DC Universe Online Going Free To Play

By Adam Smith on September 19th, 2011 at 4:22 pm.

The Dark Knight was a metaphor for subscription models

According to IGN, DC Universe Online is dropping subscription charges next month. The article quotes SOE executive producer Lorin Jameson as saying, “this was our preferred business model from day one”. Well, it’s taken seven months to implement that day one plan but it’s finally here. It does make sense. While SOE are claiming that a drop in subscriptions is not behind this move, anyone who has visited Gotham City lately can tell you it’s a bit of a ghost town. Is this enough to entice anyone in, or back in? Full details below.

Richard enjoyed the game but felt paying for a second month wasn’t worthwhile. Now that second month will be just as free as the first one. You won’t even need to buy the game. That’s free too.

Here’s the details on the three tiers of membership available:

Free
New players will now have access to the current gameplay in DC Universe Online (including Gotham City, Metropolis, and all current raids and alerts), with the ability to create two characters, join a league and many other benefits. Free level players will be able to purchase downloadable game packs/updates, additional character slots, powers and more through microtransactions.

Premium
Any player who has spent at least $5 (including former paid subscribers and new players who have purchased $5 of in-game items) will qualify for the Premium access level. Premium level players will have more benefits available to them than the Free level player, including additional character slots, additional inventory slots, and higher cash limits. Downloadable adventure packs, additional character slots, and more can be purchased in-game.

Legendary
Maximum features and benefits are included at this level. Loaded with enhanced additional features, Legendary access will be available for a $14.99 monthly fee and includes all DLC packs at no cost, more than 15 character slots, more than 80 inventory slots, the ability to form unrestricted-sized leagues, and many other benefits.

It sounds like Sony will be charging for future DLC, after giving away the Green Lantern expansion for free, but if that means it arrives more regularly it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I like the game but it does need more content and more community. The pessimist in me doubts this will solve either problem but the optimist…he’s not available for comment actually. He’s gone to a jazz bar, convinced it’s a Friday.

Anyone who has already purchased a lifetime membership will automatically be assigned a Legendary account and there’s the usual comment on microtransactions not breaking the game. Experience won’t be for sale, nor will massively overpowered items. Sony’s own Free Realms is held up as an example of the kind of model they’re aiming for here and I’d expect them to focus on this sort of thing in any new MMO ventures as well. Soon, the only things that will cost any money at all are elaborate hats.

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49 Comments »

  1. Vexing Vision says:

    Sexy! It’s a great game and I enjoyed playing the Beta a lot.

    Sadly, after two weeks I pretty much saw all the content, all the skills, all the abilities and all the weapon combinations. I hope this attracts a few more players, because DC Universe is definitely worth checking out for the really awesome animations of the capes alone.

    Capes! (I may have a fetish for capes in computer games.)

  2. Dominic White says:

    A while back, I recall that someone big at Sony said that they thought Star Wars: TOR was going to be the last big subscription MMO. Looks like they’re putting their money where their mouth is. Good to see the box purchase + monthly fee + expansions + whatever model die in favour of something that takes at least one of the first two parts out of the equation.

    • Chris D says:

      On this subject, do we know what the pricing structure of The Secret World will be

    • marach says:

      @Chris D: Hybrid (at least to start) subs plus vanity store with Raggy saying they’ll add non vanity items to the store the day he’s fired for refusing to add them

    • Dominic White says:

      And that pretty much ensures I won’t buy The Secret World, unless they at least drop the ‘buy the $50+ game’ part from the equation. I wouldn’t mind paying a $15 subscription if that was ALL I was paying, but anything more than that and you’ve lost me.

    • Chris D says:

      Thanks for the info, Marach. I think I agree with Dominic on this one. I’m ok with devs charging a subscription or microtransactions but to do both seems to be pushing your luck. I’ll wait to see how they handle it before making a decision.

      The game does look interesting but it’s going to have some pretty hefty competition and it’s looking increasingly likely that I’ll be sinking an ungodly amount of time into Guild Wars 2.

    • mjig says:

      The initial investment is what gets me as well. When LOTRO went F2P I bought VIP instantly, same with CoH. I can’t justify to myself buying a $30 box just so I can also pay the sub.

  3. Dawngreeter says:

    Yeah, I figured I’d try it after it goes F2P. Everything’s as planned.

  4. johnpeat says:

    I’m assuming you’ll still have to buy it – which isn’t really F2P anymore than, say, Deux Ex HR is…

    • Premium User Badge

      mrwonko says:

      I’m assuming you didn’t read the article.

    • johnpeat says:

      I missed that bit at the end of that there sentence there…

      So is this worth a look then? I’m teeth and claws into Vindictus atm – it’s rather excellent and I don’t need anymore ‘global cooldown’ based bullshit in my life ever again…

  5. Bostec says:

    This or City of Heroes? which is going Free to play next month I think? Champions Online I didn’t click with. I’m getting that MMO itch again.

    • Vexing Vision says:

      DC Universe is brilliant for two weeks before you run out of content. City of Heroes is really amazing for two weeks before the mission structure gets on your nerves.

      I’ll play both!

    • Chris D says:

      I haven’t played DCUO but I can highly recommend City of Heroes. Loads of character, fun combat, side-kicking system means you can play with who you want. Visually it’s showing its age a bit but that’s my only criticism.

    • Torgen says:

      DCUO is best with a gamepad. I fact, I bought a generic 360 controller just for this game in beta. Combat is “console fighter game” rather than traditional MMO “powers/hotkeys/cooldown” system.

      I was turned off to the game by the fact that clicking “inspired by Superman” in the character creator gave you Fire powers (same with Flash, with similar nonsense with most other character templates) and there was no Super Strength powerset.

      I paid for years of CoH, and have purchased at least 4 content packs, but never once considered buying DCUO. However for the current price of zero, it’s certainly worth a couple days of play to check out. Be sure to pick Joker as villain patron to see some of the missions.

    • Premium User Badge

      Screwie says:

      As for when, City of Heroes actually launched its F2P last week. I know this as I’m an avid fan of the game but was on holiday at the time :(

    • Arglebargle says:

      DCUO lost me in Beta. I couldn’t stand the clicky console pad fighter style. Plus it had some terrible game design dumbness due to time constraint/lazyness. Yep, Superman’s got ice powers. ;-( Terrible character set up, in a genre that is pretty much tops for character design. Lacking in content.

      The older I get, the more the UI becomes paramount in games. You have to be seriously good in other things to make up for the continual irritation of a bad interface. DCUO did not measure up.

      City of Heroes I prefer much more. And it has seven years of stories and other content to play through. Very deep character design possibilities. Champions Online has a great character costume creator, though much of it is locked behind it’s online store. Rest of the game doesn’t resonate with me though.

  6. ArtyFishal says:

    Great news! I played in the beta, and found it too simple to warrant a subscription, but as a huge DC fan I’ll definitely play the free2play version.

  7. Groove says:

    Will this tempt me back?

    Honestly….no. I stopped playing after three weeks because I was bored. I didn’t even get close to the level cap before it all became so samey.

    I do suggest that EVERYONE that’s enjoyed a comic book tries this game, because there’s so much wizzy stuff to see with character design, the weapons and the locations, but don’t expect depth. Or balance for that matter. Or terribly good design. Still, it’s brilliant for a week.

    • Wulf says:

      I played it for a week in beta, got very bored by its more traditional trappings, then went back to Champions Online. I predicted then that it’d last for a tiny while, then it would have to go free to play just like everything else, but mostly because it wouldn’t be able to even dream of competing with CO, otherwise. Since CO was always the better game and no longer asked for a subscription in order to play it. CO is still the better game but I welcome this. It’s more competition and it might convince Cryptic to rev up their content development.

      I think that really Cryptic has been holding an unchallengeable monopoly at the top of the superhero MMO food chain, and they’ve become a touch slothly for it, so whilst I find CO miles better than any other superhero game out there, I’m glad there’ll be some competition.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Well that’s put me off then. I found Champions Online incredibly samey. The world was just giant boxes jammed full of mindless enemies to kill. I liked the idea and the combat would have been good if there was more to the game than endless grinding.

  8. Scatterbrainpaul says:

    People who purchase lifetime membership, is that the games lifetime or the gamers lifetime?

  9. Terr says:

    I’d rather see them sell massively overpowered items than charge for DLC and updates.

  10. Icarus says:

    I never bought the game but I am tempted to give it a go once it goes free, yeah.

  11. Jumwa says:

    My partner and I were tempted to buy it at launch, but I knew it’d go free to play eventually and we’d give it a whirl then.

    I’ve heard good things from my friends who’ve played it, so I’m excited to finally give it a whirl.

  12. mjig says:

    Cool, I want to check it out just for some Green Lantern-type action. Not enough well done single player superhero games. I can’t think of a single one that it actually good (not just good for a licensed game) other than Arkham Asylum.

    • Dominic White says:

      Hulk: Ultimate Destruction back in the original Xbox was ace. Prototype was very much a watered-down version of that.

    • mjig says:

      Oh yeah, also Spider-Man 2.

    • malkav11 says:

      I thought Prototype was a significant improvement in several respects – a “watering up”, if you will, but yes, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction was awesome and Prototype was very much in the same vein. Specifically, I thought Prototype’s superpowers and mayhem were more fun (to be honest, the bloodlessness of Hulk bothered me) and more varied, which is the core of both games to me. Hulk’s writing was a bit better (Prototype’s story mission writing is terrible, although I liked the Web of Intrigue a lot, so it’s something of a wash) and the enemies were a bit more interesting.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      Been playing Prototype on PS3 recently & it’s very much is a “super-hero” game. It’s not far off being a Spiderman re-skin. As far as I know Radical Entertainment made Hulk: Ultimate Destruction before Prototype although I’ve not played the former.

      If you’ve a PS3 I would also recommend Infamous. I got it for free as one of the games Sony were giving away after they restored PSN. It’s so good I finished it twice (once as good & once as evil just to see how the story differs). I hear Crackdown on Xbox 360 is also in the same vein as Infamous & Prototype if you like them but I don’t have an Xbox 360 so I can’t say if it’s any good.

  13. ResonanceCascade says:

    I’ll pick it up, but the current lack of cross-platform play kinda sucks, since all my friends have it on the PS3.

  14. Coins says:

    This sounds interesting. I’d try it out, at least.

  15. icupnimpn2 says:

    More than 15 character slots?!? How many more???! One? Two? Dare I suppose… seventeen?

  16. Bitrayahl says:

    Wewt! I’ve really been wanting to play this one, but I didn’t want to chance blowing money on the box if I didn’t like it.

  17. BreadBitten says:

    Nice… Expecting this to finally pop up in the Steam storefront in my country!

  18. Premium User Badge

    Kirasath says:

    Woho, been wanting to try this game.^^

  19. Koozer says:

    Not interested with that payment model. I wish more companies would do similar to LoL and WoT…

  20. D3xter says:

    I knew this was going to happen the moment I played Beta and ran out of Content in about a week cause it was Level-Restricted and you level REALLY REALLY fast.
    I decided to wait instead of putting any money into the game and what do you know…

    It seemed like a really solid/good game with a serious lack of content, but one can always do the same thing one does to Single Player games, pick up and play and stop once one is “through”.

  21. Gaff says:

    I figured this would probably happen sooner or later.

    The F2P model is everywhere now, and almost every major MMO title from today onwards is probably going to use it. WoW, The Secret World and TOR are the notable exceptions (that we know of).

    With both City of Heroes and Champions Online going / have gone F2P then DCUO was at a competitive disadvantage by retaining its subscription model. Even though John Smedley has been quoted elsewhere as saying this had nothing to do with it, I strongly suspect that it influenced SOE’s decision.

    SOE have seen success with the freemium model in Free Realms, and PlanetSide 2 has already been confirmed to be using the F2P model with a cash shop.

    In short, F2P is the future.

  22. malkav11 says:

    I have been curious about DCUO and I’ve heard good things about the content they have. I’ve also heard it’s pretty limited and runs out of stuff to do quickly. As such, there was zero chance of me paying $50 (or even $25) for a box. But free to play? Sure.

  23. JuJuCam says:

    To those complaining of a lack of content: Is it low on content compared to other MMO’s or compared to games in general? I’ve heard this described as a decent single player game that’s been jammed inexplicably into an MMO model. In that case if I get some 15 – 20 hours of good play out of it it’s definitely worth the free download.

    • Jake says:

      According to Steam I played DC Universe for 63 hours (probably a significant chunk was spent in character creation and chatting), all of which I found fun but which stopped abruptly when I hit the cap. I only levelled one villain (mentored by Lex) and had planned to eventually level a hero, the levelling up is actually great fun – the voice acting and the way you travel around the city just make it a pleasure to play (especially as an Acrobat).

      It’s arguable that it is pretty pointless as an MMO – I tried some instances and they felt like a mess, and I never tried the raids but I just can’t imagine that whole gear grind being fun at all. The PVP was surprisingly exciting – I usually hate PVP but I had a great scrap with a hero one time which involved lots of chasing over rooftops with grapnels at night in Gotham. I think you should really play on a PVP server just for the added danger and it would feel wrong otherwise.

      I am a comic book fan which definitely did help – as I say the voice acting is great, seeing as it is all the real voice actors from the animated TV shows and films.

  24. geldonyetich says:

    Add me to the pile of folk who played in beta and felt the game was excellent but knew that this would not be a game that suited paying a monthly subscription for. The main problem was I hit the maximum level in half a week. Why pay a monthly subscription when you’ve pretty much exhausted all the content inside of a month.

    I highly encourage everybody to give the game a try when it goes F2P. This truly was the payment model the game was born to have, and I only hope the damage done to it caused by trying to be subscription-based is reversible.

  25. eryynlhanu says:

    giay da nam
    That’s what it sounds like. Isn’t there only one DLC out now anyway. which is the Green lantern one?

    I’m gonna start a new character when it goes free. Make a new league and stuffs. I really liked playing this on my ps3,then my system died and had to stop playing it. Going to get another system sometime and when i do, going to pick it up again.Without the ability of a trial I just couldnt take a chance on a game with a full price and monthly sub attached to it. But now that its going free I can check the game out which I always thought had a lot of potential.

  26. dellphukof says:

    That’s what it sounds like. Isn’t there only one DLC out now anyway. which is the Green lantern one?

    I’m gonna start a new character when it goes free. Make a new league and stuffs. I really liked playing this on my ps3,then my system died and had to stop playing it. Going to get another system sometime and when i do, going to pick it up again.Without the ability of a trial I just couldnt take a chance on a game with a full price and monthly sub attached to it. But now that its going free I can check the game out which I always thought had a lot of potential.