The days of pay-to-play MMORPGs are coming to an end, and NCSOFT's WildStar is the latest victim.
Announced today, WildStar, the surprisingly fun MMORPG from Carbine Studios, is becoming free-to-play this fall. Previously billed as the most feature-complete MMO to launch in a long time, NCSOFT opted for the more traditional monthly subscription; however, players did have an option to play the game for free through a rather complex C.R.E.D.D. system also designed to combat gold selling online. Although WildStar's ambition maybe warranted a subscription cost, it's hard for a game to compete when there are so many other quality free-to-play options flooding the market. Aside from maybe World of Warcraft, I can't think of too many other MMOs able to still charge monthly.
“At the beginning of 2015, we outlined key points of focus for WildStar to help make this great game even better, focusing heavily on player feedback and bringing meaningful changes,” Carbine Studios product director said Mike Donatelli. “We continue to deliver on those points and feel strongly that removing the subscription cost will give everyone who loves MMOs, or just wants to have an incredible gaming experience, a chance to try WildStar.”
Following the transition this fall, the entire game will be open for players to explore for free. Players will be able to level to 50, acquire all Amps and abilities, and participate in all dungeons, raids, adventures, shiphands, and PvP with no limitations.
So how will NCSOFT and Carbine Studios make money? Like all other free-to-play MMOs, with an optional membership and an in-game store which I hope won't make it pay-to-win.
The optional membership can be purchased for a monthly fee, and will provide "various convenience bonuses and enhancements" to XP, crafting, currency, item drops, and reputation. Members will also gain additional character, costume, bank, supply, and décor items.
WildStar will also have an in-game store, where players can spend NCoin to buy convenience and cosmetic items. "In almost every case, items that are available for purchase via NCoin will have equivalent items available for players that want to invest time rather than money," Carbine promises. "One thing that will not be available for purchase is power – progression will continue to require both skill and effort."
Other quality of life and content changes coming to WildStar this fall include:
- Streamlining player and item stats to be much more intuitive while adding high-level options to give players more flexibility.
- Making the Amp system easier to use by unlocking all Amp slots.
- Reviewing dungeons and open world content so that the experience is challenging, but not brutal.
- Changing the tutorial and early game experience to provide a better and quicker introduction.
Players who maintain a subscription from June 15, 2015 through the free-to-play transition will receive exclusive items and rewards. Players who have supported the game since launch, and maintain their subscription through transition, will receive even more. And for former players like myself, Carbine will outline a loyalty program that rewards players for time and effort invested in the game, even if you are not a current subscriber. You can find more details on that here.
Over the next few months, Carbine Studios will share more details about how this transition will impact current and future players along with "more detail on significant improvements coming to the game"