Prospering? Star Trek Online F2P This Year

Screw you guys! I wanted to be in Babylon 5.
The unstoppable march of free-to-playification continues! Cryptic’s Star Trek Online – which is published by Perfect World – will be free-to-play by the end of the year. According to this report on Perfect World’s exciting Q2 earnings call, chief financial officer Kelvin Lau told investors: “Cryptic is working on the free-to-play model for Star Trek Online. This is going to be launched by the end of this year.”

This feels like a transitional period to me. All these MMOs that launched with subscription models reconfiguring themselves to F2P, while much better contenders – such as forthcoming Tribes-but-WoW offering Firefall – wait in the wings to prove that they can do F2P from the off. Nonetheless, I expect we’re a long, long way from this all being normalised in any fashion. What “free” actually means for these games is still very much up for definition.


  1. Tom De Roeck says:

    I wonder if I still have my cryptic or amiga points when I renew my account again..

  2. Po0py says:

    Could it possibly ever get to the point where there are so many free to play games out there that the player base for a lot of games gets so small that it then becomes no longer possible to run the game as a free to play title? This is what I am starting to wonder.

    • hotcod says:

      At the moment the F2P play MMO market is still heavily invested in having a core subscriber base with in the game. As much as capturing new players and making money from micro-transactions the F2P model we see at the moment is just as much about retain and maintaining the subscriber base.

      So how does that work exactly? Well it’s simple, in terms of MMO’s players are content. A F2P player who never spends a dime on the game still adds value to it. No one really wants to play a MMO that is devoid of players and as MMOs age the subscriber base start to dwindle and as it dwindles so does the games attractiveness to new players. Very few people are willing to subscribe to an older MMO that has a tiny player base.

      By opening the game in this kind of F2P model they can directly combat that. The world becomes full of players again, lots of new players who would never have paid to play the game join in and of those people some may enjoy the game enough to add to the subscription base. The major point being that you are going to be able to cycle enough new players through the game to have a healthy active user base and it acts as a life line for the subscriber base.

      So by going F2P you not only sure up your core income stream but open up a whole new one. If you make money off a free player it’s awesome but that free player playing your game is value in it’s self.

      In that sense the F2P market is not going to drown it’s self as easily as you might think since half the reason for doing it is simply to extend the the life of the current subscriber base rather than purely being about making money from F2P players.

      It’s of course still a major issue but then we just have to view it as competition driving up quality. The best games are going to attract more people and do better. It’s going to be very very interesting to watch the F2P from the ground up games, like firefall and end of nations, as they grow because they are going to be purely relying on F2P players spending money to cover costs. It’s here where we will see if F2P from the get go, rather than F2P after subscription can really work in the western market.

      I think that outside the major hitters this will be the new life cycle of a lot of MMOs…. start out subscription and then move to F2P when it makes sense to do so. I also don’t know if any F2P model that does not have a subscription option is really going to be able to compete but we are going to be finding that out rather soon.

  3. hotcod says:

    I played a few months of this and I had my fun with it but it had nothing that was going to keep me around and playing. If it goes F2P then I will most defiantly go back to it and like DDO keep it on my hard drive for when I get the itch to play and maybe even put a little money in from time to time.

  4. cliffski says:

    Oh for fuck sake. I love trek, and all I get offered is arcade shooters and now F2P online games, no doubt with microtransaction hell bullshit.
    The people in charge of the trek IP have NO CLUE AT ALL what sort of games to make. Let me have the license for a year you bastards.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      You could always make a game that is in the spirit of Trek without calling it that.

    • Bilbo says:

      …Mass Effect?

    • jon_hill987 says:

      @Bilbo: How is Mass Effect in any way Trek?

    • Bilbo says:

      Spam filter has me buggered but it’s exactly like trek; same themes, similar setting, similar characters, very similar indeed and unarguably “in the spirit of” trek. I explained myself better in the comment that it won’t let me post but really just think about it, they’re so similar

    • Mad Hamish says:

      It’s nothing like Star Trek dude. Go watch a series of TNG and try and make that comparison again. Maybe you have a point if you just take the TNG movies as an example or possibly some of DS9. For me Star Trek ended with “All Good Things”. Roddenberry took it too his grave.

    • Bilbo says:

      There’s this disparity between “what people think star trek is about” and “what star trek was actually about”. And that goes for all of it – classic, TNG, DS9, voyager, whatever – it has a pretence of high science fiction about it but ultimately always boils down to kirk/picard/janeway/chakotay/paris/sisko punching lumps out of a green lizard/Q/voyagerbaddies/cardassian in a desert while the enterprise/voyager/DS9 is totally about to get blown up/taken over/whatever

      By and large Mass Effect is totally the same. Multiracial, multinational, multispecies crew on a prototype spaceship having adventures, led by a charismatic captain, blowing stuff up, against a backdrop of some vaguely thoughtful sci-fi.

      I love them both – I think that may be where people are getting confused – I’m not trying to knock Star Trek or say that I think Mass Effect is better, just that the two are a lot more similar than you’re making out

    • Clash says:

      @Bilbo That’s like saying Tolkien’s work is the same thing as World of Warcraft because they both have elves and magic. Gene Roddenberry didn’t create Star Trek as some generic sci-fi adventure. The show was his way of addressing a lot of major real world issues. Civil rights and the growing tension between the US and USSR were just a couple. Then there is the fact that the show is mainly about exploration. No one in Starfleet is paid to be on those ships, they just do it because it’s what they want to do. Some episodes even pass without any combat. Though I think Kirk still somehow managed to get his shirt off…

    • Frye2k11 says:

      Mass Effect : Star Trek = Margarine : Butter

      When you talk about it superficially they are very similar indeed. Just one is shit and the other is great.

      The depth and thought put in the characters, both by the writers and the actors is outstanding and puts Star Trek into a league of its own in my opinion. When Mr Roddenberry died, ST lost its soul; the later series were not bad, but a lot less atmospheric (cpt. Archer etc). For this reason I prefer to avoid anything ST, I might miss out on some great games, but I am guaranteed fond memories.

    • RandomGameR says:

      Sorry but having watched nearly all of TNG over the course of a couple months recently I have to say that I think your nostalgic feelings for the show elevate “the depth and thought put in the characters, both by the writers and the actors” in your mind beyond what’s actually there. It’s a great show for a relic, but there is very little depth to the majority of the main players for the first 5 or so seasons of the show. It’s pretty much carried by Picard and Data where everyone else has one note that they ham up as much as possible.

      There are plenty of other sci-fi shows that have gone way beyond TNG since (Buffy, Firefly, Angel, Battlestar, Lost) in terms of character depth so I don’t think it’s unfair to posit that a game could as well (albeit one I’ve not played so I can’t comment on that aspect).

  5. po says:

    It would be fine if ‘Free to Play’ didn’t usually mean ‘Pay to Win’ with your cash giving you an advantage over other players.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I think this is one of the reasons I’m liking Champions Online. Most of the pay-for stuff is cosmetic—costumes being an important part of being a SUPAR HERO—or alternatives, like different or custom power loadouts. The only pay-for-advantage thing I’ve seen is the ability to use bags(!) (and inventory space just doesn’t matter that much), and apparently there’s an XP booster somewhere, which really doesn’t matter when it’s mostly co-op and working in a team can involve everyone being temporarily level-matched to the team leader.

      This appears to basically be a (less interesting, IMO) reskin, so chances are good it’ll be F2P done well.

    • unangbangkay says:

      This continuing whining about f2p games is beginning to get on my nerves. I fully acknowledge that Asian grindfests have poisoned the well for most western players and their enlightened sensibilities, but the model has come a long way since the typical game perfect world used to run.

      Plus there are certain advantages to playing a formerly subscription-based game after it has gone f2p. Usually those games have more content up front, are mature by the time they do change models, and their micro transaction systems are usually less egregious, case in point being champions online and Star trek online.

    • unangbangkay says:

      And besides, STO’s generally a better game, with lots more adventure-y bits than Champions. Negotiation missions, exploration missions, and a good number of missions that basically give you a quiz based on whether or not you properly read the mission text (gasp!) give things a lot more variety. Plus there’s now a user-generated content creator.

      If STO’s model is anything like CO’s (i.e. tiered services with cosmetic/convenience-based microtransactions), there won’t be too many balance issues.

  6. Dominic White says:

    I recently had a look back at STO, and they really have done a ton to improve the game since launch. Most recently, they went and redesigned the entire ground combat engine. Now it’s less ‘confusing spammy hotkey mess’ and more ‘Mass Effect Lite’.

    If they get to continue making improvements like that after going F2P, then more power to em.

    • CMaster says:

      Wow, that actually makes it sounds like it might be fun, as the CoX style “press 1,2,1,2,1,4” of combat I tried at Eurogamer a couple of years back was just dire.

    • P7uen says:

      Your comment is enough to make me go back and have another look, free to play is a bonus

    • westyfield says:

      Ooh, wow, I’ll have to take a look when it goes F2P then. I was in the beta and couldn’t stand the ground combat, to this is good news!

    • Dominic White says:

      They also added shotguns and phaser miniguns, which probably isn’t classic canon, but it’s also a phaser minigun, which is fun. Here’s a rather dull but fairly informative video on the new ground combat:

      One thing I like is that grunt-type enemies usually go down in 2-3 hits. It ain’t perfect – it’s a new combat system built on the old engine – but it’s a pretty big improvement.

    • HermitUK says:

      @CMaster the EG showing two years ago was fairly bad, yes. The highlight remained the discovery that F12 logged the demo clients out and booted you to the desktop.

      That said, the ship combat in the beta was pretty good fun, if a bit basic.

    • vecordae says:

      STO can be fun, but it has it’s problems. Ground combat’s much better now, more dynamic and fun, in my opinion. Ship combat is great and plays much a simplified version of the old Starfleet Command games, where movement and careful timing are rewarded in tougher battles. There are even tons of user-created missions to try out, though the only reward for doing so is getting to experience them. The problems stem a lack of cryptic-produced missions and, at least as of a few months ago, some serious client instability . They have missions you can volunteer to run over and over again, but it’d be nice to do something new that also grants a tangible XP or loot reward. I think it’d definitely be worth a look when it goes F2P.

  7. metalangel says:

    I’ve always wanted to try this, but not if I had to pay the full £39.99 whack (subs please check) just to find out it was shit.

    Now my sexy Bajoran doctor (why are all Bajoran women so damn fit?) can finally escape my imagination and go blast ten diseased rats on setting 16.

  8. Dana says:

    How about we set Phasers to kill, and put it out of its misery.

    Im waiting for WAR.

    • HermitUK says:

      I’d be up for F2P WAR. Bought the game at launch but didn’t think it was worth the monthly fee. I still think the game was a massive missed opportunity to do something genuinely different to WoW, but if it goes free I’d be back to lob sentry guns at greenskins again.

    • johnpeat says:

      WAR has been F2P (in a limited form) for about a year now???

    • Dana says:

      Yeah, WoW is f2p as well.

    • Lazaruso says:

      War is never free to play. :(

  9. Lukasz says:

    sto was probably my worst purchase every. spend 80 bucks on the game then 15 bucks on next month subscription.
    total hours spent on game according to the steam:
    6.1 hours
    Fate of Atlantis has 9 hours in it and it cost me like 2 dollars

    MMO just ain’t for me. :(

  10. Wyrm says:

    ST:O’s just not very good though is it?

    • Tom De Roeck says:

      Point me to an MMO with more adventure bits than STO, and I will still not agree with you.

    • johnpeat says:

      ST:O – I played for 2 months and it went like this

      Space Stuff – brilliant BUT the level of grind and the sheer length of some encounters was taking-the-piss in terms of time vs reward.

      Ground Stuff – immensely and embarrasingly shit with a few exceptions (stuff based on old episodes etc.)

      PvP Stuff – the same as every other MMO, repetitive stuff farmed-to-death by people with no lives – good for 20 mins and that’s that.

      It’s biggest problem – aside from a stack of bugs at that point – was a lack of carrots tho. MMOs work by dangling new skills and items at you and ST:O didn’t do that anything like enough. The gap between upgrades for ships etc. was dizzying at times – we’re talking dozens of hours without anything other than more effort being required.

  11. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    live long and pronger

  12. celewign says:

    World of Tanks has left a bad impression for F2P in my mouth with its terrible balance and utterly uninterested developing team. League of Legends is a fun game but, in my opinion, would be better if it was not F2P.

    I don’t really like F2P. I tend to invest myself in games, and the F2P model just makes them more expensive for me while providing less depth. It’s like when you go to one of those big Christian conventions and you are really into it, and at the end the evangelist makes a money grab. You feel cheated and cheapened.

  13. GLSteve says:

    I’m actually quite looking forward to this. I gave up my MMO habit a few months ago, mainly due to a new car, partly due to my inability to settle on just one.

    I really enjoyed my few weeks on ST:O. No, its not great, but there was just enough Trekkie-ness to appeal and the space bits were great fun. Not worth a tenner a month, but free? Yes please.

  14. Josh Wanamaker says:

    I worked on Star Trek Online for about 5 months. Ironically, Cryptic laid me off 2 weeks before STO launched. I never got my free lifetime copy, and it felt…well, beyond silly to buy the game and start paying a subscription fee to play it, so I never did. Come this winter I’ll finally get to play the game through! Huzzah!

  15. Harlander says:

    I’m quite interested by the level editor thingie they’re talking about for STO. It’ll be enlightening to see how it works

    • vecordae says:

      Editor’s cool and lets you do a lot of neat stuff, but you can’t create a mission that offers a loot or xp reward of any kind. The game does have a daily “mission” you can go on where you play three user-created missions and get an XP reward. There’s a lot of neat stuff in there, but you won’t progress your character at all while you’re doing them.

      As cryptic’s also doing the new Neverwinter MMO, I fully expect the touted “user created content” that’s been brought up will probably work much the same way.

  16. IDtenT says:

    I guess it is time I finally activate my copy. Who knows what goodies I’ll get for buying it for $2.5 before the F2P model.

  17. RakeShark says:

    Yay! Everyone gets a lifetime subscription!

    I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why my buddies wanted to get the lifetime sub for this, especially after Champions Online’s performance. They even say they’d buy a $500 dollar lifetime sub to TOR if it’s offered. I need to sell them some of my cheap plastic stuff.

    • vecordae says:

      Tell your friends I have certain large iron structure in Paris I wish to sell them. I won’t say the name, as it is eiffelly well known and it’s fame is towering. If they’re interested, there’s also a bidge in San Francisco I could throw in.

  18. Dhatz says:

    oh kewl, i heard about it in BSGO, I’m long tired of that itself, now ill be plaing DX HR till something interrupts me.

  19. AlexTaldren says:

    Are the interiors of ships still 10x larger than they should be? Yes? Then go fuck yourselves. Don’t give me the “camera needs room” argument either. If you can’t even model the interiors to scale, then nothing you do from that point could even be remotely good.


    • Wulf says:

      They were never 10x, they were more like 3x a la the new Star Trek Universe set in motion by one of the motion pictures. In other words? They are canon, just canon to the new films rather than the older TV series.

    • AlexTaldren says:

      I saw the new movie… the corridors weren’t big enough to fly a shuttle craft through.

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  22. Atrak says:

    Perfect World F2P games have a nasty habit of making it very very difficult to play at higher levels without some expensive purchases. Lets hope they don’t do this to STO.