One of the longest-running subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing games has finally succumbed to the sweet, sweet lure of the microtranscation-based business model, as EverQuest celebrates its 13th anniversary by going free-to-play.
I never thought I'd see the day. Over the past few years subscription-based MMOs not called World of Warcraft have doing their best phoenix act, burning away to ash and then triumphantly rising as free-to-play experiences. More and more MMOs are launching with the model (Guild Wars 2, sequel to one of the early adopters), and those that don't (Star Trek Online, Aion) don't live long before making the switch.
And now EverQuest has made the move, outlasting its own sequel by nearly two years. Players can opt to continue paying $14.99 a month for full access, pay a one-time five dollar fee to upgrade to an enhanced version, or just don't pay at all and play as long as they wish, albeit with some steep restrictions. Sony Online Entertainment is celebrating the move and the game's 13th year in operation with special events, double experience, and 24 hours of double Station Cash, the virtual currency players can use to unlock character classes and by special items and upgrades.
So who's still standing? Ultima Online, which predates EverQuest by two years, is still charging. So's EVE Online, which launched in 2003, and Asheron's Call, EQ's chief competitor back in 1999. Then there's World of Warcraft, of course, and BioWare's recently-released Star Wars: The Old Republic.
So there are still many games that folks will gladly pay a monthly fee to play. Would they get more players and make more money with a free-to-play structure? I'm sure we'll find out eventually.
I'm downloading EverQuest right now. Wish me luck.