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Starting this fall, Lord of the Rings Online will no longer require a subscription to play. North American and European gamers will be able to download the game and play it for free.

The game will earn revenue by charging players for optional content. A new LOTRO Store will sell items, expansion packs, additional character slots, and other premium goodies. Alternately, you can sign up for a monthly LOTRO VIP subscription and get access to all premium content as well as priority server access, 5 character slots, a shared bank slot, and a monthly allowance of points for the Store.

Last fall, LOTROdeveloper Turbine made a similar change to the pricing structure for their other MMO, Dungeons & Dragons Online. The results must have been significant enough with D&D Online for Turbine - and new owner Warner Bros. - to consider replicating the strategy.

The beta for the free-to-play LOTRO will begin on June 16th. You can sign up for a chance to participate at LOTRO.com.

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