One of the most popular online role-playing games will soon be free to play for the first time. Sony Online Entertainment has announced it will cut the monthly charge for gamers who want to play DC Universe Online. However, if you want to have unlimited access to everything in the game, you'll still have to pay.
In other words, the game's business model is becoming much more flexible. Users who want to play for free will have a limited account, which can still access all the game's basic features.
Meanwhile, those who spend $5 or more on in-game items and upgrades will be granted a "Premium" account with slightly better features. And finally, those die-hard fans who are willing to pay $14.99 per month will have a "Legendary" account which gives them superior access to everything the game has to offer.
Existing customers will be encouraged to stick with the monthly billing tier, and as such will be able to take advantage of a special discounted $9.99 rate for Legendary access.
The subscription-based model for what's known as massively multiplayer online role-playing games (or MMORPGs) was at one time synonymous with the genre. Now, however, there has been a much stronger push to the "freemium" model. That is, the game is technically free to play but only users who end up spending money can unlock all the game's features.
The obvious strategy here is that users will sign up for a free account and then become so enamored with the game that even those who initially had no intention of paying will in fact become premium customers.
This change also comes as DC Universe Online makes its way to the PS3, which opens up the game to potentially millions of new users. The new pricing structure will take effect in late October.