"Personally, the argument that they're leaving things separate out of deference for existing players would ring more true if SOE didn't have a consistent track record of pushing through unpopular expansions of RMT and item shops in defiance of those same customer expectations. I think that it's more likely that they're just holding off on sending the golden subscription goose to the butcher for as long as possible so that they can get a better idea of whether people will actually pay to see the golden wolf cub they're planning on feeding the carcass to."- My post titled "EQ2's Unsustainable F2P Divide", July 2010EQ2 is currently the most expensive major subscription MMO, with a full priced monthly fee plus $80 in expansion boxes over a ten month period, plus a cash shop that gets things as significant as a playable race (for $20 on top of the $80 in expansion fees). When they convert the old subscription servers to the new free to play model in December, SOE will no longer be maintaining two clients, communities, and business models within the same product.
They will, however, retain a core challenge of the old split; making the non-subscription model attractive to players who were not interested at the old prices, while attempting to make the swap down to the less costly plan unattractive to veterans.
A year apart
Sony's decision to test the waters for a year may have longterm consequences:
- There are now complicated character slot issues because the two services had separate character limits - it sounds like affected players will get temporary additional slots, but the process for determining which characters go in those slots for non-subscribers is unclear. Also unclear is what happens if you want to free up a character slot for a new character but you are currently temporarily over the cap due to grandfathered characters.
- Opening up the remaining servers to non-subscribers is attractive for players who specifically want to play on those servers, such as returning players and friends of existing players. Absent such pre-existing ties, I see little reason why new players wouldn't choose the most popular servers, such as Freeport or Antonia Bayle. EQ2 could quite possibly become the first game to simultaneously experience massive queues and server merges.
- Some of this material appears to be out-of-date copy+paste of stuff that changed since the press releases for EQ2X. For example, the feature matrix states that the non-free classes can be obtained by subscribing, but Producer Smokejumper continues to refer to paid class unlocks for non-subscribers. My guess is that they're just trying not to spell out how current subscribers can drop down to Silver, but I can't entirely rule out the possibility that they are rolling back some of the changes that made the non-subscription service less crippled as an alternate payment model.
Even if they are keeping the current EQ2X model, there will still be restrictions (e.g. the low currency cap) that cannot be bought out by non-subscribers for any price. DDO and LOTRO's hybrid subscription models also have subscriber-exclusive perks, but nothing that is really mandatory. SOE's model in EQ2X and DCUO really feels like they're doing everything they can to keep the non-subscription model from being viable at endgame.
EQ2's reunification under the free to play model is unlikely to have the impact of other conversions, such as LOTRO, DDO, DCUO, or even EQ2X's original rollout. Players who want the deal SOE is offering have been able to get it for over a year now, if they are willing to play on the Freeport server.
Personally, I would be looking at more than $20 in unlock fees to unlock Lyriana's race, class, and gear, and approximately 50 cents per gear upgrade thereafter. (This assumes that legendary gear unlock tokens remain available, though I haven't seen this explicitly confirmed.) I would be willing to pay this is it actually means that I no longer need to pay for the subscription. Whether SOE is willing to accept that agreement remains to be seen.