Earlier this year, Trion Worlds invented a revolutionary new business model for their turn-based tactical combat game Atlas Reactor [official site]. They called it "buy-to-play", meaning that players would buy the game then get to play it. What a wild bunch! Where do they get these ideas from? A few months later, it seems they're maybe concerned they were a bit too 'out there'. The Trove and Rift devs have announced that Atlas Reactor will also have a 'Free Mode' letting everyone play with a rotating limited selection of characters for free. But what should we call this model?
Atlas Reactor, to catch you up, is a 4v4 multiplayer tactical combat arena game with simultaneous turns. Like Frozen Synapse and such, all players queue up their orders then those all play out at once. Atlas Reactor complicates that a bit with a move order that plays out each turn, with different abilities, attacks, and types of movement being done in different phases. Predict what your opponent will do on each turn and work with your teamies to counter it, in short. It's got a load of characters with different stats and abilities too, as games nowadays must.
Free Mode will let players enter battle with a selection of six characters from the full lineup of around twenty. Each Free player will get their own lineup each week so it shouldn't have the problem that some F2P MOBAs suffer, where lineups are often dominated by the week's free characters. Like non-Free players, Freebies will receive random collections of cosmetic items as rewards for playing - but they'll have a limit on how often then can open them.
If they like the free mode, they can upgrade to the full game for the usual price of £15.49/19,99€/$19.99.
Which... that does sound pretty free-to-play-ish, doesn't it? Ish. A bit. It sounds like Trion won't sell bits piecemeal with microtransactions, that it'll be Free Mode or the full shebang, which makes Free Mode a generous demo? One that might help keep player counts up in the full game too - always a concern with multiplayer-oriented games.
The precise definition of this business model doesn't really concern me but I have enjoyed Trion making a bold declaration of abandoning free-to-play plans then announcing something which does borrow from F2P. But borrows some of the better parts of F2P? Trion are also reworking player progression following complaints that their loot system still "felt 'free-to-play'".
Atlas Reactor is currently on Steam Early Access, due to launch properly later this year. Free Mode will hit the Early Access version on August 9th.
The action goes a little something like this: