A mere five months after the retail release of Champions Online, Cryptic has announced for plans to charge for a new zone for players working their way towards the game's level cap. The state of the content in that level range must be dire indeed if Cryptic is convinced that players will pay to escape the current leveling zones. It's relatively common for games to launch with a less than polished upper level experience and patch these areas up to par later, but most companies don't have the nerve to charge extra for such additions.
(As an aside, it boggles my mind that Cryptic managed to get this headline for Champions' Online on the very week where players will have to decide whether they want to cancel their Star Trek pre-orders.)
Speaking of a game that spent its first year patching up its leveling experience for no additional fee, Turbine has just announced the Volume III patch for LOTRO. If these are the highlights, the patch will be somewhat underwhelming - there's no mention of new zones or dungeons, but they found the room to spotlight new icons for Jeweler recipes and opening up existing skirmishes to full raid groups (I didn't know that there were skirmishes that weren't open to raids to begin with).
If I'm correct in reading between the lines, the new patch will send players to a variety of existing content (including an old raid zone) to collect Rangers for the War of the Ring. It certainly appears that I was right when I suggested that the new business model for LOTRO is to save all the major features for future paid expansions, leaving only minor additions and polish for the non-paid updates.
At the end of the day, you can argue that it is better to charge a $15 monthly fee and have mini-expansions that come out to $2.50/month than to charge a $17.50 monthly fee outright, since the player has the choice to play for less if they are so inclined. Perhaps there's even a smidgen more accountability when part of the game's revenue is dependent on the developers producing content that is worth purchasing in a timely fashion. (Then again, that kind of pressure could be a bad thing if it means that we will only get bite-sized chunks of content henceforth, rather than meatier experiences like Moria.) Either way, it's a trend that shows no sign of slowing down.