Want to join the forces of evil? Feel free.
Sony Online Entertainment will be throwing open portions of its massively multi-player online game, DC Universe Online, to players for free, starting next month.
The game lets players become virtual heroes or villains in an online playground that took Sony more than five years and $50 million to build. Sony launched DC Universe Online in January as a subscription-based game that charged players $15 a month.
The game, along with other traditional MMOs, had been feeling the heat from a different breed on online games — free-to-play social games that make money by selling virtual items and power-ups. Think Kingdoms of Camelot, Mafia Wars and Maple Story — they’re not exactly free because players can only get so far without spending cash.
But Sony isn’t quitting the subscription games business entirely. With DC Universe Online, Sony said it will offer three tiers of service — free, premium and “legendary.” The free tier comes with limits on how many characters and items players can hold in their inventory. Premium access gives players slightly more capacity. And those who continue to pay $15 a month will, of course, get maximum features.
Sony was among the earliest companies to release an online game that charged players a monthly fee. Its first title, EverQuest, debuted in 1999 and continues to have a small but loyal player base.
It’s also jumped into the so-called “freemium” model, most notably with Free Realms. Released in 2009, Free Realms targeted kids and tweens, garnering more than 10 million players within a year. It’s unclear how much those players spend, however, as Sony does not release financial information on its titles.
With DC Universe Online, though, Sony is hoping to attract players who would rather spend $5 here and there, rather than $15 a month, a proposition that’s much easier to sell in a time of economic gloom.
— Alex Pham
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