After a few weeks of running on test servers, WildStar [official site] is officially free-to-play as of today. That means you can play the scifi western MMO without a subscription, though existing subscribers who keep paying will get various bonuses and extras to reward them for their loyalty. Hop below for a finely animated CG launch trailer.
As with any change to free-to-play, the transition comes with it a range of other changes, including a new in-game currency to earn, simplified combat stat system, improvements to the character creator and tutorial to ease in the new players, as well as crafting, runes and much more. You can find details of all the changes in this post on the WildStar site, along with links to where you can sign up and download the client to start playing.
WildStar was in development for over seven years before eventually being released in June 2014. The challenge, as Carbine Studios founder Jeremy Gaffney once explained it to me, was to make a game that could compete with what World of Warcraft had become and not what it was at launch. That meant having raids and PvP and multiple playstyles and skill paths and careers and everything all in the game on day one, and then growing from there. WildStar almost seemed to manage it; I liked its world, its art style, and its structure, though I think I realise now that MMO combat - no matter how much designer's try to make it feel active or responsive - is never going to appeal to me.
Yet here it is, a little over a year later and going free-to-play. Is this a failure of the game, or are subscription MMOs at the scale required here simply a thing of the past? I'm actually not sure. Our Angus Morrison, at least, argues that the game going free-to-play was a good thing for all.