Friday, November 5, 2010

Star Trek Online : A Free-to-play future?

In an interview with Eurogamer yesterday, Cyrptic's Jack Emmert indicated that the decision to make Star Trek Online a free-to-play game is dependent, at least in part, on the success of one of its other franchises under a free to play model, that being Champions.

"If we did Turbine's level of success, that would certainly merit the discussion!" (Turbine re-launched Dungeons and Dragons online as a free-to-play, as well as another title of theirs which went free-to-play in Europe, Lord of the Rings Online. D&D Online has made big money for Turbine, and Cryptic will obviously be hoping that the free-to-play model, which it seems is being adapt by new gaming companies on a regular basis, will be successful for them as well.

As far as Star Trek is concerned, Mr. Emmert had this to say: "Im sure people are wondering whether we'll do it with Star Trek and the question is really how well it does for Champions." Jack offers some advice to his Star Trek fans to perhaps help guarantee a free-to-play model, or at least that will help steer their starships in that general direction: "We're not sold one way or the other with Star Trek yet. If people want Star Trek to go free-to-play then get in and play Champions and help make it a great success, because that would send a strong message."

Even so, he gave no guarantee that a success with Champions would seal the deal on a free-to-play model for Star Trek. He continued by noting "There are more people than just I on that decision and I can't begin to say it would be and automatic 'Yes, we'd do it," (if Champions is a big success.)

Champions Online's subscription structure will look like this. There will be two member tiers for play - the Silver (or free-to-play) tier and a Gold tier for paying (at $14.99/mo) tier. Silver members have limitations on classes, costumes and character slots, but the 'meat and potatoes' of the game - leveling from start to superhero status - could still be achieved without spending any money. And as with the free-to-play model, players can purchase content, items and buffs on a piece-meal basis - the "microtransaction" concept. I'd imagine that that this will be the model pursued for Star Trek...and they wouldn't be alone, a recent prime example being Everquest 2 and SOE's Everquest 2 "Extended" free to play service.

So the bottom line is this...if you are really looking to not pay for Star Trek Online in the future - then you had better pony-up and start (or keep) playing Champions Online, buy some stuff, and keep your fingers crossed.