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Loading... Blizzard Goes Free-to-Play?

Posted Tue, Mar 16, 2010 by B. de la Durantaye

Welcome to the 1,292nd edition of Loading...

Loading... is the premier daily MMOG news, coverage, and commentary newsletter, only from Ten Ton Hammer.

Free-to-play games are steadily gaining traction in the market and developers everywhere are seeing the benefits. Rumor has it that Blizzard Entertainment is about to grab themselves a piece of that pie with their own free-to-play game, today in Loading... Blizzard Goes Free-to-Play?

The Pulse

You vote with what you view at Ten Ton Hammer, and the result is the Ten Ton Pulse (What is The Pulse?).

Here are today's top 5 Pulse results over the last week:

  1. World of Warcraft
  2. EverQuest II
  3. Dungeons and Dragons Online
  4. EVE Online
  5. Lord of the Rings Online

Biggest movers in the last seven days :

  1. Star Wars Galaxies (UP 4 to #18)
  2. Vanguard: Saga of Heroes (UP 2 to #8)
  3. Star Trek Online (down 1 to #10)
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Loading... Daily

It's no secret that free-to-play games are taking the industry by storm. Take a look at Medawky's Microcosms weekly column for a nice overview of just some of the titles that were promoted at GDC. Until recently it was difficult to tell just how successful the cash shop model has been. Fenando Paiz of Turbine revealed some impressive numbers which illustrates how powerful the market really is.

Everyone is jumping on board of late. SOE and Turbine may have been the front runners of the Western market in terms of companies who have gone from subscription based games to free-to-play options, but it isn't ending there. Blizzard Entertainment joined up fairly recently too with their pet store. The trend is huge, and it's here to stay. During his keynote at GDC V-Con, John Smedley, President of Sony Online Entertainment recently thanked Blizzard for coming on board, which ended up taking some of the heat off the guys who took the first step for the Westerners. Early stages of microtransaction options had been viewed in somewhat of a negative light by gamers and the adoption of the model by the "big guys" has helped in the transition of what promises to become the industry standard in the not-so-distant future.

Don't believe it? Some of the most populated sessions at GDC were focused solely on the marketing of microtransaction stores, social games, and market penetration of the cash shops. Professionals everywhere were crowding into the rooms to either speak, listen or learn from the companies who have already made the change over.

But will these companies ever make the full leap into free-to-play games? SOE and Turbine already have, and Ten Ton Hammer was able to catch wind that Blizzard Entertainment may be soon to follow. We were told that Blizzard has started a 3-year project featuring a free-to-play browser-based game supported by microtransactions. The theme and genre is otherwise unknown. When we approached Blizzard for official confirmation we received a simple "no comment." While that may not be exactly the proof in the pudding, so to speak, rarely is a "no comment" comment commented when there's nothing to comment about.

It's no surprise, really. If there's one thing Blizzard knows well, it's how to make money. With the massive success of recent games like DDO, Free Realms and several others, it would be rather foolish to ignore the opportunity.

Now, I may have come off here in a business-minded tone, but from a gamer's perspective it's not a bad thing either. Few of us actually want to pay multiple subscriptions for multiple games so having free options allows us to take control of how much we want to play of each game. With free-to-play games it's a completely customized package where we can play what we want, when we want, without paying barrels of cash for a bounty of subscriptions. The days of "there's only one MMOG for me" are quickly falling behind us as the market becomes saturated with new and exciting titles. The only realistic option here is for the games to become subscription-free with revenue coming in from alternate sources to keep the servers up and the developers employed.

Not that Blizzard will have any problems with making money from the project anyway. They've always had an uncanny ability to virtually print cash and now that the hard part of opening players to the concept has been done by other developers it should be a relatively easy run for them. It will also benefit the existing free-to-play companies by doing exactly what they did with the launch of WoW - that is, to introduce a whole boatload of new gamers to a new concept.

It could end up as a double edged sword for Blizzard though. Will introducing their fans to free-to-play games inevitably send players to try out other free-to-play titles? With WoW, risk was minimal due to the simple fact that only rarely would gamers pay for multiple subscriptions. Remove that block though, and who knows where the gamers will end up? It will be an exciting and interesting road ahead of us all. Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

Shayalyn's Epic Thread of the Day

From our Mortal Online General Discussion

Starvault's CEO: If you don't support MO, it could be the end of sandbox MMOs; etc

Rlmccoy1987 posted an IRC chat log which apparently shows Henrik Nystrom, CEO of Star Vault, the publishers of Mortal Online, commenting on the game, its sandboxness, publishers and carebears. I'm not vouching for the authenticity of the log, but it's interesting, so have a look, all you potential Mortal Online fans.

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Awesome Quotes from the Epic Thread

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New and Exclusive Content Today at Ten Ton Hammer

9 new Ten Ton Hammer features today! 65 in March! 295 in 2010!

GDC 2010


Democratizing DDO - Turbine Reveals New Facts and Figures at GDC 2010
http://www.tentonhammer.com/events/gdc2010/ddo

Following a recent announcement that Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) had topped 1 million active players, Executive Producer Fernando Paiz brought facts and figures to back up Turbine's claims to Game Developers Conference 2010 last week. But the most exciting part of Paiz's talk wasn't so much that Turbine's making skads of money from DDO's free-to-play switch, but that allowing players to pay for as much or as little of the game as they want to has led to better design decisions and a generally happier player community.

Boldly Going - A GDC 2010 Interview with Cryptic's Bill Roper and Craig Zinkievich
http://www.tentonhammer.com/events/gdc2010/cryptic

While meeting with Executive Producers for a quick interview and PR plug for their latest game is De rigueur at the various gaming conventions we attend, it is a rare occasion when you gain access to two of them in one spot for any extended amount of time. We here at Ten Ton Hammer were able to pull off that miraculous feat this year at GDC when we sat down with Cryptic's dynamic duo of Bill Roper and Craig Zinkievich in the well appointed cafe of The InterContinental. In lieu of scones and crepes, we instead gorged ourselves on information about Champions and Star Trek Online,what the future holds for Cryptic's two highest profile games, and the importance of open lines of communication.

Microcosms Issue #9 - GDC 2010 Year of the Free-to-Plays
http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/82167

It isn't just this column that is heralding the coming of the age of the free-to-plays it seems, this years GDC in San Francisco was heavily slanted toward subscriptionless gaming. With so many high production value games on the launching pad for 2010 it won't be long before the stigma surrounding microtransaction based gaming is gone completely. Join us this week as we recap some of the highlights of GDC 2010.

Clash of the Titans! Mytheon Preview at GDC 2010
http://www.tentonhammer.com/events/gdc2010/Mytheon

Combining the elements of real-time strategy and action-oriented RPG, Mytheon is chock full of innovative gameplay. Developed by Petroglyph, this upcoming free-to-play game allows players to adventure in the world of the ancient Greek gods and face fearsome enemies such as Medusa and Hades. Do you have what it takes to be a hero in the vein of Perseus or Achilles?

Star Wars: The Old Republic GDC 2010 Trooper Screenshots
http://www.tentonhammer.com/events/gdc2010/TORscreens

Featured at GDC this year for Star Wars: The Old Republic was the Trooper Class. The trooper is an advanced, versatile fighter that can adapt to any situation. Equipped with powerful ranged weapons the class is a tough, focused fighting machine. Check out the new screenshots directly from the the game.

FEATURES & GUIDES

The Battle For Providence
http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/82195

The Curatores Veritatis Alliance has played a unique role in the political history of EVE Online. In this article, Ten Ton Hammer Contributing Writer, Space Junkie, discusses the war in which that alliance finds itself, as well as the roots of the conflict and what will happen in Providence, one of the most accessible regions of null-security space.

New Mortal Online Open Beta Trailer
http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/82134

Mortal Online will officially launch later this month. To offer a look at what's to come, Star Vault has released a new trailer from open beta to show off the impressive graphics and content that the game has to offer. Click here to check out the new trailer.

New Champions Online - Vibora Bay Character Screenshots
http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/82149

Champions Online will release its free Revelation expansion mid-March and this week Cryptic and Atari have released a few new screenshots showing some of the new characters players will encounter in Vibora Bay. Juryrig, Baron Cimetiere, Black Mask, and Guy Sweetland are just some of the new characters players will encounter and you can get a look at them here.

Final Fantasy XIV: Online Gallery
http://www.tentonhammer.com/finalfantasyxiv/gallery

With the future release of Final Fantasy XIV: Online upcoming, Square Enix has updated their official website and released a whole slew of images from the game. Your friends at Ten Ton Hammer are pleased to provide you this gallery of images from Final Fantasy XIV.

Today's Hottest Articles and Guides

  1. Democratizing DDO - Turbine Reveals New Facts and Figures at GDC 2010
  2. Boldly Going - A GDC 2010 Interview with Cryptic's Bill Roper and Craig Zinkievich
  3. TERA Preview at GDC 2010
  4. Conquest and Diplomacy - A Look at Sid Meier's Civilization V
  5. Final Fantasy XIII Review
  6. Clash of the Titans! Mytheon Preview at GDC 2010
  7. StarCraft II Multiplayer Beta Preview & First Impressions
  8. EverQuest 2 Brewday 2010 Walkthrough
  9. WoW Cataclysm’s Economy
  10. Aion Update 1.9 Interview with NCsoft

Thanks for visiting the Ten Ton Hammer network!

- Benjamin J. de la Durantaye and the Ten Ton Hammer team

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