Whenever another MMO announces that it's changing to a free to play subscription model, the sound of rapid intakes of breath can be heard throughout corridors of Castle Shotgun like some panicked zephyr. We just can't believe it. There's an alternate reality out there where all MMORPGs are free to play and it's trying to break into ours.
Hot on the heels of the City of Heroes announcement, we've heard that child-friendly MMO Lego Universe is doing something similar, but a bit stingier. Where City of Heroes is letting anybody play for free up to level 50, this August Lego Universe will allow anybody to go romping through the game's first two adventures zones for as long as they like.
Both John and I stuck our jaded little noses into Lego Universe for a review, and we both came up with the same, sad impression (his, mine) of an empty, flawed game, but what do we know? This trailer makes the game seem amazing.
And here's the press release in full.
The LEGO Group today announced plans for an upcoming free-to-play offering in LEGO® Universe, the MMOG (massively-multiplayer online game) based on the iconic brick-building play experience. Beginning this August, the free-to-play option will welcome players to try LEGO Universe for free, as long as they like, before deciding whether or not to become paid members. Also, players will no longer need to invest in the game DVD to play LEGO Universe. The game will be available via free digital download only.
"The LEGO Group remains committed to success in the digital space and to LEGO Universe," said Jesper Vilstrup, Vice President, the LEGO Group. "We see LEGO Universe as a key element for our digital play division, and are adjusting the business model to make the game more accessible to players, without the immediate obligation to purchase or subscribe."
LEGO Universe will continue to generate revenue through paid memberships, and there are no plans for micro-transactions at this time. Players can try out the free-to-play zone for an unlimited period of time, and can pay $10 (USD) per month to become a LEGO Universe member and receive full game access. Those who sign up for extended memberships will continue to receive discount pricing.
The LEGO Universe free-to-play experience will offer a limited selection of game content, including two adventure zones and one player property area for building their own virtual LEGO models. Paying members will have access to all areas in the full game, along with membership benefits such as competitions and community events. In addition to the 15+ robust adventure zones and instances as well as 5+ property worlds currently in-game, access to new expansions, like major Ninjago content coming later this year, will require players to register for full membership.
Aside from simplified registration and game access for consumers, digital distribution will also enable LEGO Universe to expand more efficiently. The MMOG has new updates, features, challenges and rewards – more than any box could handle - planned for Q4 2011 and beyond!