warcraft, Sony Online Entertainment now offers a free-to-play version EverQuest II called "Extended". It will, however, run alongside the subscription-based service the game has utilized since launch November 2004.
"EverQuest II Extended is a completely separate gameplay service from the EverQuest II live subscription service," explains Sony's FAQ. "The server lists are not shared, it has completely separate forums, and if you don't want to be around the community that plays in the free adventure service, then there is no reason for that to ever occur."
As such, there are now four levels of membership to be had with EverQuest II. Bronze is free-to-play, but severely limited. Players can unlock some additional features and content through microtransactions or elevate themselves to Silver for a one-time fee of $10. At Silver, players will get a few bonuses like an extra character slot, the ability to create guilds, and so on, but still remain limited when compared to the $15/mo subscription based Gold level.
Above even the Gold level is the Platinum level, which has users ponying up $200 for an entire year up front, which includes the latest expansion: Sentinal's Fate, bringing the level cap up to 90 (which can be purchased), 500 points of in-game currency per month to spend on items and other content, and a few other bonuses. For a full breakdown of the differences between each account level, please see the image included in this story.
Extended is installed through a web-based installer and is currently in a closed alpha test available to paying subscribers. Customer service is also limited to paid accounts, except with issues regarding paid microtransactions. Bronze and Silver players will also get "frequent upgrade reminders" in the form of in-game advertisements.
Subscribing players may transfer a character to the free-to-play service at $35 a pop or simply create a new account if they wish to experience the free-to-play game.
This is certainly an interesting experiment, to run one game independently with both flat subscriptions and F2P with micro transactions.
It seems telling that SOE is innovating more in terms of new ways for people to pay for MMOs than they are on the actual content and game-play of the games they sell.