With today's big news that The Lord of the Rings Online
is going free-to-play,
Ten Ton Hammer Executive Editor, Benjamin J. de la Durantaye, spoke to
Adam Mersky, Director of Communications, and Kate Paiz, Executive
Producer over at Turbine. What does the change mean to current
subscribers? How will the game support a free-to-play model? How did
this happen? Find out with Ten Ton Hammer's exclusive interview with
Ten Ton Hammer: What will
happen to the current lifetime subscribers?
They will become VIP members without paying a subscription fee any
more. Nothing has changed for them except now they'll get 500 free
Turbine points per month. For more information on the different types
of accounts that will be available, visit http://www.lotro.com/betasignup/vipchart.html
Ten Ton Hammer: How
similar is the change with LotRO to what Turbine has done with DDO?
We learned a lot with DDO and we're not looking to fix what isn't
broken. There are a lot of similarities with the way the store
interacts with the game and the categories of items we offer. There are
certainly differences, especially around the content models. LotRO is
such a different game in the moment-to-moment game play, it's only
appropriate that we customize it differently.
Like DDO there will be two purchasable classes. For us, it will be the
Warden and the Runekeeper which were part of the Moria expansion, which
can now be bought as part of the Moria pack or individually. New
players will have all of the Shire, all of Breeland and all of Erud
Luin to play completely free. That content lasts till about level 22.
Then from 22-50 you have all of the epic story to play free. There are
region packs that will be available. Those are the optional quests in
that area which you'll be able to buy from the store. You'll walk up to
an NPC. That NPC will tell you all about the quests they have
available, and there will be a "Buy Now" button instead of an Accept
button. If you click "Buy Now" it will open the store window where you
can buy the region pack and you'll get access to the 80-200 quests for
So it's definitely a different experience than the way content is
offered in DDO just due to the natures of the games, but we felt it was
important for players to be able to walk all the way from the Shire to
the Misty Mountains without any barriers or penalties in their way.
They can kill monsters on the landscape and experience the epic quests
to their heart's content.
Ten Ton Hammer: What was
the determining factor in switching to free-to-play?
learned a lot from the DDO launch. We saw the benefit to the community
and the way it grew. We were impressed with how helpful and mature the
community was. The Advice channel, and the interaction were great. We
really wanted that for LotRO. The game was doing very well as a
subscription based game, but we saw an opportunity for it to be doing
even better in this new model, and that's what inspired us.
Ten Ton Hammer: Was the
decision influenced more by Warner Brothers, or was it a Turbine
been talking with WB for a long time, and we're certainly thrilled to
be part of the family. They acquired us a little over a month ago, but
we've been working on this for a lot longer.
We really think this is the future for online games--the concept of
providing players with a choice. If the number one reason players
aren't playing the games is the subscription, then it seems pretty
obvious that removing that, and providing other options, it's not only
going to be beneficial for them, but for our business as well. And it
has been. We felt very strongly about the move when we did it with DDO,
but at the end of the day, we didn't know how people were going to
react. But the response has been so overwhelmingly positive for us as a
business, and frankly, for our players too. We knew we had to do this.
Not only for LotRO, but it's become part of our design philosophy for
any future games we design.
think WB does agree with the strategic value of this, and that was a
way in which Turbine's and WB's interests were very much aligned. I
think it certainly had an impact on their decision to move forward with
can even go back to the press release
and look at their quotes when they acquired us. The
acquisition of Turbine was a strategic move for them and it's not just
because of our games. It wasn't just to unify the Lord of the Rings
rights, which are all certainly good reasons, but these new ways of
providing entertainment as a service to new players. We're all up 24/7.
For us, it's not just about shipping a game and moving on to the next
title. It's about developing a long term value relationship with the
customer. Our ability to do that in MMOGs, I think, intrigues them with
how that could impact their entire portfolio across the board. Maybe
not the same way as it is done in an MMOG, but there are certainly
things we do in the MMOG world that can benefit players of other types
of games and different platforms.
Gathburz, part of the
Ten Ton Hammer: What's
going to be available in the cash shop? Will we see legendary items?
of Mirkwood Expansion
don't sell any gear at all in the LotRO store. We may eventually do
something like DDO where we offer a starter pack of items for players
who are looking for a little bit of a leg up at the very beginning of
the game but right now we don't offer any gear in the store at all.
Moria is still an expansion in and of itself. Down the road we may
introduce slight enhancements or benefits to legendary items, but that
isn't scoped out yet and it certainly won't be in at launch.
A big part of beta is to validate the offers in the store. If we sell
crafting recipes that are easier to buy from the store than to run
around trying to find in game--do players like that? Is it a good value
for them? These are the kinds of questions and things we will be
exploring so that we can always ensure that the store, while always
optional, is meeting the needs of the players and giving them the
choice to play and find it in the game, or to pay and get it easily
through the store.
Ten Ton Hammer: Have you
given thought to how future expansions will be released?
haven't yet decided on full expansions and the strategy for that. What
we are committed to is continuing to expand and grow the game. We'll
continue our update frequency and the quality of the updates, similar
to how DDO has. But we don't have full expansions locked down at the
moment, but we will in due time.
: I like
to look at this almost as a whole new beginning. When you bring new
people in the game and see how they're enjoying it and consuming the
content, it makes it easier for us to develop content for that kind of
Like you see with DDO, we're doing a lot of regular updates to the game
on an ongoing basis, and I think you're going to see a new type of
energy there for LotRO. If you take a look at what DDO has
done in the past year, I think you can expect the same kind of success
on all fronts for LotRO, whether the business side or the content
coming into the game.
Ten Ton Hammer: Will
there be any new content when the game is initially launched as
going to have an update when it launches, which will come with some new
**For more information on The Lord of the Rings Online
new free-to-play model,
check out the FAQ at http://www.lotro.com/betasignup/faq.html