The multiplayer portion of Naughty Dogs' blockbuster title Uncharted 3: Drake's Fortune has gone free-to-play today, a clear sign that Sony is looking to expand upon its catalog of free-to-play offerings. Players who choose to download the Uncharted 3 multiplayer experience will be able to play for completely free up to level 15.
The great news is that you'll be able to continue playing Uncharted 3 multiplayer for free even after you reach level 15. This is a welcomed change from Killzone 3 which adopted a similar model last year but required you to unlock the full version of the multiplayer for $15 upon reaching the rank of Sergeant I. After reaching level 15 in the Uncharted 3 multiplayer, you'll still be allowed to play and earn full experience points, but you won't be able access them until you unlock the level cap.
Uncharted 3's multiplayer will offer a variety of items you can purchase a la carte. For instance, for $5 you can bump the level cap up to 25, or remove it completely for $20. Should you choose to unlock the level cap, Sony and Naughty Dog will apply the achievements you've earned to your profile and will continue to allow you to build up your profile from where the level 15 cap stopped you.
Other items you can unlock include weapons, weapon mods, and map packs. However, Naughty Dog has made it very clear that they are avoiding the "pay-to-win" situation by locking gun mods behind a level cap rather than micro-transactions. This will prevent players from simply buying the best gun in the game.
As for the map packs, you can buy these individually, although the best deal is the Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Game of the Year Edition. Available from the in-game store for $39.99, this includes all 12 DLC maps, all Co-Op multiplayer modes, and over 40 character skins. And you get the single-player campaign as an added bonus, though I'd argue that's Uncharted's real selling point.
Sony is no stranger to the free-to-play business model. The company already operates PlanetSide 2 and DC Universe Online as free-to-play. CCP Games' Dust 514, an MMOFPS that links to the MMO EVE Online, is currently in beta testing and will offer a completely free multiplayer experience with the option to buy weapons and upgrades from an in-game store.
The free-to-play business model has definitely proved successful for many MMOs, but will it translate to consoles? If this is a new trend from Sony, I'm liking it. While the multiplayer might not be the star attraction for Uncharted 3, it certainly sets a precedent that publishers could offer the single player or multiplayer portion of a game as a standalone purchase. It's an idea that has been tossed around for games like Battlefield and Call of Duty who suffer from lackluster campaigns, but offer intriguing multiplayer experiences.
I'd much rather pay a lower price for the multiplayer portion of a game and spend the remaining money on DLC to support it. Of course, as long as people continue to purchase full games at $60 AND the DLC, companies like Activision and EA will see no reason to switch from their current model.